Advancing Manufacturing

Shadow Minister Brendan O’Connor addresses workforce capability and availability at National Manufacturing Summit

SHADOW Minister for Employment and Industry, Science and Small and Family Business, Brendan O’Connor, will address delegates at the National Manufacturing Summit in Melbourne on August 22

According to organisers, manufacturing industry group Weld Australia, there is widespread evidence that Australia’s manufacturing sector is experiencing a period of sustained growth.

 In July, the Australian Industry Group Australian Performance of Manufacturing Index (Australian PMI) rose by 1.9 points to 51.3, indicating growth across manufacturing production, sales, exports and new orders.

However, industry participants continue to cite a critical constraint: workforce capability and availability.  

According to Weld Australia CEO Geoff Crittenden, “Finding and retaining skilled workers is front of mind for manufacturing industry business owners and operators, as is maintaining currency of skills and knowledge. Australia requires a significant increase in skilled, qualified trades workers to meet future demand on major projects in industries as diverse as defence, shipbuilding, aerospace, infrastructure, rolling stock, and resources.

“A targeted strategy for workforce development is crucial and will require the manufacturing industry, federal and state governments, and the VET sector to work together to ensure its success.”

Shadow Minister O’Connor is expected to focus on both the challenges and opportunities facing manufacturing. According to Shadow Minister O’Connor, “As a country we must choose to build a nation rich in educational, training and employment opportunities, with a broad based engine of economic growth.

“Lifting skills to ensure the workforce is prepared for the jobs of the future is crucial to future employment security and better wages. It requires bipartisanship and collaboration, none of which can be achieved without leadership, a plan, and vision from the current government.”

This year marks the third National Manufacturing Summit. The event was held in both 2018 and 2017 at Australian Parliament House in Canberra.

Attended each year by over 100 delegates, the Summit program is designed to open new ground in the policy dialogue over how to sustain and nurture manufacturing: a vital segment of Australia’s economy. The 2019 Summit will be held at the Australian Synchrotron in Clayton, Melbourne.

Mr Crittenden said Weld Australia members were involved almost every facet of Australian industry and make a significant contribution to the nation’s economy. Weld Australia is the Australian representative member of the International Institute of Welding (IIW). 

"The primary goal of Weld Australia is to ensure that the Australian welding industry remains locally and globally competitive, both now and into the future," Mr Crittenden said.

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World-first printed solar panels completed at Newcastle Uni

THE FIRST commercial installation of printed solar panels in Australia was completed in August, with the University of Newcastle wrapping up the process for Chep Australia.

In one day, the Chep team installed 200sqm of the material, made by printing electronic ink onto sub-millimetre plastic sheets, with double sided tape on the roof of its warehouse in Beresfield, Newcastle.

With a production cost of less than $10 per square metre, printed solar panels are much more affordable than other commercially available solar technologies.

The university also believes the technology should soon be widely available for the broader market. 

Professor Paul Dastoor, from the School of Science and Mathematics at the University of Newcastle said, “This is the first commercial uptake of printed solar in Australia, most likely the world. It’s an historic step in the evolution of this technology and another example of private enterprise and community leading the charge in the adoption of renewables.

“Our printed solar cells are now considered to be at the top of the technology readiness tree.

“Those working in technology development use a NASA developed Technology Readiness Level or TRL system to determine how evolved our solutions are, with 1 being the lowest and 9 the highest,” Prof. Dastoor said. “We are now rated TRL 8 and essentially considered green lit.

“On the University’s lab-scale printer, hundreds of metres of material can be produced per day, however upgrading production to a commercial-scale printer would increase this output to kilometres. No other renewable energy technology can be manufactured as quickly.

“The low cost and speed at which this technology can be deployed is exciting as we need to find solutions, and quickly, to reduce demand on base-load power – a renewed concern as we approach another summer here in Australia.”

Prof. Dastoor said due to the low cost of upgrading and replacing the panels, they may be provided as a service rather than an ownership based model.

“One of the most common questions I’m asked is when will people be able to buy this on shelves at Bunnings,” Prof. Dastoor said.

“Unlike most centralised or de-centralised energy infrastructure, which requires a substantial upfront investment, printed solar might resemble something more akin to a mobile phone plan.

“In future, we expect users might sign onto this energy solution in a similar way to a mobile phone plan, where you determine your usage requirements, pay a monthly service fee, but never need to ‘own’ the infrastructure. The service provider installs and upgrades your service for you as the technology continues to develop.

“This is quite a step change in how we’ll think about energy provision and energy markets in the near future.”

The panels are printed using roll-to-roll printing, and could one day provide printers in the country with an entirely new revenue stream, according to a report by Australia’s ProPrint online magazine.


Manufacturers step on the gas for energy relief

MANUFACTURERS Australia-wide are being assisted to take immediate steps to manage their energy consumption through a new industry initiative that has already saved some companies 25 percent in gas usage.

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation, the Energy Efficiency Council and the Australian Industry Group have launched Australian Manufacturing: Gas Efficiency Guide in an effort combat escalating energy costs and record gas prices.

A meat processing plant used the guide’s techniques to save $45,000 per month by cutting gas use by 21 percent, after upgrades to its boiler and steam facilities. A building products manufacturer saved $42,000 a year by installing a new control system on its boiler.

The guide examines the energy needs of a wide range of manufacturers, from food and beverage production to metals fabrication, printing and furniture manufacturing. 

The guide identifies a range of proven technologies with the potential to cut gas consumption by 25 percent. In the majority of cases, up front investment costs were $50,000 or less, with the costs recovered within just five years.

“Gas prices have risen substantially, and leading Aussie manufacturers are investing in energy efficiency to take control of their energy costs,” Energy Efficiency Council CEO Luke Menzel said. “The good news is that these projects are delivering benefits well beyond energy savings: operational life of equipment is increasing and maintenance costs and emissions are going down.

“This guide catalogues the learnings from leaders on gas efficiency so they can be leveraged across the entire manufacturing sector.” He said the guide was a comprehensive resource identifying practical and proven strategies to deliver energy and cost savings across manufacturing operations.

If the initiatives were all implemented at once, they would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 10 million tonnes a year, equivalent to taking more than two million passenger vehicles off the road, or meeting the electricity needs of 1.5 million homes.

“It is no secret that manufacturers are relatively large energy users. The good news is that clean energy solutions can make a very real and positive difference,” Clean Energy Finance Corporation CEO Ian Learmonth said.

“An initial investment of $50,000 or less can be recovered within just five years, producing lasting benefits for the business. By switching to more efficient equipment and cheaper renewable energy, manufactures can improve their competitiveness as well as cut greenhouse gas emissions.”

The guide says major improvements can be achieved through: Fuel shifting from gas to solar thermal, solar PV, bioenergy and low emissions electricity; equipment maintenance improvements; operational optimisation; replacement of old equipment with more efficient, newer equipment; and smart redesign to improve industrial processes.

The guide describes key planning requirements when embarking on efficiency initiatives including the key skills required, financial considerations and available financing options

“Australia’s manufacturing sector has confounded doubters in recent years by expanding strongly,” Ai Group CEO Innes Willox said. “The sector has the potential for even greater growth amidst a new industrial revolution that is transforming industry yet again.

“However, energy costs loom as one of the most significant headwinds to seizing this opportunity. We’re pleased to support this practical approach to helping manufacturers address these challenges.”

Mr Willox said manufacturing was vital to the Australian economy, contributing around $100 billion (6.2 percent) to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) annually and supporting nearly 900,000 jobs, or around 7.4 percent of total employment.

Australian manufacturers are also the most energy intensive in the OECD, and account for around 40 percent of Australia’s total natural gas consumption.

Australian manufacturers have been hit hard by volatile gas prices. The guide aims to help reduce their reliance on gas by identifying a range of initiatives that can deliver meaningful efficiency gains. For each initiative it provides upfront costs, payback periods and estimates the market readiness for manufacturers adopting the initiative.

The guide demonstrates that the gains available to manufacturers are significant and can go well beyond cost and emissions savings. For example, decreasing the heat load on industrial systems can reduce maintenance costs on large plant assets such as boilers.

Manufacturers can also improve the life expectancy of plant equipment from reduced operating hours and thermal stresses.

Further gains can be made in water consumption and treatment costs, with efficiency improvements in steam system and heat recovery operations. The guide shows manufacturers how they can take greater control of energy, and improve workplace safety and comfort, with technologies such as smart meters, energy management systems, and implementing more precise process controls.

The initiatives can be implemented at the design stage for new projects, or as a retrofit to existing equipment and systems. Many can be implemented through changes in practices and management.


Victorian company first to develop nanotubes

A VICTORIAN business will be the first in the world to commercially develop one of the strongest fibres in existence – a product with applications in the aviation, automotive, aerospace, power, electronics and health industries.

BNNT Technology has received a $1.4 million Advanced Manufacturing Growth Fund grant to help produce its Boron Nitride Nanotubes on an industrial scale.

So far the super fibres have only been produced in small laboratory-scale quantities. 

Federal Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews, said BNNT was one of 15 small and medium-sized businesses that will receive grants in the second and final round of the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Fund.

“These grants will help companies transition from traditional, heavy processes to advanced manufacturing of higher value products, creating new opportunities and new jobs,” Ms Andrews said.

“Nearly $19 million is being distributed in Victoria and South Australia to help industries adjust in the two states most affected by the closure of vehicle manufacturing.

“This is expected to result in an additional investment of $45 million from the successful businesses.

“These businesses show the potential of Australian manufacturing: our firms and our workers can make high-tech, high-value products that can compete in a global market,” Ms Andrews said.

“These grants are an example of business and government working together to ensure that our nation is at the cutting edge in the rapidly evolving manufacturing sector.”

Other successful applicants in the second and final funding round include South Australian companies Micro-X and Bickford’s and Victorian company Rutra. 

Micro-X is a manufacturer of novel x-ray products for medical and security applications. The grant to Micro-X is to help develop locally produced components.

Bickford’s is a beverage manufacturer. The company will use the grant to help develop a liquid batching process that will enable faster flows and greater volume flexibility in production.

Rutra’s project will use 3D digital manufacturing in the production of custom-made orthotics in its Footwork Podiatric Laboratory.

Companies which received funding in the first round of grants have already started buying advanced manufacturing equipment and designing and preparing their factories for the changes.

For example, Redarc Australia, a defence supplier in South Australia, is already installing equipment it has purchased.

The Federal Government’s $47.5 million Advanced Manufacturing Growth Fund was established in the 2017-18 Budget as part of a $100 million package to support advanced manufacturing.


Taipan helicopters maintained in Melbourne

ITALIAN helicopter manufacturer Leonardo has selected Fisherman’s Bend in inner Melbourne as the site for its Australian helicopter repair and overhaul facility.

Defence Minister Christopher Pyne said the facility will be capable of servicing Australia’s Multi-Role Helicopter, Taipan, as well as foreign military and certain civil helicopter main gear boxes.

“The facility will commence operation in mid-2020 and employ at least 15 technical staff for 30 years or more, with 25 or so staff employed indirectly,” Mr Pyne said. 

“Previously we had to send the gear boxes back to Italy for maintenance – now we’ll be able to do that work here, faster and cheaper, while transferring skills and know-how to Australian industry.”

Mr Pyne said the Federal Government was investing about $16 million in the facility, with a similar amount being committed by Leonardo. It is said to be the only facility of its kind in the southern hemisphere, and is expected to generate new opportunities for local defence industries in the regional aerospace market.

“This project is a true win-win situation for both Defence and local defence industry, creating more defence industry jobs in Victoria and leading to greater helicopter availability for operations,” Mr Pyne said.


CRC Australia celebrates 50 years of innovation

THE PROBLEM-SOLVING ‘mechanic’s friend’ spray cans of innovator CRC Industries Australia are celebrating a half-century of service to Australian motorists, engineers and manufacturers this year.

CRC Australia’s registered brands also include Kitten, So Easy, RE-PO, Trefolex, Aerostart, Maniseal and the CRC Greenlight food safety program

It is a remarkably special milestone for the Australian division of the global CRC Industries company – manufacturing in Australia since 1969. 

CRC Industries today enjoys the status of being an iconic local manufacturer, supplying speciality products for maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) professionals across a wide array of industries including automotive, industrial, mining, food and beverage, utilities and defence.

While CRC was first established in 1958 in a small Pennsylvania, USA, garage, the company started manufacturing in Australia after being incorporated as a proprietary company of Australia on October 13, 1969. Previously, US-made CRC products made the journey ‘Down Under’ throughout the 1960s thanks to the Balfour Buzzacott Division of Email Limited, a company which which also distributed products of the well-known Dymo Labels brand.

Following the incorporation of CRC Industries Australia, the business model switched to a focus on manufacturing and facilities at North Ryde in Sydney were established. By 1974, the installation of aerosol and bulk filling lines were completed, allowing locally manufactured CRC products to be sold throughout Australia and the rest of the Asia-Pacific region.

The company enjoyed such growth that by 1980, a larger facility was needed and was opened in Castle Hill in Sydney’s north west region.
Progress continued steadily for the company and, in 2004, CRC Industries Australia acquired iconic Australian auto care brand Kitten to join its growing stable of products.

To this day, Kitten sits amongst a full range of CRC products which are produced and packaged in the Castle Hill factory including market-leading products such as CRC’s famous 5.56, Brakleen, Penetr8 and CO Contact Cleaner.

CRC Australia has also established export agreements with more than 15 countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region. 

“What an exciting time this is for all involved in CRC Industries Australia,” CRC Industries Australia managing director, Shona Fitzgerald said.

“Fifty years of manufacturing is a tremendous milestone and one that we are very proud of. From the establishment of a small operation in Sydney in 1969 just 11 years after the global beginnings of the company, CRC Industries Australia has experienced exponential growth to today be a market leader and a key contributor to the global success of CRC Industries.

“Our mission is to satisfy the needs of our customers with the highest quality speciality chemical products while always remaining customer focused. We do this in a forward-thinking and creative manner and with a keen focus on innovation and R&D.  

“We empower our employees and support our communities which has allowed us to prosper where many others have failed,” Ms Fitzgerald said.

“Our growth and longevity here in Australia is a true testament to the efforts, dedication and skill of all involved in CRC Industries Australia and I send my thanks to our employees, our suppliers, our distributors and our partners for the roles they have played in bringing us to where we are today.

“The future certainly looks bright and we can’t wait to see what we can achieve over the next 50 years.”

CRC Industries is a global supplier of chemical specialty products; manufacturing more than 1,300 items and developing specialised formulas to meet the unique needs of its customers. The company operates 26 facilities throughout the world. 

Family-owned investment management company, Berwind, acquired CRC Industries in 1981. With its roots dating to 1886, Berwind has evolved from its beginnings as a coal mining company to a diversified portfolio of highly successful manufacturing and service companies, which are leaders in their respective markets.


Bell engineers new generation four-in-one distillery

UNIVERSITY of Queensland chemical engineering and business graduate, Alex Bell, may have started a revolution in Australian rum distillation with the creation of a ‘four-in-one’ liquor still. 

Hoping to reinvigorate Australia’s passion for rum, Mr Bell has combined his engineering and business nous to create a new kind of micro distillery capable of producing a range of spirits including rum – superseding traditional stills that are usually limited to a single product.

“The distillery consists of a single still that performs the same function as four dedicated stills and is capable of producing several thousand bottles a year of a variety of marques and spirits,” Mr Bell said. 

“The distillery has been designed with versatility in mind, while minimising its size.

“It’s essentially four-stills-in-one: a dual retort Jamaican rum still for producing heavy rums; a column still for producing light rums; a regular pot still for brandies and traditional rums, and a gin still that will be using to create a range of spiced rums and aperitifs.”

Mr Bell said his system allowed for each product to be designed from scratch and able to be reproduced exactly, no matter the scale.

“This is achieved by directing the flow of vapour via several valves,” he said.

“Each fermenter is temperature controlled, allowing full precision of fermentation temperatures to allow for consistency between batches, but also to encourage the microorganisms to produce the desired compounds at the right time.

“The distillery also has the ability to produce our own ginger beers without affecting production volumes of spirits.

"All the design work and problem solving involved in the distillery was a direct result of the tool set the engineering degree provided me,” Mr Bell said.

The Brisbane-based entrepreneur’s revolutionary idea was nurtured and developed through UQ Idea Hub, a startup pre-incubator for aspiring entrepreneurs.

“The UQ Idea Hub also gave me the opportunity to bounce my ideas around a vast number of experienced people from a range of industries, which helped continually refine my idea,” Mr Bell said.

“In 2017, I participated in the Shanghai Startup Adventure, a UQ Idea Hub program that provides students a one-month internship in Shanghai, and this was one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had.

“I learnt how hard and fast you have to work in a startup.” 

UQ Idea Hub director, Nimrod Klayman said the UQ Idea Hub innovation and entrepreneurship workshops and Startup Adventures were great opportunities for students, UQ staff and alumni looking to broaden their entrepreneurial mindset and gain a global perspective.

The new micro-distillery is operating at The Malecón Bar in Milton, Brisbane. Mr Bell plans to expand the business in the future.



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