Manufacturing is crucial to securing Australia’s continued prosperity, and all local manufacturers have a part to play in ensuring it survives and thrives. By David White, Director of Advanced Robotic Technology (ART).

Manufacturing drives innovation and technological change. It accounts for a quarter of Australia’s private sector R&D expenditure. Manufacturing is the sector that contains and advances the skills and capabilities that prescribe membership in the ranks of the advanced nations of the world. For research and innovation, manufacturing provides the essential ground from which future streams of products and incomes can emerge.

Furthermore, without a manufacturing base, Australia would need to import more consumer and capital goods, reinforcing our chronic inability to run a positive trade balance. Additional borrowing to do so, together with the repatriation of resource profits, would expose serious vulnerabilities in our external position.

So manufacturing matters – more than ever – and every local manufacturer can contribute to keep our manufacturing base up and running. This country’s innovative capacity in the advanced manufacturing sector is also in strong demand in global supply chains within the high-growth Asia-Pacific region. Australia’s capabilities tend to be focused on high-technology, high-value-add, and high-skill manufacturing, which uses advanced design, processes, materials and technologies.

Advanced Robotic Technology (ART) has always been – and always will be – proud to be a 100% Australian manufacturer, with all our ART-branded products, including plasma cutters and routers, manufactured to the highest standard, equipped with advanced design features and the latest CNC and automation technologies to make our customers more competitive. ART, like many of Australia’s specialised automation and robotics system suppliers, is able to deliver innovative and efficient automation solutions for many processing, manufacturing, material-handling, assembly and packaging requirements, which is what our industry needs to survive in the long run.

ART invests a lot of resources into developing new features and functionality into our products. Our machines have a lot of high-end features that are focused on productivity and versatility. Many of the functions that we have on our machines are simply unavailable on other machines. For example, we develop our software from front to back. Because our software developers work closely with our mechanical and electronics engineers, as well as our own in-house CNC operators, we have an extremely short development cycle time. This also allows ART to respond to the needs of customers by developing processes to suit their needs. Australian manufacturers need to keep ahead of the competition in order to prosper.

Australian manufacturers also need to keep their eyes open and watch the market in order to identify industry’s needs or shortcomings. Looking at diversifying into other metalworking industries, we studied the needs of every steel fabrication shop in Australia, from small to large, and have developed the Metaltek XB series to answer the demand for fully-automated structural steel processing in one machine.

Our steel coping machine is an automated, versatile machine, giving steel fabricators around the country a competitive edge. Coping machines provide high speed and quality, eliminating all the drawbacks of manual coping. While there are many different machines from well-known overseas manufacturers on the market, the Metaltek XB series answers the need for fully-automated structural steel processing in one machine, backed with local support. The whole machine is designed to reduce labour and double handling while increasing productivity and profits.

There is another important reason why Australian manufacturing will survive: local support. As the market is being infused with cheaper imports, it is ever more vital that Australian manufacturers pull together to provide not only world-class products, but also the necessary support structure that is lacking with many overseas products.

Australia is a long way from the rest of the world. While it is becoming increasingly popular to purchase technology over the internet, a lot of companies are left high and dry when something goes wrong. ART encourages Australian manufacturers to focus on quality and service. That is where the real value is. When customers invest in a machine or any manufactured product, they are not just buying a piece of hardware. They are investing in the future of their business. The critical component that sometimes is sadly overlooked is the backup and support that can be provided through a local manufacturer.

Australian companies are starting to rethink their outsourcing strategies and ask if offshoring really makes sense in light of extremely complex supply chains, quality, intellectual property issues, and the higher costs of shipping goods. Nonetheless, an increase in imported products due to the strong Australian dollar has put increasing pressure on Australian manufacturers to be more efficient. The challenge is to increase productivity without compromising on the safety and quality of the product or the level of after sales support.

One of the major advantages we have over imported products is the ability to customise each machine to the specific needs of the customer. Almost all of our products are custom-ordered, with sizes and accessories configured to the specific requirements of the customer. Our entire sales process is focused around the needs of the client. That is the only way we can be sure that they get the machine that they need.

Australian manufacturing is important because of the strong connection between manufacturing and developing a knowledge-based economy. It’s true that we may no longer be as competitive as we used to be in textiles, garments and footwear, or mass production, given the competition from low-wage economies. But by embracing modern methods of manufacturing, particularly through the use of automation, local manufacturers will be able to boost productivity and help to balance out some of the inherent costs of manufacturing in our country. We can bring manufacturing back into our country if we provide the right service and technology.