Queensland is fast emerging as a leader in advanced manufacturing with the sector having a profound influence on the strength of the local economy. With an industry that ranges from food processing, metal manufacturing and aerospace, to defence and medical technology manufacturing, Queensland manufacturers are well placed to becoming an economic powerhouse.

Manufacturing is critical to the Queensland economy. It is the state’s sixth-largest employing industry with more than 170,000 people in the year to June 2018, and is the third-largest employer of full-time workers. Strategy is fundamental to the success and longevity of industry, which is why the Queensland Government has committed significant resources to ensuring manufacturing continues to be a key driver of the state’s economic and jobs growth.

The Queensland Advanced Manufacturing 10-Year Roadmap and Action Plan, the State Government’s strategic vision for the sector, is supporting manufacturers as they transition to advanced manufacturing, increase productivity, improve international competitiveness and access emerging opportunities. Since the launch of the plan in December 2016, the State Government has provided advice and support to hundreds of Queensland manufacturing businesses, helping them make the transition to high-value, knowledge-based advanced manufacturing.

Utilising industry expertise – The Manufacturing Ministerial Committee

The Queensland Government has committed to expand upon its track record of growing the industry and give representatives from across the state’s diverse manufacturing sector – from Queensland niche small manufacturers to multinationals – a seat at the strategy table. A new ministerial advisory committee – equally composed of male and female members – has officially kickstarted its work this year using industry expertise to drive Queensland’s manufacturing sector.

Minister for State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning Cameron Dick hosted the first meeting of the Manufacturing Ministerial Committee in July to identify practical ways to help the sector thrive and create jobs for Queenslanders.

“The Palaszczuk Government is driving manufacturing in Queensland with a strong focus on growing the sector,” said Minister Dick. “But we also know nobody knows manufacturing better than manufacturers themselves, and we want to harness their expert advice to expand that focus as we enter this period of optimism and opportunity for manufacturing in our state.”

The Manufacturing Ministerial Committee has a strong focus on regional Queensland and will address challenges facing the industry and strengthen support for manufacturing in Queensland.

Made in Queensland

The Queensland Government is actively attracting manufacturing industries to the state through a range of initiatives including the Advance Queensland Industry Attraction Fund.

The Government is also encouraging local businesses to expand through funding programs like ‘Made in Queensland’, a $40m state-wide manufacturing program dedicated to supporting local manufacturers increase their productivity and competitiveness, and adopt innovative processes and technologies. The program offers matching grants of between $50,000 and $2.5m to manufacturers who must go dollar-for-dollar with the government to fund business improvements.

Uptake of the Made in Queensland program has exceeded expectations. An additional $20m was committed to the program as part of the 2017 Queensland Government’s election promise. The Made in Queensland program has, to date, awarded $18.2m, contributing to $47.7m in project value to more than 45 Queensland manufacturers.

Case study: Evolve Group

Evolve Group, an Australian-owned advanced plastics manufacturer located in Crestmead, provides a full range of services from plastic injection, compression, blow and rotational moulding, design and prototyping assistance, through to tool manufacture, component construction and finished goods assembly.

With the help of a Made in Queensland grant, the company has upgraded its machinery to transform it from a traditional blue-collar manufacturing plant into a world-leading, advanced automated manufacturing facility. The move to increase the incorporation of automated systems has enabled Evolve to become so globally competitive that it is reshoring existing manufacturing back from China and other overseas countries to Queensland.

Evolve has retained and is retraining employees in high-value, knowledge-based jobs and its workforce is rapidly growing with every new product it starts manufacturing in Queensland.

Case study: NOJA Power

Queensland manufacturer NOJA Power specialises in the research & development, manufacture, sale and service of medium-voltage, pole-mounted switchgear products that manage and protect large-scale renewable energy generation. To date, it has installed more than 50,000 automatic circuit reclosers (ACR) in more than 87 countries worldwide.

Funding provided through the Made in Queensland program will be used to set up new advanced automated production processes to increase NOJA Power’s production and export capacity. It will also enhance NOJA Power’s international competitiveness and profitability by improving product quality, minimising errors, increasing sales capacity and growing market size. It will also protect existing jobs at NOJA Power and create new high-skill jobs to work with new automated test systems and production equipment.

Gold Coast manufacturers

Minister Dick recently visited Gold Coast manufacturing businesses who were reaping the rewards of the Made in Queensland government support.

“Our government is focused on driving the manufacturing industry forwards by supporting companies to be internationally competitive and to inject new innovation into their business,” said the Minister. “And this agenda is working wonders for businesses across the state, including on the Gold Coast and surrounds.

“The Gold Coast is Queensland’s top region outside Brisbane for manufacturing work, with around 21,400 people employed in the industry, so we know this sector is an important economic contributor for this region. We want manufacturing businesses in Queensland to think outside the square and set their sights on a promising future, and we are backing companies across the Coast to grasp this optimism and opportunity with both hands.”

Nerang glass and aluminum manufacturer Patterson Glass is using its $253,160 Made in Queensland grant to purchase four new pieces of equipment including a waterjet cutter, an upright glass washer, an automatic glass racking table and automatic glass-cutting table. Patterson Glass Director Wendy Wheway said the grant will provide the business with greater capacity to take on bigger projects and give them greater control of quality and output, which will in turn create more opportunity for local jobs.

“This will make us more competitive in the international marketplace,” Ms Wheway said.

As the sole producer of synthetic grass in Queensland, Yatala’s Urban Turf Solutions specialises in manufacturing, fitting and maintaining quality sporting surfaces. The company is set to upgrade its technology and create five new jobs thanks to a $256,579 Made in Queensland grant.

Urban Turf Solutions will use the grant to install a tufting machine to increase manufacturing speed, capacity, reliability and product consistency, while significantly reducing waste and downtime. The company will be the only manufacturer in the country to be operating this new automated tufting machine which will enable the company to expand at a faster rate.

Currumbin’s Freedom Screens will use its $105,680 grant to manufacture a ZL2 integrated system to enhance adaptability with varying door configurations and build an automated test jig to improve quality assurance, widen its market share and hone its competitive edge. It is anticipated this grant will allow Freedom Screens to put on another six jobs.

Two other Gold Coast businesses, Geofabrics Australasia and aluminium manufacturer Knotwood, have also received grants from the program.

Geofabrics, based at Ormeau, will use its $525,466 grant to install and commission new technology to increase automation and to upskill its workforce in the programming, operation and maintenance of the new project equipment, and remove constraints to export market competitiveness and growth. This project is expected to create 12 jobs.

Knotwood has used its $451,563 grant to source, install and commission advanced and automated vertical powder coating plant for aluminium extrusions, which will reduce lead times by 82% and increase sales revenue, as well as creating three jobs.

A renewed sense of optimism is evident in the Queensland manufacturing sector with a government focused on making things happen. The sector will no doubt continue to face challenges, but programs supporting innovation, growth, and international competitiveness, and the geographical proximity to the Asia-Pacific region, the world’s fastest growth market, has put Queensland firmly on the map as the future of manufacturing in Australia.