While the economy officially entered recession in September, there are plenty of manufacturers who are holding up well. One example is Technofast Industries, a Crestmead-based manufacturer of specialised industrial fasteners.

“Technofast has been fortunate in that the company was positioned to be able to take advantage of opportunities generated by various government agencies in both domestic and export markets,” explains Matt Blundell, Technical Solutions/Sales Manager at Technofast. “The company’s base markets such as those of mining and quarrying have continued to operate at near-normal levels, which has been of huge benefit to the company’s aims of retaining its best assets in its staff throughout the challenges thrown up by the COVID-19 crisis.”

Levels of mining investment (up 1.3% in the quarter, versus a 6.9% decline among non-mining businesses) have been a positive for manufacturers working within the mining equipment, technology and services (METS) sector. Blundell cites sales of Technofast’s Outer Shell Nut for mining crushers, along with the company’s HP4 Head Nut and large EziTite nuts within the sugar mill industry. Other recent wins include work on the Kingsford Smith Airport control tower, and some successes in entering the crusher market in the US.

Technofast currently employs 17 staff in Australia, with the addition of a new engineer in late August. It operates sites at Brisbane (covering sales, distribution, tech support, rental and manufacturing) and Rockingham, Western Australia (sales, tech support, and rentals.) As well as manufacturing, it provides training, equipment hire, contract engineering and laser marking.

Its product range is focussed on hydraulic fastening solutions, providing time-saving, productivity and safety advantages, and where it has contributed world-first innovations. Hydraulic tensioning is very accurate compared to mechanical tensioning, as the resultant tensile forces are simply calculated from the responsive hydraulic pressure area (HPA) of the hydraulic nut or bolt tensioner being used. Using digital technology, engineers can provide the highest standard of calculated bolt loading, thereby avoid many of the losses and dangers associated with other methods of tensioning fasteners.

Technofast has its origins in founder/owner John Bucknell’s work in engineering for agriculture. The son of a broadacre wheat farmer, Bucknell developed the original hydraulic nut, enabling tensioning, removal and repair of plough gangs in the field, operated using a handheld grease gun. This was a godsend for maintaining heavy agriculture equipment such as plough disks, which would often feel the brunt of below-ground tree stumps. The invention was followed by a screwed locking ring in the late-1980s, with engineering input from University of Queensland.

Along with mining, Technofast today serves markets including oil & gas, power generation, nuclear power, steelmaking and shipbuilding. It operates an ISO 9001 quality management system, and has the ability to manufacture under standards set by DNV, Lloyds, ASME, and the American NRA 10CFR50 Appendix B (for nuclear applications.)

Technofast describes its product offerings as grouped under Standard Products (“me too” items such as hydraulic bolt tensioners and hydraulic nuts where the company’s products compete directly with those from other manufacturers); Custom Products (variants produced to conform to certain application requirements where products of ‘standard dimensions’ would not be sufficient) and Innovative Products. The latter incorporates novel features to permit use in unconventional or demanding applications.

“For example, the EziTite TR hydraulic nuts can be produced to operate in extremely hot environments in excess of 6000C,” says Blundell.

Manufacture and finishing of its product range is, Blundell adds “almost exclusively performed in-house, with the exceptions being specialised processes such as heat treatment of alloys and machining of oversized pieces too large for the Crestmead facility”.

Since its official founding in 1992, Technofast has earned industry recognition including at the Endeavour Awards and Telstra Business Awards. It has described its success as based on finding its niches through innovation and development of intellectual property, arguably a winning approach for Australian manufacturing SME.

Its research & development program involves “a number of prospects running at any given time”, with R&D expenditure accounting for roughly 5% of company revenues. This is guided by challenges to customers, which include a host of multinationals wanting to be both smarter and faster in their maintenance, reducing the downtime of critical equipment while removing potential hazard sources such as hot works for bolt removal.

There are countless other examples of manufacturers powering ahead despite the challenging economic conditions, and the sector is being targeted by policymakers to help drive the economic recovery in the wake of COVID-19.

For Technofast, long-term growth will continue to be driven by delivering engineering breakthroughs that answer client challenges around industrial fastening.

“Yes, the COVID-19 era has presented challenges, especially to our export sales, which are important to us and were growing handsomely before the outbreak” says Blundell. “But like any serious manufacturing business, we’re here for the long term, and we’re investing accordingly. For all the talk of the new normal, the old normal of innovating to help your customers work safer and smarter is here to stay.”