The top 10 manufacturing stories from 2013

According to the popularity of stories on this website throughout the year, our attention was strongly drawn to 3D printing, factory closures and insolvencies, and the occasional bit of lighthearted news. And – no surprise in an election year – Manufacturers’ Monthly readers also came to us for policy news affecting the industry.

Counting down from 10, and as voted by your mouse clicks, here were 2013’s most popular stories (and opinion/analysis pieces) from

10) Australia's first-ever 3D printing conference to be held in Mackay

The buzz around 3D printing didn’t die down this year, and – if analysts Wohlers Associates are to be believed – the global market for the technology (currently expanding at a 28.6 per cent CAGR) will continue to rocket upwards.

At 10 in our top 10 list was the January announcement that we’d be having our first (and certainly not last) 3D printing conference, which was held in June in Mackay.

9) Orange Electrolux factory could close in 2015

Electroluxfactory.jpgIn February, senior management visited Electrolux’s factory in Orange, in NSW’s Central West, announcing an efficiency review was underway.

The plant, which employs over 500 workers, was competing with sites in China and elsewhere for investment money from parent company Electrolux Group.

Fear that Electrolux Group might make the decision to shut down were realised, with the news coming out in October that the plant would shut towards the end of 2015.

8) Coalition would ditch Innovation Precincts program if elected

The network of Innovation Precincts (and the opening of the Manufacturing Innovation Precinct in Clayton) by the former Labor government was one of its biggest announcements in its final year in office. However, former shadow industry minister Sophie Mirabella was no fan of the precincts idea, telling this magazine that, if elected, the Coalition would give them the chop.

The manufacturing precinct (now known as META and more a national network of manufacturing companies than a precinct) thankfully looks like it’ll stay around, with current industry minister Ian Macfarlane indicating he’s warmer than Mirabella towards the program, with a possible announcement being made on that note before Christmas.

Mirabella lost her portfolio and seat in the September federal election and has since been appointed to the board of ASC.

7) Made in Australia: A look at three successful exporters

Australian-Made-full-colour-logo.pngManufacturers’ Monthly ran a feature in July on three very different companies who had managed to perform strongly and bring in a sizeable portion of their revenue through exports.

As well as being a story about how Macnaught (a fluid transfer technology company), Maton (a maker of premium guitars and pickups) and Quickstep (a high-tech composites firm) managed to trade on quality rather than price, it must’ve also been welcome for readers to come across a good news story.

2013 won’t be remembered as the best year Australian manufacturing has ever had, but there are plenty of success stories out there and we always appreciate featuring them.

6) 300 jobs lost as pipe-maker PPI put in administration

The year was off to a terrible start for many workers at Boral, which announced 700 jobs would be cut due to company-wide restructuring, and pipe maker PPI Corp, which was put into administration

PPI laid off nearly 300 workers in Queensland during what the AWU’s Paul Howes called a “shocking start” to the year.

There was quite a bit of curiosity in PPI however, with over 32 parties interested in buying the company, and it was announced that PPI was split up and sold – to The Lansell Group and David Moss Group – in March. According to administrator PPB Advisory, this saved the jobs of 170 workers.

5) Five lessons for manufacturers from the Electrolux Orange closure

Stories concerning the review of the Electrolux site at Orange and the future of Holden were very popular with readers in 2013. Sadly, the Orange factory, and Holden’s plants at Fishermans Bend and Elizabeth, will all close by the end of 2017.

Just why the Swedish head office decided Electrolux would close its profitable operation in Orange was explained by Jason Furness, CEO of Manufacturship, in his November piece. Also explaining the story’s popularity was an expert analysis of what we can take away from the factory’s sad demise, put forward by a gentleman who successfully ran it for three years.

4) Comment piece: Sophie Mirabella on how the Coalition would remove the shackles on manufacturers

sophie-mirabella.jpg2013 was an election year (and one which was prophetically, in late-2012, called a “year that Australia decides whether it wants to have an auto industry or not” by Holden’s managing director Mike Devereux).

With the Coalition ahead for the bulk of 2013 in the polls, the industry was naturally curious about the likely Coalition winners’ plans were. These plans, at least as they stood in May, were handily laid out by then-industry spokeswoman Mirabella.

A repeal of the unpopular cuts to the R&D tax concessions for larger companies, as well as stronger anti-dumping provisions all featured highly in the Coalition’s plan, as did, of course, the axing of the carbon tax.

3) Japanese freezer manufacturer introduces “Fukuppy”

The year also brought the introduction of and the apology for Fukuppy, a cute winged egg from Japanese industrial cooling and water treatment systems maker Fukushima Industries.

Fukuppy – owing to his friendly appearance, mistaken identity as a spokesperson for the irradiated Fukushima prefecture, and something else we just can’t pin down – got a run in not one but two of our top 10 stories. The kindly Fukuppy, according to the mascot’s company, has the ability to talk to food and check up on the health of comestibles, and can fly about the place.

fukuppy.jpgOctober was the month of Fukuppy, and he became a viral sensation after erroneous suggestions that he was a part of a PR effort by Fukushima prefecture, which suffered a nuclear disaster of the horrific 2011 tsunami/earthquake. Fukushima Industries, however, is headquartered in Osaka, and has nothing to do with Fukushima’s reactor, which is operated by Tepco.

2) Japanese cooling systems manufacturer issues apology over “Fukuppy”

After some people started to make fun of their mascot’s name – which Fukushima Industries chose as a portmanteau of the first part of their title and the English word “happy” – the company decided to explain themselves and explain that they were considering a re-brand.

A quick visit to the company’s website’s English version shows not a single Fukuppy. However, click on the Japanese site and Fukuppy is there, smiling back up at you as if to ask if he can lend a hand gauging the wellbeing of what’s in your vegetable crisper. Click here for the company’s explanation of how its attempts to put itself forward as a “Happiness Creation Company” were misunderstood.

1) 10 Incredible Things You Can Make With 3D Printers

As we could see from the decision to hold the country’s first 3D printing expo, the technology’s doing a good job of capturing the imaginations of more and more people. It’s no surprise then that the most read story by you, the audience, related to the fuss around additive manufacturing.

With 3D printing now everywhere, we weren’t surprised to know people were curious about what you could actually do with it. The list featured examples from Modern Meadows’s 3D printed “meat” to artworks to body parts.


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