Australian manufacturers have the goods in bulk handling

Australian manufacturers are reversing the trend of sourcing bulk handling components from overseas with the realisation that cheaper is not necessarily better. Katherine Crichton reports.

Australian manufacturers are reversing the trend of sourcing bulk handling components from overseas with the realisation that cheaper is not necessarily better. Katherine Crichton reports.

AUSTRALIAN manufacturing has a strong reliance on bulk handling systems across a broad range of industries.

With the knowledge that one of the biggest killers of production is downtime caused by interruptions to supply, manufacturers are now turning their attention to sourcing components domestically.

Peter Bedwell, new business manager with Webb Australia, says buying cheaper bulk handling system components, usually from China, used to be considered the best option for reducing production costs.

“Manufacturers were awed by the ability to purchase products for a third of the price they would normally pay for them, but found it came with hidden costs.

“Often manufacturers would have to wait up to six months or more for their order to arrive. People are quickly realising that they can buy the same part in Australia for maybe 3-5% more but they can get them faster and in the quantities they need,” he explained.

Bedwell told Manufacturers Monthly another common problem with importing products from overseas, is often suppliers define the minimum quantity of components that have to be purchased to maintain the cheaper prices.

“This can be a problem when it comes to products like rollers, you may only want and use 1000 rollers a year but you have to buy 1000 in a month to get the special rate.

“Many manufacturers incorporate a ‘just in time’ manufacturing strategy – they don’t want to have to hold stock -they just want to have the part they require as they need it,” he said.

Peter Walsh owner and manger of Walsh & Ford agrees and says when purchasing Australian made components, manufacturers are more accountable.

“With many systems becoming automated and incorporating advanced technologies, you need to be able to access immediate service and support,” Walsh explained.

Back to base

For Bedwell and Walsh having effective support service is a vital factor for bulk material producers.

While components from overseas can be comparable quality to those made in Australia, it is an added gamble to buy parts ‘sight unseen’.

“Samples from overseas might be really good quality, but if they arrive after seven months and there is one thing wrong that renders the parts unusable, then production schedules get pushed back even further,” Bedwell told Manufacturers Monthly.

“Often companies end up going to Australian manufacturers because they either can not hold production back any further or the overseas supplier doesn’t want to know anything about the faulty order.

“Most plants are producing to their maximum and can’t afford to have disruptions to supply,” he said.

According to Walsh, using local manufacturers can be particularly advantageous for businesses as they can be with you from the concept to installation.

“Anything that is built locally you can be more certain of getting the results you want. Cheaper imports are are not necessarily meeting expectations,” he said.

Home run

Bedwell says the market is becoming more sustainable as more products are made locally.

“The market is quite buoyant at the moment and unless the Australian dollar gets too high or labour too expensive the futures looks positive for the bulk handling systems market,” he said.

Walsh is equally positive but says, particularly for smaller businesses, the skills shortage in Australia can have a potential negative impact for bulk handling companies.

He says there is a responsibility for manufacturers to grow and maintain their workforce.

Both Bedwell and Walsh say the future is positive for bulk handling in Australia.

“It’s pleasing to see larger companies coming back to local industry,” Bedwell said.

For more information contact:

Walsh & Ford

Webb Australia

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