Manufacturing News

Reshaping Austraila’s aluminium industry

AS THE world’s leading producer of bauxite and alumina and the fifth largest producer of primary aluminium metal, with exports valued at around $4bn, the aluminium industry plays a huge role in Australia’s economy.

Despite metal production from the Australian smelters at record levels, the sustainability of the local aluminium industry has recently been brought into question, driven by the threat of new primary aluminium production capabilities in countries such as China, India and Russia and the increasing focus on the industry’s impact on the environment.

Many Australian businesses are collapsing under the pressure of the rising Australian dollar and the flood of imported products, but one Melbourne-based manufacturer is refusing to fold, determined to revamp and reshape the image of the aluminium extrusion industry in Australia.

Extrusions Australia, based in North Laverton, recognised there was a lack of personalised service and technical knowledge in the local marketplace, and sought to renew customer confidence in Australian extruded products and services.

Rod Fiddes, MD of Extrusions Australia, says with as much as 60% of extruded metal in Australia coming from overseas, it was important for the company to find new and better ways to attract the domestic market, not just from local competition, but globally as well.

“The domestic market has become wary of Australian extruders and their products, and it may take some time to change this perception and regain their confidence,” Fiddes explained.

“But the Australian industry will continue to grow if local extruders can match performance with overseas suppliers and make the gap in price irrelevant because the service is so much better.”

“It is no longer a matter of just extruding the metal, but providing a whole process customer service approach,” Fiddes told Manufacturers Monthly.

He explained the key to the company’s success was not only the ability to deliver short lead times and better quality of product, but to also provide a flexible and consistent service to their clients.”

The company is also determined to show the ‘green’ potential of aluminium, not only by recycling their own scrap, but also by using biodegradable plastic in packaging their own products for delivery.

“Aluminium is a renewable resource and if better use was made of re-melt facilities, we could truly be a green industry.”

“Recent data shows to form recycled aluminium back into a usable extrusion-quality product uses only 5% of the energy that is used to make primary aluminium.

“Recycling not only scrap but aluminium used in windows and other applications will become an important issue in the coming years,” he said.

And when asked about the future of the aluminium extrusion industry in Australia, Fiddes remains optimistic.

“We’d be happy to see more Australian extruders in the industry so the local market could experience the advantages of local mills.

“We would not only have more products made in Australia, but would retain the knowledge base, skills and technologies so vital to sustaining a viable local industry,” Fiddes said.

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