The state of manufacturing and Australian regulations
By Dirk Kuiper, AMS Instrumentation & Calibration Pty Ltd
Wednesday, 15 April, 2020
That the manufacturing industry is shrinking is not entirely true for all industries. Yes, the automotive industry has disappeared from Australia, which seems to be the one that everybody is talking about, particularly with the name Holden disappearing at the end of the year. When these companies closed down it opened many other opportunities for their personnel and other businesses, albeit on a smaller scale.
There are also still other large manufacturing industries that will need to be nurtured, albeit with some government assistance for them to survive. In my view stricter controls on the quality of imported products — particularly from developing countries — need to be employed. So I believe there are still great opportunities in the various manufacturing industries, with other industries with an entrepreneurial spirit sprouting up to support them — particularly in the IT, IoT and smart technology spheres.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how much Australia relies on goods manufactured in China. It might therefore now be an ideal opportunity to (re)develop our own manufacturing industry for a range of products and not always rely on the cheaper imports. I am convinced that most of the infrastructure to start rebuilding is still in place and within a relatively short timeframe Australia could start producing goods for the consumer or industrial markets again. All parties, including governments, unions and manufacturers, must take an active role in this and work towards a common goal.
If I look at the companies that I work with I see various differences between the three of them. I can see different approaches with the instrumentation and calibration company achieving better results by moving into different areas — such as the food and water industries — by introducing some newer product lines.
We also have a business that manufactures a range of flowmeters, and we are seeing some growth in interest from overseas markets, which could be an indication of a decline in the Australian manufacturing industry.
Our newer water metering business has been marketing smart water meters to the councils, irrigation companies, etc. I see this as a tremendous growth market, as was the case with the smart electricity meters, which are now common throughout Australia — but the one thing holding this back is Australian regulations, which are totally different than anywhere else in the world. This all seems to be driven by an unyielding bureaucracy in this country that is hell bent on inventing their own regulations, rather than maybe taking a look at other countries where the equipment works all fine and nobody is dying by not having to meet Australia’s unyielding approvals. Besides having to go through these regulatory requirements, there is also a great cost involved, which for a start-up company is large burden. It should — and must — be possible to accept part if not all of the approvals from other regulatory bodies overseas as is the case with many of the NATA regulations, which we deal with at AMS-IC.
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