We’ve all felt the effects of the recent COVID-19 pandemic and whilst they’ve predominantly been negative – there is a silver lining that could make this pandemic the catalyst for a new chapter in Australia’s manufacturing industry. And, who better to detail those possibilities than our sheet metal machinery experts.

Looking from afar

It’s a well-known fact that Australia receives a lot of its manufactured goods from overseas because it’s cheaper. As we learnt in one of our earlier blogs, there was a time when we manufactured the bulk of our products locally. Over the last 50 years, however, we’ve seen a steep decline in that sector. We saw the end of an era only a few years ago when the final Australian automotive factory shut down. Now it seems that this new pandemic has sparked debate over the state of our manufacturing industry and how this could be the opportunity to jump-start it – so-to-speak.

Closing borders

The demand for everyday products and materials is starting to pile up with the pressure falling on the countries we rely on for manufacturing. But, their supply is falling short as well. This is due to several reasons such as tighter border restrictions on both ends as well as factories shutting down for longer than expected periods during the brunt of the virus’ wave. In addition to this, just recently tensions between China and Australia have seemed to heighten with the former having imposed a tariff of 12% on beef imported from Australia.

Our import industry works harmoniously with our exports but our imports have already experienced a sudden decline. It’s not impossible for tariffs to be placed on other items in the near future – and, with this in mind, our own government may also do the same and instead look locally for manufacturing needs. As it stands, a lot of sheet metal fabricators end up filling in the gaps with their work – providing to various small or niche markets here and there where they can. But will these changes be the start of Australia’s second manufacturing boom?

Baby steps

No one is expecting a boom to happen overnight. There is plenty of groundwork that needs to be laid in order to kickstart the industry. Developing key, smaller markets is a good place to start – get the various clusters going in order to work towards the larger ones. Earlier in the year, Federal Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, allegedly promised a re-evaluation of Australia’s supply chains in an effort to take further advantage of those niche markets. He also went on to state that it would “not make economic sense” to manufacture everything in Australia.

This pandemic has highlighted that certain supply chains are flawed for various reasons and that countries need to be self-sufficient in some areas. A former manufacturing advisor to the Federal Government, Professor Roy Green, has even stated that whilst plans to “kickstart” the industry have come and gone – he has noticed a genuine change in the government’s attitude during the COVID-19 pandemic. Whatever the result, the industry needs to start small, playing to its strengths before it can develop large-scale manufacturing processes.

The power of lithium

Australia (and particularly Western Australia) is home to large quantities of lithium which we export overseas to be used in batteries for several consumer devices such as smartphones and energy storage devices. As part of an initiative to open the door to battery manufacturing – a research hub was announced last year that would operate out of Perth’s Curtin University. 

The $135 million centre will concentrate on ways that we can efficiently source the minerals as well as process them into chemicals – and thus use them to create lithium batteries. If successful, we could be looking at a new battery manufacturing industry right here in Australia instead of relying on other countries such as China to utilise our own resources.

The unplanned future

Australia is in a unique opportunity at present. COVID-19 has provided us with the evidence and inspiration to reassess our own supply chains and look inwards at how we can take advantage of our manufacturing industry for the new era that our country and indeed the whole world is about to emerge into.

Looking for sheet metal machinery?

Thankfully, ACRA Machinery has all the best new and used sheet metal machinery for a diverse range of tasks. Additionally, we offer regular maintenance and repair visits to ensure your machine is kept in tip-top condition. 

Not sure what the best piece of sheet metal machinery for your job is? Chat to one of our friendly experts today by calling 03 9794 6675 or by filling out the contact form on our website.