We are constantly being told manufacturing in Australia is dead! In fact, we in the trucking industry know manufacturing in Australia is far from dead, as far as trucks, trailers and trucking is concerned.
Yes, Holden, Ford, Toyota and Mitsubishi have bitten the dust – and the kind of large scale mass manufacturing needed to make cars has probably gone, never to return. There are, however, some big companies in Australia making big bucks from vehicle manufacture, they just aren’t high-profile businesses constantly in the public eye.
Last week, Diesel News made its way to the Volvo Group’s Wacol truck assembly plant to see trucks number 60,000 and 60,001 roll off the end of the production line, one Volvo FH and a Mack Superliner.
They were wrapped in green and gold artwork displaying the Australia Made logo – they are able to show this label as the manufacturing process is deemed by the Australia Made organisation to meet its criteria.
‘What criteria?’ I hear you ask. Well, the criteria for manufactured products were changed in February this year from a narrow definition of a 50-per-cent-of-the-cost-of-production test to a new definition which talks about a ‘substantial transformation’.
The definition now goes like this:
“A fundamental change – in form, appearance or nature, such that the goods existing after the change are new and different goods from those existing before the change.
What does that mean?
It means that simple treatments or processing – such as repackaging or mere assembly – are not likely to qualify an otherwise imported good for the ‘Made in Australia’ claim.
An item must be ‘substantially transformed’ in Australia.”
The Volvo and Mack product fit the new description, as do the other two truck manufacturers putting together trucks in Australia, Kenworth and Iveco. All three take a slightly different approach to the way a truck is made, but all fit into the made in Australia ideal.
Of course, the engines are not made here in Australia. Nobody makes engines here anymore. The capital cost is too high. Volvo, Mack and, in some cases, Kenworth do not construct the cabins in Australia either, but just about everything else is sourced here. Iveco actually presses the raw steel to make the cabins for the Acco trucks that collect our garbage and deliver our concrete.
When we look at the trailers being hauled by these trucks, they are all, with a few exceptions, made here in Australia from scratch. The trailer manufacturing industry is a true Aussie one. It goes all the way from high-volume assembly-line trailer making, to one man and his dog, with a welder, putting together custom-built specialised trailing equipment for the trucking industry.
The trailer industry makes gear to suit Australian conditions, to cope with our terrible roads and our – higher-than-anywhere-else – masses. The stresses and strains we put our trailing gear through are unimaginable for many of the trailer designers plying their trade in Europe and the US.
This is just the headline equipment that is manufactured here. There are all those component manufacturers also doing their bit to keep Australian manufacturing alive. I recently had the opportunity to tour the new Dana plant in Keysborough in Victoria. The company took a hit when Ford closed its plant, but the new facility is now buzzing with activity, building axles and driveshafts for all three truck makers who build here in Australia
Manufacturing in Australia is dead? Long live manufacturing in Australia!