Flexibility and evolution power manufacturing success for AT&M

Advanced Technology & Manufacturing (AT&M) is one of Australia’s premier electronics manufacturers. Established in Perth in 1995, AT&M has evolved into a world-class, fully integrated manufacturing company that offers turnkey Printed Circuit Boards (PCB) assembly and other peripheral products and services to companies across Australia.

It is AT&M’s experience and expertise that allows the company to take a product from prototyping, right through to production with ease – regardless of the size of the project.

According to AT&M’s Operations Manager, Peter Larkin, “Circuit boards are a key component of every electronic device, and every circuit board has its own personality—a PCB for a mobile phone, for instance, is very different to that of a microwave. As a result, every project we work on is customised, and requires a flexible approach. We’re more than happy to get involved as much—or as little—as our clients need us to.”

“To begin with, we can collaborate with clients to refine their concepts and designs to ensure that the production process is as streamlined and cost effective as possible.”

“Our purchasing team can help source suppliers, focused on maximising cost efficiencies and avoiding substandard or fake components. Then, our purpose-built state-of-the-art facility handles surface mount, through-hole and mechanical assemblies, as well as testing, conformal coating, packaging and shipping. Whether it’s a quick-turn prototype or high volume production runs, a start-up or BHP, we can help,” said Larkin.

Flexibility for Evolution

It is AT&M’s innate flexibility that has enabled the company to evolve and thrive over the last 25 years. “As our clients have grown, we’ve grown with them. We started out with one very small factory. Over the years, we’ve expanded our footprint and now occupy two large factories that sit side-by-side, as well as a third factory across the road,” said Larkin.

“It’s not just our footprint that has had to evolve though. As electronics change, and components become smaller and more advanced, so too do our machines and technology. We upgrade our surface mount machines every three and half years.”

“Importantly, one of the key success factors in our flexibility is our staff. PCB manufacturing is quite a niche process that requires specialist skills. Our operators are very adept at changing and learning new skills and processes on the job, as new parts and components come down the line. Sometimes in the manufacturing industry, the machines get too much credit for flexibility and evolution. You can spend the money on shiny new machines, but without the right people to operate them, you’re not going to succeed,” said Larkin.

Collaborative, Communicative Networks

As with so many Australian manufacturing success stories, collaboration has played a vital role in AT&M’s history. AT&M collaborates with a range of clients across diverse sectors, and the company regularly enlists the expertise of project partners to deliver the best possible client solutions.

“Collaboration is very important to us. Most of the projects we’re involved in require collaboration with one or more companies. For example, with some of the work we do for BHP, we work alongside steel fabricators and cabling suppliers to ensure the product is collaborated correctly,” said Larkin.

“In the medical industry, there is a push for engineers and manufacturers to work together to gain a better understanding of what is required in product manufacturing. There is a real move away from silo thinking, where each member of the project is focused solely on their own facet.”

“No one person or company can get a product off the ground—you need a collaborative network of manufacturers to bring a successful commercial product to market,” said Larkin.

We Should Make Everything

“We need Australians to understand that we build stuff right here, in our own backyard. There is too much emphasis on the idea that we don’t build anything in Australia anymore. The initial mindset is often to think offshore. So many businesses, in Western Australia and across the country, have been affected by supply chain issues recently on products like plastics, cabling and metalworks. And yet, we can make all these products right here.  Also, one of the biggest problems or sourcing your manufacturing overseas is the theft of your intellectual property.” said Larkin.

“We need Australian companies to keep the manufacturing of their products onshore. When you take into account the costs of intellectual property theft, quality issues, warranty, flexibility and communication problems it is often more cost effective to make your product locally. We’re never going to make products like TVs and mobile phones in Australia, but we have a whole host of impressive, innovative technology and manufacturers that can meet the in-demand supply chain needs.”

“It’s a matter of changing the mantra from ‘we don’t make anything’ to ‘we should make everything’,” said Larkin.