Insider advice: By manufacturers, for manufacturers

Australian manufacturers can delve into real-world examples and discover— from their peers—what has delivered successful commercialisation and innovation outcomes. Learn how others have found success, why their process works, and how to begin incorporating similar processes within your own business.

Just some of the Australian manufacturers featured in the Manufacturing Academy include:

  • ANCA Motion: designs and manufactures flexible control systems, specialising in high precision solutions for CNC machines.
  • Austeng: specialises in the design, engineering, development and building of customised electromechanical machinery and systems.
  • Elphinstone: specialises in the design, manufacture and support of quality equipment for the global underground, surface mining and rail maintenance industries.
  • Evolve: a hardware accelerator and product commercialisation facility in Brisbane that develops low risk, highly profitable products that are globally scalable.
  • Hort Enterprises: a full-scale engineering, design, and heavy fabrication operation with strong links to the mining sector throughout regional New South Wales.
  • ICT International: enables better global research outcomes in soil, plant and environmental monitoring through its unique family of digital sensors and data loggers.
  • iOrthotics: a niche firm that produces the high-quality, custom-made orthotic devices for podiatrists using 3D printing with the lowest turn-around times in the industry.
  • Sutton Tools: a fourth-generation family business in Melbourne that has been manufacturing engineering and cutting tools since 1917.
  • Smartline: manufactures innovative medical equipment and healthcare solutions used in hospitals and medical centres in across Australia and around the globe.
  • Trubuilt Kitchens: designs, manufactures and installs custom-built kitchens, laundries, bathrooms and more.


Peter Sutton (Managing Director, Sutton Tools) provides in-depth insights derived from Sutton Tool’s application of a competitiveness mindset.

According to Peter, “When we started exporting, back in the early 90s, we got a rude awakening in terms of the requirements our products needed to be competitive overseas. We learnt very, very quickly that we were lacking several key fundamentals that we needed to be successful. Our quality was not good enough, we were too expensive, and our specifications were all wrong for the market. Luckily, our shareholders decided to invest and grow our capability.”

“Benchmarking is a core part of what we do at Sutton tools. We are constantly going overseas, and talking to customers, to see what is world’s best practice and adopting that here in Melbourne. While we have good domestic market share in Australia, we have a very small market share globally. We estimate it to be to the tune of around 1%. So that represents huge opportunities for us a company—not in the mass production type tools, but in the very niche, value-added sector.”

“We deal with end users—the likes of Airbus and Boeing—to supply tools at a very low volume and a very high technical requirement. The effort we are putting into R&D and product improvement at the niche high-end product, does trickle down into our standard products, and that quality differentiation gives us a huge advantage in all markets,” said Peter.


Dean Hartley (General Manager, iOrthotics) provides practical advice on how increasing the value of your product can make your organisation more competitive.

According to Dean, “iOrthotics is unique in quite a few ways, but the biggest one is how we’ve grasped technology and implemented it into our manufacturing processes. There are a number of advantages of implementing 3D printing technology into the orthotics space. One of the biggest reasons for us was around waste. In the traditional way [of manufacturing orthotics] you throw 1.5kg of plastic waste away. Now, when we 3D print a device, or a pair of devices, there is only about 40 to 50 grams of waste generated—our waste has gone down by about 99%.”

“Our whole supply chain is digital so it allows us to produce a part here in Australia and get it to the US within about four to five days. We’re competitive internationally because of the technology we’ve developed. Our products are now based around value, not just cost. We can supply these devices to labs in the US at the same cost as what they’re outsourcing them for, but at an even quicker turnaround time. The end result is that we can make better products for podiatrists’ patients, and the patients end up having better outcomes,” said Dean.


Lyn and Ross George (Directors, Austeng) delve into key strategies to build resilience into your business, designed to help you weather the volatility of the Australian manufacturing industry.

“Traditionally, we were very reliant on the automotive industry. When Ford announced their closure about five years ago, it was almost an immediate stop for our work. At the time, it was the worst possible thing that could have happened to us. Looking back now, with disruption comes opportunity,” said Lyn.

According to Ross, collaboration was a major factor in strengthening Austeng’s resilience in the wake of Australia’s declining automotive industry, “One of the factors in our journey has been collaboration, especially with the universities. We have five projects running with Deakin University, and a couple with Swinburne. That’s made such a difference to our business. It’s opened up new technology. It’s opened up new markets. It’s opened up new people. It’s opened up a brand new way of thinking right throughout our business.

“The collaboration story goes even further and gets even better. Some of our customers are collaborating with universities. So, we’re starting to get our customers to talk with some of our other customers, because their technology supplements or complements one another. By collaborating, researching and networking, we’ve grown our share of the pie—it’s a case of 1 + 1 = 3,” said Ross.