A message from Jens Goennemann

I‘m about to drive to the Territory, click here to follow me on Twitter: #JensOnTheRoad

Australia has been my home country for over 15 years. It is by far the best and happiest place I have ever lived, and not too dissimilar to my fellow countrymen and -women, business sees me predominantly focused on our coastal cities.

However, there has always been a keen interest on what’s in the centre. When flying back to Europe in my earlier Australian years, I found it fascinating to have a bite to eat on the plane, do some work, watch a movie to then check and realise that I was still flying over Australia’s massive landmass. Not long after that, I took a train instead of a plane to visit customers in Darwin and then to Adelaide just to experience the size of our country over a longer weekend.

Last November, I headed out to Perth for my fourth visit in 12 months. On the agenda was a manufacturing roundtable, a number of meetings with the WA Government and WA Chief Scientist, and of course many discussions with local manufacturers, some of them currently undertaking co-invested projects with AMGC.

Throughout 2022, I promised to the West Australian folks that for my last stint of the year I would come by car. Not many believed me, so I had to.

The journey took me from Sydney to Port Augusta, via Griffith. Across the Nullarbor to Kalgoorlie, then Perth and Esperance. Then the Nullarbor again and back to Sydney via Bourke. The route looked a bit like a flat figure eight.

Outdoor adventuring and overlanding are very popular in Australia, and the domestic outdoor leisure manufacturers operate in a large and ever-growing market. Our most successful manufacturers in this space are also globally competitive, hence stand for AMGC’s core beliefs.

Adelaide’s REDARC Electronics is one of our most inspiring local manufacturing stories full stop – outdoor or not. REDARC was founded in 1979 as a single-product business and bought by current owners Anthony and Michele Kittel in 1997. It has grown at a fantastic rate through a focus on market needs paired with continuous investment in R&D (where about 15 per cent of its revenues go).

AMGC collaborated with REDARC and other participating companies in one of its advanced technology adoption and training projects in 2021, showcasing how good looks like.

Ask any serious four-wheel-driver, and they will tell you REDARC’s stuff is top-class. If it’s tough enough for remote Australia, it’s tough enough for anywhere: REDARC exports its power management solutions to dozens of markets including the US and even supplies to Defence clients.

Like many others, I depend on their BCDC charger under the bonnet which ensures the starter battery and the Engel fridge – another manufacturing story of Australian origin – stay supplied with juice.

As with most Australian companies leading the world in their niche, REDARC got there by a focus on being better, not cheaper. They also moved from the small to medium business category some time ago employing nearly 400 people and is a prime example of what I would like to see more Australian manufacturers scale towards: Flourishing Mittelstand-style (medium-sized) manufacturers.

Another essential item for trips off the beaten track is a recovery board which is a solid insurance policy against getting bogged in the bush. An Australian company who makes these is TRED Outdoors from Brisbane. TRED is part of Venlo and was founded by serial manufacturing entrepreneur, Venlo Holdings Managing Director Ty Hermans.

AMGC has worked together with Ty Hermans and the company b.box to reshore its injection moulded Sippy Cups. To have injection moulded products such as recovery boards or sippy cups competitively made in Australia appears to be against the odds, however, it proves our view that manufacturing is not about what you make, but how you make it.

Australian manufacturers ensure a safe and happy overland journey. Ever admired a well organised vehicle with nifty drawers either rolling out from the back or from the sides? Storage solutions for tradies or four-wheel enthusiasts are a must and there are many choices, but there is only one Australian family run manufacturer: RV Storage Solution (RVSS) from New Gisborne in Victoria.

Founded by the Oliver Family 25 years ago, RVSS have been designing, testing, assembling, distributing, selling and servicing their products and they beautifully demonstrate how embracing the entire manufacturing value chain leads to a competitive and resilient business.

Dare I say, I find them to be the best. They are homegrown and they are multifunctional, modular, and interchangeable. The Oliver family stands by their products with a lifelong guarantee which basically means you can change your car but keep the furniture.

A lot of people live in the nation’s regions, and a lot of manufacturing goes on there so let’s have a look. In the next few days, I will take off for a road trip to the Northern Territory and back, swinging by some of our companies who are in full swing with their Advanced Manufacturing Ecosystem Fund (AMEF) which AMGC is managing together with the most agile NT Government.

One of AMEF’s project participants is AirTip in Alice Springs which is now scaling up manufacturing of pneumatic, side-tipping, haulage trailers – a world first from one of our most remote communities. Similarly, a quick 1,200km up the road in Katherine, Katherine CNC Joinery is expanding its capabilities to be able to manufacture stainless steel kitchen equipment better suited to the region’s needs.

In both instances, local communities will benefit through the growth of Territory-based design, engineering, and production capability which will create new, highly skilled, and resilient jobs in their respective areas.

I look forward to sharing my insights from the road and seeing how manufacturing can thrive no matter where you are based and what you make, so long as it is better, not cheaper and globally competitive.

I’m planning to give a daily update with photos from my road trip on twitter #JensOnTheRoad. Click here if you want to follow me.