Can Australia boost growth in the manufacturing sector?

Is Australia seeing a manufacturing resurgence?

There's a lot of contention as to the current state of manufacturing in Australia. Economists, industry professionals and commentators can't seem to agree on whether manufacturing in Australia is dead in the dirt or that the industry can adapt and overcome the issues that face it.

While we certainly don't claim to have all the answers, we believe it's possible the manufacturing industry can be rebuilt through the same Australian ingenuity that's seen us overcome adversity numerous times before, and this article will explain why. 

Australian manufacturing in the past

Before looking towards the possible futures for manufacturing in Australia, it's key to understand the reasons behind the sector's slowdown. The primary catalyst for the doomsayers was that Australia's automotive manufacturing sector began to draw operations to a close in 2014. Steadily increasing energy costs and the Aussie dollar growing in value have added additional factors of complexity to an already precarious situation.

For some context, the 1960s were the boom years for manufacturing in Australia. During that decade the manufacturing sector peaked at 25 per cent of our gross domestic product. In recent years that figure has dipped to 5.9 per cent (to March 2016, from IBISWorld).

Australian Automotive manufacturing is over, but does that mean the end of manufacturing?Though automotive manufacturing may have ceased, it doesn't mean the industry can't recover from the shortfall.

Australian manufacturing today

While the above statistic may seem fairly negative, it's important to note that slowed growth isn't the same as decline. Furthermore, Australia's GDP is over 3,000 per cent greater than it was in 1969 (though inflation has not been factored in here). The truth of the matter is that the latter half of 2017 saw a lot of fluctuation. With a PMI rating of 51.1 as of November 2017, there is still active growth in the sector even though this growth is small.

The automotive industry may have hit the brakes, turned off the ignition and let the car roll into the Pacific, but there is still enough demand in other industries to keep us moving forward. Materials for apartment and public infrastructure construction are going strong; defence, mining and agricultural equipment continue at pace; renewables and utilities are also still in demand. When framed in this manner, there is no reason to predict The End.

Future

So what does the future hold for Australian manufacturing? 

One thing we do know is that there is a shift coming. Small to medium enterprises make up 97 per cent of Australian businesses, and research from CSIRO suggests a growing demand for more expensive bespoke products over cheaper, mass produced goods. If the majority of Aussie businesses are addressing increasingly niche markets, the concept of producing a lower volume of customised solutions becomes a more sustainable business plan. Added to the fact that Australia is a hotbed for creative tech startups, the possibilities for manufacturing growth in the coming years are numerous and exciting.

Is Australia seeing a manufacturing resurgence? Maybe not today, but ask us again tomorrow.

Locker Group is your go-to for metal industrial supplies, from flooring to railing to access materials, we have you safely covered. For more info, contact us today.

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The Sportshub at the University of Queensland is a great example of creative facade design.

First impressions count: What your facade says about you

Locker Group's range of perforated metal offers excellent materials for building facades, and make no mistake, this is one of the most important design elements of your project. Cognitive scientists have proved buildings can affect mood and feelings of well-being in humans, thanks to specially attuned cells in the hippocampus.

In coming years, these psychology-based insights could begin to play a major role in how cities are designed. In the meantime, it's worth considering how your building will fit, not just into its location, but into the hearts and minds of those who will interact with it.

How can building design affect people?

In his 2015 book Places of the Heart: The Psychogeography of Everyday Life, Colin Ellard (a cognitive neuroscientist) describes an experiment he undertook in a suburb of New York's Lower East Side. Ellard walked small groups of people around a partially gentrified neighbourhood and found that his subjects were unhappy and bored when faced with modern, slab-like structures with little creativity exercised in facade design.

Furthermore, pre-eminent urbanist Jan Gehl has observed that people will increase their walking speed when passing a blank building facade. Psychologist Daniel Berlyne has stated that humans are biologically disposed to prefer locations with some architectural complexity, and are easily bored when this complexity is absent. Even brief episodes of boredom have been proven to increase levels of bodily stress hormones, according to a 2015 study from the University of Waterloo.

While this is an extremely brief example of how buildings can affect people, the implications of these studies suggest an increased need for more human-centric facade design.

Generic facades leave a lot to be desired because we humans prefer some level of complexity.Pictured: Not a whole lot, actually.

How can this be manipulated?

While certain design theories may point to individual methods for adding a human touch, there is no single guaranteed feature that will make a facade more interesting to humans. The flip side to this is there are no hard and fast rules. An architect has a lot to juggle, and a facade needs to do many things. Getting creative with a facade will lead to a greater engagement from those who use the building, and more positive feelings and associations for those who live in the area.

How perforated metal can be used in facade design

Our perforated metal can be manufactured to any specification, meaning the only limit is your imagination.  Check out our 2017 Lookbook for some amazing finished projects, using perforated metal and Locker Pic Perf, by some of Australia's greatest architects.

For more information about perforated metal in architectural contexts, contact us today.

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Here are our favourite ideas for creative uses of wire mesh and perforated metal.

Ingenious ways to recycle leftover steel panels and mesh

When you're obtaining materials for a project, it's often better to be safe than sorry. This might mean ordering a little more to make sure you're covered should the project change slightly, or if you accidentally damage one of the sheets. But what happens if you end up with leftover wire mesh or perforated metal? There are actually a multitude of ingenious uses for leftover metal products from Meshstore – whether your unused sheets will serve a specific purpose or wind up being more of a creative exercise, here are some great ideas for excess metal.

Wire mesh

Woven wire mesh is useful for a whole lot of applications besides the ones we usually talk about, such as industrial flooring and fencing. Here are just a couple of easy ones to start with.

Wire mesh can replace trellis in your garden as material to support the growth of vines and other climbing plants. Since our wire mesh is fairly thick and sturdy, they'll be strong enough to support grapes, cucumbers, and other heavier plant types.

Another interesting use we've seen is people using expanded wire mesh as "bulletin board" type wall hangings. The profile of the mesh can be useful for hanging keys, jewellery or even small hand tools. Creating a place to hang knick-knacks is a pretty great way to get your money's worth out of a small or oddly shaped pieces of extra metal.

Those with artistic leanings could find interesting ways to incorporate wire mesh into their creative processes. The image above is a small sheet of mesh carefully manipulated by artist Elaine Weiner-Reed to be used as support for a plaster sculpture.

Perforated metal

Though our perforated metal sheets are ideally used as flooring, screening, balustrades and beyond, here are a few cool uses from outside the box.

If you have any old shelving in need of a spruce up, those additional sheets could put to good use as cabinet doors or sliding screens on a large shelf similarly to what is pictured above. It provides great functionality and looks amazing.

Perforated Table with A frame legs.

A post shared by Redfox & Wilcox (@redfoxandwilcoxworkshop) on

Why not reinvigorate some of your old outdoor furniture but adding a new table top? While the table and chair above are clearly specially designed, the idea would be easy enough to replicate at a more DIY level.

A post shared by Nafets Remmos (@stefan1165) on

Meshstore definitely doesn't recommend taking your watch apart, but this time-piece from Swatch is incredibly cool, and a great example of creative use of perforated metal. Think how simply you could overhaul a wall clock to similar similar effect.

These are just a few ideas of how you can reuse extra metal product, but the true applications are limited only by your imagination. While Meshstore is more than happy to provide single sheets for creative projects, we would also understand if you find yourself adding a few extra sheets to your order to get creative this summer. For all your wire mesh and perforated metal needs, Meshstore has you covered.

Perforated metal is a versatile material, but how is it made?

How is perforated metal made?

Perforated metal has been used for the last 150 odd years for a number of purposes. First developed as a filtering system for coal miners, the original perforation process was lengthy and exhaustive. In the old days, labourers would manually punch individual holes into a metal sheet, but thankfully, more efficient manufacturing processes have been developed since then.

Our manufacturing process

We start with a coil of sheet metal in the desired gauge of the product we're making. There are a few different methodologies for different products, however for standard products the coil is fed into one of the machines. The machine's rollers pull the metal through, and the holes are punched by needles mounted on a rotating cylinder as the sheet metal moves through the machine.

For more specialised products such as Pic Perf, the whole sheet would be loaded into a turret punch, where the pattern is programmed in. This way the machines can punch the right configuration of different sized holes to present the larger image. The turret punch allows multiple needle profiles and sizes to be swapped into the punching position, so it's perfect for jobs that require unconventional patterns or greater detail.

Perforated metal manufacturingOur factory is set up in such a way that we can produce perforated metal in a huge range of profiles.

Our flexibility with customisation

One of the things we pride ourselves on is our ability to provide unique tailored perforated metal solutions to our customers. We've set up operations in such a way that we can be flexible in terms of delivering specific or one off products. In many cases we've had to create new tooling to complete custom jobs. We are not put off by this, and we are certainly not the type of company to say "we can't do it." If it can be made, we can find a way to make it.

Our team are always looking for ways to improve the range.

Our engineering team are always looking for ways to improve the range, and this involves some experimentation. Trying out new methods, experimenting with tensile strengths and folding/trimming techniques to the get the best possible product out of the design and manufacturing teams. It's this dedication to flexible solutions and experimentation with materials and processes that helps us stay ahead of the market.

Perforated metals have a huge range of applications. From facades, screens and balustrades to filters, grilles and ventilation. Meshstore is your one stop shop for pre-made perforated and expanded metals, woven and welded wires, and metal planking and railing products. Backed by the industry leading Locker Group, you can shop online right now, check out one of our branches, or contact us for more information.

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