A MELBOURNE manufacturer of reusable protective masks is set to recruit up to 10 new staff following yesterday’s announcement by Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews.

As the Victorian Government took the decision to recommend the wearing of masks in high risk areas, the Melbourne firm saw sales jump by 800 percent. 

FloatPac Group CEO Gavin Hodgins said website traffic had now increased by a staggering 3,500 percent after the site initially crashed under the influx of orders.

“At one stage last night we were receiving 15 orders a minute," Mr Hodgins said. "It’s been huge. For us, it’s been a life saver, keeping an almost 40-year-old firm afloat.

“Sales to the general public have been coming thick and fast, and we are actively engaging with the State Government to secure some of the orders for 2 million masks that Premier Andrews is ordering – it looks as though masks could become a way of life, at least in the short term.

“We have a very busy few days and weeks ahead of us, but we’re delighted to be in a position to create new jobs. Producing masks became a sideline as we fought to keep our staff employed, after Covid-19 wiped out the majority of our core business. From a community perspective, it’s a real privilege to be playing a part in helping to stop the spread.”

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YEARS OF HARD WORK have gone into developing the networks and connections, the expertise and investments and the global partnerships to make South Australia the ‘defence state’. But what impact will the COVID-19 pandemic have?

The impact of COVID-19 is being felt just as the defence sector has been ramping up some of the most significant defence projects Australia has ever seen, including $100 billion being spent on the new BAE Systems Hunter Class Frigates in Adelaide and the Naval Group Attack Class Submarines. 

University of South Australia (UniSA) researcher in its Centre for Workplace Excellence, Shruti Sardeshmukh, who is undertaking research into the development of the defence industry, is conducting a series of online workshops with defence stakeholders, defence companies large and small, government and industry organisations, to assess the impact of the COVID-19 crisis.

“I want to incorporate an understanding of the impact of COVID-19 into my research on the defence industry sector and its resilience as part of a globally networked industry,” Dr Sardeshmukh said.

“Many homegrown SMEs (small and medium enterprises) from South Australia have been successful in winning critical contracts just recently.

“And we are in a unique situation where international primes are working with local companies on projects of enormous national significance, so understanding more fully the impacts of the pandemic will be vital as we plan for business beyond COVID-19.” 

Director of Defence at UniSA, Matt Opie, said adapting to the challenging circumstances presented by the COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact.

“While public health and the health of the economy are top priorities right now for everyone, we can’t afford to allow the pandemic to impact our efforts to develop critical Sovereign Industrial Capabilities within the defence industry,” Mr Opie said.

“If anything, COVID-19 is teaching us that we need to strengthen Australia’s industrial and manufacturing capacity across the sector, and what we are developing through defence, in both know-how and in vital partnerships, will have applications beyond the sector.”

Dr Sardeshmukh said the industry consultation workshops will help to inform the wider research project and provide strategies to ensure current projects are delivered successfully.

Industry representatives wanting to take part in the workshops can register with Dr Sardeshmukh at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

www.unisa.edu.au 

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RENOWNED Australian whiskey distiller Hellyers Road, Tasmania's reigning Regional Exporter of the Year, has recovered from the sudden success of its Original 12 Year Single Malt, which cleaned out stocks within 18 months, to bring out its successive release.

According to Hellyers Road’s master distiller, Mark Little, the cyclical  of single malt whisky production is one of the nuances that make the category so intriguing and unique.  

"Arguably, there would not be a distillery in the world that can guarantee an infinite supply of a particular skew, given the fact these whiskies take years to mature and, once released, consumer demand can quickly usurp any forecasts around long-term supply," Mr Little said.

Such was the case with Hellyers Road’s Original 12 Year single malt. First taken to market in 2014, its quality and keen pricing soon found strong market favour with available stocks gobbled up within 18 months of release.

Mr Littler said the distillery was taken by surprise at how quickly the release became fully allocated but the latest news is good in that a new batch of Original 12 year is available with market interest already very keen.

“We have in excess of 3000 700ml bottles available in the current batch and will have more 12 year stock coming on line for bottling in 2021 which is really exciting," Mr Little said. "Our oldest whiskies are now approaching 20 years of age and are reserved for ultra-premium single cask releases however we are thrilled, to again be able to offer this lovely core range 12 year single malt which was so popular previously."

Mr Little said Hellyers Road Original 12 Year carries the typical citrus and vanilla tones of the distillery’s Original flavour profile whiskies but age has added a new dimension to the character and body. Its rich brassy colour gives rise to a mouthfeel that exudes an oily sweetness, tinged with shavings of citrus peel poking through. The finish is calming and long, with vanilla evident, he said.

www.hellyersroaddistillery.com.au

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SHADOW Minister for Employment and Industry, Science and Small and Family Business, Brendan O’Connor, will address delegates at the National Manufacturing Summit in Melbourne on August 22

According to organisers, manufacturing industry group Weld Australia, there is widespread evidence that Australia’s manufacturing sector is experiencing a period of sustained growth.

 In July, the Australian Industry Group Australian Performance of Manufacturing Index (Australian PMI) rose by 1.9 points to 51.3, indicating growth across manufacturing production, sales, exports and new orders.

However, industry participants continue to cite a critical constraint: workforce capability and availability.  

According to Weld Australia CEO Geoff Crittenden, “Finding and retaining skilled workers is front of mind for manufacturing industry business owners and operators, as is maintaining currency of skills and knowledge. Australia requires a significant increase in skilled, qualified trades workers to meet future demand on major projects in industries as diverse as defence, shipbuilding, aerospace, infrastructure, rolling stock, and resources.

“A targeted strategy for workforce development is crucial and will require the manufacturing industry, federal and state governments, and the VET sector to work together to ensure its success.”

Shadow Minister O’Connor is expected to focus on both the challenges and opportunities facing manufacturing. According to Shadow Minister O’Connor, “As a country we must choose to build a nation rich in educational, training and employment opportunities, with a broad based engine of economic growth.

“Lifting skills to ensure the workforce is prepared for the jobs of the future is crucial to future employment security and better wages. It requires bipartisanship and collaboration, none of which can be achieved without leadership, a plan, and vision from the current government.”

This year marks the third National Manufacturing Summit. The event was held in both 2018 and 2017 at Australian Parliament House in Canberra.

Attended each year by over 100 delegates, the Summit program is designed to open new ground in the policy dialogue over how to sustain and nurture manufacturing: a vital segment of Australia’s economy. The 2019 Summit will be held at the Australian Synchrotron in Clayton, Melbourne.

Mr Crittenden said Weld Australia members were involved almost every facet of Australian industry and make a significant contribution to the nation’s economy. Weld Australia is the Australian representative member of the International Institute of Welding (IIW). 

"The primary goal of Weld Australia is to ensure that the Australian welding industry remains locally and globally competitive, both now and into the future," Mr Crittenden said. 

https://manufacturingsummit.com.au/

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MANUFACTURERS Australia-wide are being assisted to take immediate steps to manage their energy consumption through a new industry initiative that has already saved some companies 25 percent in gas usage.

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation, the Energy Efficiency Council and the Australian Industry Group have launched Australian Manufacturing: Gas Efficiency Guide in an effort combat escalating energy costs and record gas prices.

A meat processing plant used the guide’s techniques to save $45,000 per month by cutting gas use by 21 percent, after upgrades to its boiler and steam facilities. A building products manufacturer saved $42,000 a year by installing a new control system on its boiler.

The guide examines the energy needs of a wide range of manufacturers, from food and beverage production to metals fabrication, printing and furniture manufacturing. 

The guide identifies a range of proven technologies with the potential to cut gas consumption by 25 percent. In the majority of cases, up front investment costs were $50,000 or less, with the costs recovered within just five years.

“Gas prices have risen substantially, and leading Aussie manufacturers are investing in energy efficiency to take control of their energy costs,” Energy Efficiency Council CEO Luke Menzel said. “The good news is that these projects are delivering benefits well beyond energy savings: operational life of equipment is increasing and maintenance costs and emissions are going down.

“This guide catalogues the learnings from leaders on gas efficiency so they can be leveraged across the entire manufacturing sector.” He said the guide was a comprehensive resource identifying practical and proven strategies to deliver energy and cost savings across manufacturing operations.

If the initiatives were all implemented at once, they would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 10 million tonnes a year, equivalent to taking more than two million passenger vehicles off the road, or meeting the electricity needs of 1.5 million homes.

“It is no secret that manufacturers are relatively large energy users. The good news is that clean energy solutions can make a very real and positive difference,” Clean Energy Finance Corporation CEO Ian Learmonth said.

“An initial investment of $50,000 or less can be recovered within just five years, producing lasting benefits for the business. By switching to more efficient equipment and cheaper renewable energy, manufactures can improve their competitiveness as well as cut greenhouse gas emissions.”

The guide says major improvements can be achieved through: Fuel shifting from gas to solar thermal, solar PV, bioenergy and low emissions electricity; equipment maintenance improvements; operational optimisation; replacement of old equipment with more efficient, newer equipment; and smart redesign to improve industrial processes.

The guide describes key planning requirements when embarking on efficiency initiatives including the key skills required, financial considerations and available financing options

“Australia’s manufacturing sector has confounded doubters in recent years by expanding strongly,” Ai Group CEO Innes Willox said. “The sector has the potential for even greater growth amidst a new industrial revolution that is transforming industry yet again.

“However, energy costs loom as one of the most significant headwinds to seizing this opportunity. We’re pleased to support this practical approach to helping manufacturers address these challenges.”

Mr Willox said manufacturing was vital to the Australian economy, contributing around $100 billion (6.2 percent) to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) annually and supporting nearly 900,000 jobs, or around 7.4 percent of total employment.

Australian manufacturers are also the most energy intensive in the OECD, and account for around 40 percent of Australia’s total natural gas consumption.

Australian manufacturers have been hit hard by volatile gas prices. The guide aims to help reduce their reliance on gas by identifying a range of initiatives that can deliver meaningful efficiency gains. For each initiative it provides upfront costs, payback periods and estimates the market readiness for manufacturers adopting the initiative.

The guide demonstrates that the gains available to manufacturers are significant and can go well beyond cost and emissions savings. For example, decreasing the heat load on industrial systems can reduce maintenance costs on large plant assets such as boilers.

Manufacturers can also improve the life expectancy of plant equipment from reduced operating hours and thermal stresses.

Further gains can be made in water consumption and treatment costs, with efficiency improvements in steam system and heat recovery operations. The guide shows manufacturers how they can take greater control of energy, and improve workplace safety and comfort, with technologies such as smart meters, energy management systems, and implementing more precise process controls.

The initiatives can be implemented at the design stage for new projects, or as a retrofit to existing equipment and systems. Many can be implemented through changes in practices and management.

www.aigroup.com.au

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THE FIRST commercial installation of printed solar panels in Australia was completed in August, with the University of Newcastle wrapping up the process for Chep Australia.

In one day, the Chep team installed 200sqm of the material, made by printing electronic ink onto sub-millimetre plastic sheets, with double sided tape on the roof of its warehouse in Beresfield, Newcastle.

With a production cost of less than $10 per square metre, printed solar panels are much more affordable than other commercially available solar technologies.

The university also believes the technology should soon be widely available for the broader market. 

Professor Paul Dastoor, from the School of Science and Mathematics at the University of Newcastle said, “This is the first commercial uptake of printed solar in Australia, most likely the world. It’s an historic step in the evolution of this technology and another example of private enterprise and community leading the charge in the adoption of renewables.

“Our printed solar cells are now considered to be at the top of the technology readiness tree.

“Those working in technology development use a NASA developed Technology Readiness Level or TRL system to determine how evolved our solutions are, with 1 being the lowest and 9 the highest,” Prof. Dastoor said. “We are now rated TRL 8 and essentially considered green lit.

“On the University’s lab-scale printer, hundreds of metres of material can be produced per day, however upgrading production to a commercial-scale printer would increase this output to kilometres. No other renewable energy technology can be manufactured as quickly.

“The low cost and speed at which this technology can be deployed is exciting as we need to find solutions, and quickly, to reduce demand on base-load power – a renewed concern as we approach another summer here in Australia.”

Prof. Dastoor said due to the low cost of upgrading and replacing the panels, they may be provided as a service rather than an ownership based model.

“One of the most common questions I’m asked is when will people be able to buy this on shelves at Bunnings,” Prof. Dastoor said.

“Unlike most centralised or de-centralised energy infrastructure, which requires a substantial upfront investment, printed solar might resemble something more akin to a mobile phone plan.

“In future, we expect users might sign onto this energy solution in a similar way to a mobile phone plan, where you determine your usage requirements, pay a monthly service fee, but never need to ‘own’ the infrastructure. The service provider installs and upgrades your service for you as the technology continues to develop.

“This is quite a step change in how we’ll think about energy provision and energy markets in the near future.”

The panels are printed using roll-to-roll printing, and could one day provide printers in the country with an entirely new revenue stream, according to a report by Australia’s ProPrint online magazine.

www.newcastle.edu.au

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A VICTORIAN business will be the first in the world to commercially develop one of the strongest fibres in existence – a product with applications in the aviation, automotive, aerospace, power, electronics and health industries.

BNNT Technology has received a $1.4 million Advanced Manufacturing Growth Fund grant to help produce its Boron Nitride Nanotubes on an industrial scale.

So far the super fibres have only been produced in small laboratory-scale quantities. 

Federal Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews, said BNNT was one of 15 small and medium-sized businesses that will receive grants in the second and final round of the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Fund.

“These grants will help companies transition from traditional, heavy processes to advanced manufacturing of higher value products, creating new opportunities and new jobs,” Ms Andrews said.

“Nearly $19 million is being distributed in Victoria and South Australia to help industries adjust in the two states most affected by the closure of vehicle manufacturing.

“This is expected to result in an additional investment of $45 million from the successful businesses.

“These businesses show the potential of Australian manufacturing: our firms and our workers can make high-tech, high-value products that can compete in a global market,” Ms Andrews said.

“These grants are an example of business and government working together to ensure that our nation is at the cutting edge in the rapidly evolving manufacturing sector.”

Other successful applicants in the second and final funding round include South Australian companies Micro-X and Bickford’s and Victorian company Rutra. 

Micro-X is a manufacturer of novel x-ray products for medical and security applications. The grant to Micro-X is to help develop locally produced components.

Bickford’s is a beverage manufacturer. The company will use the grant to help develop a liquid batching process that will enable faster flows and greater volume flexibility in production.

Rutra’s project will use 3D digital manufacturing in the production of custom-made orthotics in its Footwork Podiatric Laboratory.

Companies which received funding in the first round of grants have already started buying advanced manufacturing equipment and designing and preparing their factories for the changes.

For example, Redarc Australia, a defence supplier in South Australia, is already installing equipment it has purchased.

The Federal Government’s $47.5 million Advanced Manufacturing Growth Fund was established in the 2017-18 Budget as part of a $100 million package to support advanced manufacturing.

www.business.gov.au/amgf-grant-recipients.

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