Manufacturing alive and well in Australia

Ray Keefe and his team at Successful Endeavours.

Busting the myth that Australian manufacturing is dead and buried is a driving passion of Australian electronics manufacturer, Ray Keefe, who has developed market-leading products in Australia for more than 30 years.

“Unfortunately, a belief among many home-soil manufacturers that overseas competition has killed off Australian manufacturing fuels a public misconception that the industry is all but phased out. But the facts defy the myth”, says Ray.

“Recent statistics show that manufacturing in this country has grown every month except one since October 20151 and 2018 saw 85,000 new jobs created in manufacturing, among the highest of any sector2.

“The biggest barrier to Australian manufacturing is not overseas competition. It’s the mindset of many Australian manufacturers who think that manufacturing products overseas is the only viable option.

“That may be true for highly commoditised products and where quality and longevity are not the highest priorities. But when you want to produce a highly reliable product, Australian manufacturing changes the sales conversation because of the integrity of the process and ability to directly follow up the manufacturer if you need something addressed with the product.”

Ray is the head of Melbourne-based electronics design and embedded software development firm, Successful Endeavours, whose electronics product excellence and business acumen has seen the company recently notch up its 47th award win.

While being recognised for developing world-class, cost effective technologies for Australian electronics manufacturers is hugely satisfying, it is Ray’s laser-focussed vision to see the continued growth and long-term resilience of the manufacturing industry that fuels his drive to push the limits of innovation.

“To underline the importance of manufacturing, think of a world without it,” Ray says.

“There would be no cars, no public transport, no utilities, empty shelves on supermarkets, no furniture, no clothes, no buildings, no mobile phones, computers or televisions, and the list goes on…

“Almost every facet of modern-day living is made possible because of a manufacturing process so as a nation, we need to do everything in our power to support and nurture its continued growth.” 2

In the mid-1900s, 90 per cent of all manufactured products used in Australia were made in Australia but this had plummeted to just 10 per cent by the early-2000s and just seven per cent in recent years.

While manufacturing may not return to the peak of last century, the fact that Australian manufacturing has been on an upward trajectory for nearly four years now is a positive trend Ray is determined to see continue.


“Because I’ve got grandchildren!

“I asked myself 20 years ago where jobs in the future would come from. That’s why I’m supporting the industry that generates more jobs for this country than any other industry.

“According to the Victorian Government, for every direct job in manufacturing, up to five indirect jobs are created. In fact, about 40 per cent of the nation’s approximately 11 million jobs depend on manufacturing if you follow the figures through.

“There is a clear message to all governments in these figures.

“Knowing that manufacturing is the most critical sector in Australia in terms of job creation, governments at all levels need to prioritise the industry when developing economic policy.

“Contrary to what’s happening in Australia, the world’s top manufacturing nations, including Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Germany, Japan and China, have strong manufacturing industries and clear industry policies.

“They have attractive government incentives and tax concessions that make it conducive for local suppliers to bid for the work, and every level of government and business work together to ensure what happens is in everyone’s best interest.

“If we want to grow Australian jobs, maintain our standard of living and maintain our position in the world economy; then governments need to better support industries that make things and create fundamental value, like manufacturing.”

Successful Endeavours is a prolific maker of things. Since its establishment in 1997, the company has produced more than 2000 products or product enhancements; currently finishing a design, component, upgrade or complete electronics product every three days.

“We have positioned ourselves at the point of maximum economic leverage in the manufacturing supply chain because this is how we can make the biggest difference,” Ray says.

“For every $1 spent with our firm, there’s $100 worth of economic generation downstream with other businesses value-adding to the process.

“I believe that a rising tide lifts all boats and manufacturing is the engine to do the lifting. That’s why our focus is on collaborating with other Australian manufacturers to design and make new products in Australia.”

Successful Endeavours is leading the way to retain value creation in Australia, with many ground-breaking projects designed for Australian manufacturers and other businesses. 3

Some example projects are:

• Design of an environmental monitoring device, the arcHub Smart Cities Telemetry sensor suite, for The Active Reactor Company. This device measures multiple sensor types including particulates, gases, micro-climate, pedestrian traffic and water level, and supports a host of other sensor types. This design came runner up in the Agilent Innovation in Analytical Science Award at the international CleanUp 2017 conference.

• Design of an early fault detection product for IND Technology, which detects when a piece of equipment in the electricity distribution grid is starting to fail and where it is located. This won the Best Network Implementation category at the 2016 PACE Zenith Awards and the updated version for rural networks that can detect symptoms that ultimately lead to bushfires, won the IoT Innovation award for Australia in 2018.

• Design of capacitor bank controllers for ABB’s High Voltage Division. These controllers “clean up” power in the electricity grid so energy can be used efficiently while producing less greenhouse gas emissions.

While Ray has a message for government, he also believes Australian businesses can do more to support Australian manufacturers.

“For instance, many Australian power companies are importing capacitor bank controllers rather than buying them from Australian-based companies such as ABB, which make the same component here.

“The manufacturing industry can also help itself, particularly in the area of collaboration.

“The OECD ranks Australia low on collaboration. I believe we could achieve so much more if, as a nation, we were more open to working with each other rather than having a silo mentality.

“People are worried that their portion of the pie will be reduced if they work with others because they will have to share. On the contrary, the more we work together, the more value we can create so the bigger the pie will become for all of us.

“Australian manufacturing is growing but to grow exponentially, we need to get everyone behind it: government, businesses and the manufacturing industry itself.

“We have the opportunity to support future generations of workers and the prosperity of our nation if we do.”

For insights and frank opinion on Australian manufacturing and entrepreneurship, read Ray’s blogs at Yo

Your first stop before buying a home. View the whole picture.