ART’s Director David White, who co-founded the 100%-owned and operated company in 1997, talks about the challenges and advantages of local manufacturing, and what it takes to compete against low-cost countries and imported products to move forward and keep making things in this country.
MA: As one of the few local CNC machine (flatbed routers and plasma cutter) manufacturers, what are the biggest challenges you are currently facing?
DW: Finding skilled personnel to fill key positions is a very challenging task in our part of the world. Many skilled workers are being syphoned off by the mining sector. This creates both a skills vacuum, and also tends to drive up the cost of labour.
MA: How do you think the carbon tax will influence your business?
DW: Australian taxation is one of the highest in the world and is a definite disadvantage to doing business in our country. We currently face company income tax, payroll tax, goods and services tax, road taxes, import duties and fringe benefits tax, along with other compulsory expenses such as compulsory employer superannuation contributions, public liability insurance, workers compensation payments, and now a carbon tax. The high percentage of income that goes to these expenses makes it a challenge to do business within Australia.
MA: Do you feel a lot of competition from imported machinery?
DW: Competing against cheap imported products is a challenge to our sales team. Many customers that are new to our type of product are unaware of the many pitfalls of buying inferior products from overseas, with little or no support. The challenge is to help our potential clients to identify the vast differences that can be found between quality engineered machinery from a reputable manufacturer, and the copy-cat imports that often fail to deliver on their promises.
MA: What strategies are needed to compete with low-cost countries in today’s global marketplace?
DW: We invest a lot of resources into developing new features and functionality into our products. Our machines have a lot of high end features that are focussed on productivity and versatility. Many of the functions that we have on our machines are simply unavailable on other machines. For example, we develop our software from front to back. Because our software developers work closely with our mechanical and electronics engineers, as well as our own in-house CNC operators, we have an extremely short development cycle time. This also allows ART to respond to the needs of customers by developing processes to suit their needs. Australian manufactures need to keep ahead of the competition in order to prosper.
MA: Why are Australian-made products good value-for-money for local buyers?
DW: One of the big advantages is the local support and immediate availability of all spare parts and consumables. We have local stocks of common components in various locations around Australia, and our Brisbane-based factory stocks almost every component ever used on an ART machine.
MA: Is there anything you’d like to see from Federal/State Government in terms of support for local manufacturing?
DW: While there are various grants and concessions available for development or export-related enterprises, these are prohibitively time consuming to prepare submissions for. We have previously used consultants to assist with the submission process; however the combined cost of these, along with the internal resources that were required to produce the relevant information negated any benefits that were received from the grants. The R&D tax concession application process has also recently been reviewed and now requires much more in-depth documentation to be prepared for each submission. While this is obviously designed to weed out abuse of the system, it also creates more of a burden on legitimate companies that rely on this financial relief. Any assistance from the government to make these processes easier and less costly would be appreciated.
MA: How much does your company export and would you like to expand this?
DW: In the past, ART has primarily focused on the domestic market; however it is becoming more and more common for us to export machines to other markets. We currently have customers in the UK, the USA, Russia, Spain, Indonesia, Malaysia and New Zealand among others. Our expansion is organic, in the sense that we grow into a market slowly, making sure that we can provide adequate support to our clients. Supporting our machines well has always been our first priority.
MA: What role does R&D/innovation play at ART? How much is developed in-house?
DW: As I mentioned earlier, ART devotes a large amount of effort and resources towards the development of new and exciting products. Our developers work across many disciplines including software, hardware, mechanical and electrical design. The investment me make in development is a big commitment, however it is our main focus and always has been. In this way, we can quickly adapt to the demands of the market and provide the solutions that our clients need. We are much more than a machine assembler – we design from the ground up, and that gives us unprecedented control over the whole system.
MA: Where do you see future potential growth markets for your products in Australia?
DW: We are always investigating new applications for our technology. For example, our new XR series routers are breaking ground with a range of new attachments. Applications such as box prototyping, packaging, air conditioning duct making, sign making, fibreglass mat cutting, fabric and film cutting and many others are now possible using this one machine. We are currently in development of a high precision fibre laser profile cutting machine for processing up to 12mm steel plate. We are anticipating a strong demand for this machine in light to medium sheet metal and steel fabrication industries.
MA: How do you see the future for local manufacturing?
DW: Although the previous couple of years have been marked with financial upheaval around the world, we have recently seen a marked upswing in the marketplace with a return to the realisation that it takes money to make money. Industry seems to have come to a realisation that you can’t just hold the pause button down indefinitely. We need to move forward, and the only way to do that is to get on with business.
Advanced Robotic Technology (ART) is Australia’s premier manufacturer of CNC routers and plasma cutters, based in Brisbane, QLD. Since 1997 all ART machines have been manufactured to the highest standards in our purpose-built factory. ART’s range of CNC routers and plasma cutters are custom-built to meet industry specific requirements. Most ART machines in our CNC router or plasma cutter range can be modified to our customers’ specific business needs in regards to material dimensions and additional tooling requirements.
Advanced Robotic Technology (ART) Pty Ltd
57 Trade Street, Lytton, QLD, 4178
Ph: 07 3393 6555
Fax: 07 3393 6533