Call for more support for local manufacturing

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed how vulnerable Australia is to a breakdown in supply chains due to our reliance on overseas goods, it has also done a great deal to highlight the benefits of local manufacturing.

The co-owner and CEO of AIS Water – a Brisbane-based firm that designs and manufactures water disinfection technology for commercial and residential swimming pools – is calling for the virus to be a line in the sand. Elena Gosse, an Inside Small Business 2019 Top 50 Small Business Leader, believes this period in our history underlines the benefits of a strong local manufacturing sector.

Fault lines exposed

“We have seen time and again, when countries do not manufacture their own goods, they are left susceptible not just to what is happening in the Australian economy, but also the world economy,” Gosse said.

“As a country impacted by COVID-19, Australia quickly found itself in a position where we needed face masks, sanitiser, resuscitators and a host of other products which were being manufactured overseas. Then there was a rush to find ways to manufacture these products locally so they could get to market efficiently and quickly.

“Surely the need has now been clearly established for us to further support and develop our manufacturing industry in Australia.”

Last month (April), the Australian Industry (AI) Group recorded a 17.9 point drop in its Performance of Manufacturing Index (PMI) taking it to a 28-year low of 35.8. A PMI above 50 shows manufacturing is increasing while a PMI below 50 shows a decrease.

A change of focus needed

Gosse said that this highlights why, rather than bailing out foreign-owned businesses, the government should focus on supporting local manufacturing.

“Without this, manufacturers in many sectors will not survive or will continue to compete with low-cost, overseas producers which in many cases, generate inferior products,” Gosse said.

Gosse said that AIS Water was fortunate in that it was in a strong position going into the pandemic. The company has its own manufacturing facilities in Queensland, meaning it had the supplies and stock so many other business lacked due to a breakdown in the international supply chain. AIS has been working with commercial pool operators while their facilities were closed due to lockdown measures, upgrading their pool facilities and water-disinfection technologies.

“We weren’t preparing for a pandemic, but we were certainly well placed when it did hit,” Gosse said. “AIS Water has operated debt-free for more than 25 years and we own all of our facilities. As an essential business we are very proud to play a role in supporting our customers and the Australian economy to recover through this fragile period. As the world’s economy continues to recover and demand for our product grows globally however, we must be ready to meet this demand,” Gosse added.

“We have the capacity to triple our production capacity and create new jobs right now, but we need help to do it. There has never been a better time for the Australian manufacturing industry and government to work hand in hand.”

“This time in history will help to reinforce the importance of choosing Australian made goods to keep the Australian manufacturing industry strong.”