When three manufacturers were faced with supply shortages and travel restrictions in 2020, they turned their focus closer to home, moving their manufacturing to Australia with impressive results.

19 Jan 2021

Geofabrics Australasia is Australia’s largest manufacturer of highly engineered geosynthetics for the building and infrastructure sectors, with two manufacturing plants in NSW and Queensland. In early 2020, bushfires, COVID-19, and shipping and port delays highlighted its reliance on imports for materials and equipment.

Within a few short months, the company had to rethink its entire approach.

After exploring opportunities, Geofabrics replaced some of its imported raw materials with local recycled materials. It also strengthened its Australian technical, and research and development (R&D) capabilities, implemented new business models and developed local capabilities to innovate.

By ‘reshoring’ manufacturing, Geofabrics has developed innovative new products that turn Australian-sourced recycled plastics into products used to build roads, rails and landfills.

“Our challenges have started [a] journey of transitioning the company from a supplier to a thought and innovation leader,” says Dennis Grech, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director. “What excites us is understanding our strengths and using them to assist in solving ‘big problems’ that Australia is facing.”

 Geofabrics Australasia is producing innovative new products in its two Australian manufacturing plants (Queensland & NSW plants pictured).

Bringing production to Australia also helped family-owned manufacturer Novaris survive the challenges of 2020 and strengthen its business. Novaris provides products and services to prevent equipment damage caused by direct and indirect lightning strikes, surges and other electrical disturbances. It has manufacturing facilities in Australia and Malaysia, with customers worldwide.

In January 2020, production almost ground to a halt when Novaris was unable to source components from Chinese suppliers. In February, the company was unable to manufacture some of its products in Malaysia and ship them to Australia. This meant Novaris could not fulfil customer orders that were coming in faster than ever.

The business knew it needed to innovate and move quickly.

Novaris adapted its Tasmanian manufacturing facility to make products previously manufactured solely in Malaysia. Thanks to this agility and flexibility, Novaris is now able to supply products far more quickly than its competitors, and is winning business globally.

Against the odds, Novaris had a bumper year in 2020 and continues to grow domestically and overseas in 2021.

“We are able to supply product far more quickly than any of our competitors and we are winning business globally because our competitors manufacture their products in India and China and have trouble with supply,” says Diane Tompson, co-owner.

“I am proud of the way we were able to remain flexible and use innovation to deal with problems that we faced. It proves that a family-owned company such as ours can be a part of our country’s solution to keep employing staff and aiding the economy.”

Novaris adapted its Tasmanian manufacturing facility to make products previously manufactured solely in Malaysia

Another business thriving against the odds is Perth-based Red Piranha. A leading provider of advanced cybersecurity solutions and products to clients across the globe, Red Piranha recently opened a new manufacturing facility in Western Australia and became the state’s first cybersecurity company to become a Licensed Australian Defence Exporter.

The pandemic caused multiple problems for the business, including supply chain issues and being unable to travel to install products and deliver training.

In January 2020, the company relocated its manufacturing from overseas to Australia. Amid the growing challenges of COVID-19, Red Piranha quickly hired and upskilled local staff, streamlined supply chains and secured production timeframes in order to meet local demand.

“Achieving ‘Australian Made’ status was a goal that we never thought possible,” says Richard Baker, Executive Director. “We’re very proud of how the company responded to the external threats created by COVID-19. This resulted in Red Piranha creating from scratch a domestic manufacturing operation that is profitable in its own right.”

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