The coronavirus pandemic has changed so much in Australia. In the short-term it’s altered how we work, how we travel and how our children are taught. But could it bring about more permanent changes?
One thing that’s changed since the start of the year is the way Australians are talking about local manufacturing. COVID-19 has disrupted global supply chains, has put Australians out of work and has got people thinking, perhaps more than ever before, about where their products are made.
This could, we think, be a pivotal moment for manufacturing in this country.
We hope so, anyway.
Of course, we would say that. Today, we employ close to 400 people across our manufacturing operations in Dandenong, Victoria; Eagle Farm, Queensland; Malaga, Western Australia and Ingleburn, New South Wales and create hundreds of indirect jobs through expansive supply chains.
We’re also committed to ensuring our buses have the highest levels of local content possible, in fact, even the small number of buses built outside Australia, include local materials and labour throughout the manufacturing process.
But we’re not simply talking through our pockets, here. We’re not even talking only about retaining the jobs of today. We believe that when governments support local manufacturing, they build a base for future growth and job creation in Australia.
But there’s another critical reason that we think local content matters: quality.
Australia is exceptional when it comes to manufacturing, and for too long that fact has been ignored or, worse, denied. In some cases we’ve been assured our manufacturing is uncompetitive – or at least uneconomical – and on that premise entire sectors have been left to wither. Thousands of jobs have died along the way.
But the premise is simply unsound.
We built out first bus more than 40 years ago, so we have a pretty good idea of what Australians are capable of in the field of heavy and advanced manufacturing. In fact, Volgren would not be in the position it is today without the innovation, expertise and efficiency of Australian people and businesses.
There’s no better example of the outstanding quality of Australian manufacturing than the south-east Melbourne manufacturing and mass transport supply community. We’re not just a part of this community; it’s been essential to our success.
And we think now is the perfect time to celebrate this community. We’ve called the campaign “Local Content, Local Jobs”.
To kick things off we want to tell you about some of the businesses that make up this remarkable manufacturing hub. The first is Capral. They’re Australia’s largest manufacturer and distributor of aluminium profiles. Their relationship with Volgren goes back more than 30 years, but the company was established decades before that – in 1936. Today they employ almost 1000 people throughout Australia.
Although the system we use to create our bus bodies is Swiss, the aluminium itself is Australian. In fact, Capral extrudes Volgren’s aluminum profiles just down the road from our Dandenong headquarters in Campbellfield.
By partnering with Capral, we’re deliberately investing in engineering jobs and in specialised machinery; we’re keeping money in the local economy. But more than that, we’re doing our bit to support and strengthen an advanced manufacturing sector that we don’t think gets the recognition it deserves.
This is a philosophical choice that results in clearly better outcomes for us and our customers. In short, we make better buses because we have built relationships with organisations such as Capral that are close to us in terms of geography but also values. We have retained our position as Australia’s number one route bus body builder because we’ve eschewed disconnected corporate affiliations in favour of something objectively better: a highly motivated, highly agile cooperative neighbourhood working towards a common commercial goal.
Capral is an essential part of that neighbourhood.
We’ll be telling you about other members of it soon. Until then we want to hear from you: tell us about the local manufacturing champions that you know of. Give a public shout out to the brilliant businesses and individuals who, until now, have been undervalued, undersold and underrepresented.