Home' Australasian BioTechnology : Vol 26 No 2 Contents Australasian BioTechnology | Volume 26 | Number 2 29
For medical technology industries, there may be a
silver lining to the dark cloud that is hanging over
Australia's manufacturing sector, but it does not
make up for the damage being wrought on the
country's industrial capacity.
During AusMedtech 2016 in Adelaide earlier this year,
delegates gathered in the state that is feeling the brunt of
a worrying de-industrialisation of Australia. South Australia,
traditionally a manufacturing state, is reeling from the
decision by GMH to cease car manufacturing at Elizabeth
in 2016, taking with it numerous automotive suppliers that
either can't or won't diversify to survive.
On top of that, the primary steel blast furnace operated by
Arrium at Whyalla is under threat, with the company under
voluntary administration, and uncertainty hangs over the
state's naval shipbuilding sector.
South Australia is suffering the most from a shrinking of
manufacturing from 25 per cent of gross domestic product
(GDP) as recently as the 1980s, to 6.2 per cent today. While
this still represents more than $106 billion in annual output,
there is no doubt that much has been lost. Entire industries
have closed, and in many key sectors, there are only one or
two companies still in business.
Sydney's Silanna Semiconductor, for example, is Australia's
only large-scale manufacturer of the silicon chips that are
at the heart of all modern products and services, including
medical devices. Silanna is known for designing and
manufacturing the communications chips on board NASA's
Mars Curiosity Rover.
The operations of companies like Silanna bode well for
the capability available to the medical technology sector
from among our estimated 2500 small and medium-sized
enterprises (SMEs) operating globally. But this is sadly still
a small number for a nation that boasts the world's 13th-
largest economy, and one of the most successful.
In the past, the car industry, linked as it is to global supply
chains, brought skilled people, new technologies, cutting-
edge manufacturing techniques, and advanced management
ideas to Australia. The country, and the medical technology
sector that has often recruited from the automotive
companies, will have to find a new source of new ideas when
GMH, Ford and Toyota exit in 2017.
But speakers at the
'Shifting Gears' do
show that, in the short
term at least, medical
can still draw on
car companies for
Robert Bosch is the
cornerstone supplier to
car making in Australia,
engineering and making most of
the onboard computers that make up a
high proportion of the value of a car. John Croft, business
development manager at Robert Bosch, told AusMedtech
that the company was investing $50 million to give itself
a new future in Australia by providing high-technology
automation solutions and advanced business processes.
'Our expertise is gained from decades of automotive product
development and manufacturing,' Croft says. 'This is important
because automotive is a highly mature industry with very
small margins for error, high levels of scale and an absolute
requirement for quality processes. A lot of these requirements
can be transferred to other manufacturing industries.'
Bosch manufactures millions of diodes---a simple
semiconductor device---at its Melbourne factory each
year. More typical of its future operations is the work it
is doing with Shay Wilkinson, process engineering team
leader at Cook Medical in Brisbane, to identify improved
manufacturing systems and processes. Cook manufactures
in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) needles and aortic stents used to
ward off heart failure.
Croft says, 'Our observations are that the medical devices
industry is still a very labour-intensive industry, and can
benefit from increased levels of automation and technology'.
Bosch is not alone among automotive players that are
diversifying for the future.
Grant Tinney chairs Precise Advanced Manufacturing Group,
which offers industry advanced manufacturing services, such
as additive machining and fabrication. He told AusMedtech
that Precise also assists companies, research organisations
and inventors to take their medical device or technology
concept from idea to commercial success.
Andrew Richards, product marketing manager at SMR
Technologies, also outlined changes to his business, which
is part of a global group that manufacturers exterior mirrors
for cars and commercial vehicles. Services include providing
end-to-end product design, engineering, production and
'The company has been, and continues to be, driven by
research, development and commercialisation of innovative
new technologies and products.'
Peter Roberts is a former managing editor at the Australian
Financial Review and BRW, and founder of the Australian
Manufacturing Forum networking group, which can be found
Our observations are that the medical
devices industry is still a very labour-
intensive industry, and can beneft
from increased levels of automation
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