ASCI members enjoy lessons in surviving and thriving in Australia’s manufacturing industry

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Site Visit Report by Geoff Palm
When Sten Campbell, Director, designtech, and his wife bought the business 25 years ago they had no idea about making furniture. Thanks to the help from a mentor and competitor in Sydney, they began the journey to where they are today; one of the leading manufacturers of MTS and MTO furniture manufacturers in Australia.
They have both local and national customers and compete effectively with imported products. One of designtec’s advantage is in quality, with a 10 year guarantee on all their products. They have not had a single claim against their product since this warranty was put in place. Another advantage is their speed to market; being able to deliver orders within 2 weeks. In fact, they recently helped out a Fitout company that was in trouble due to a delayed overseas shipment and late completion penalties approaching.
designtec has invested in state of the art German machinery, which is in part, one of the reasons they are so competitive. We watched one machine in action that cut, trimmed and edged a tabletop in minutes. This used to take 2 tradespeople up to 3 hours each to complete in the past. It was fascinating watching the journey of the product from raw material to finished product; created by a combination of people and machine. Staff skill levels range from tradespeople to semi-skilled; with a strong focus on cross-training. This ensures that most people in the business can operate a range of equipment; allowing for flexibility when demand dictates.
Safety is another important factor in designtec’s success; with no LTIs in the last 5 years.
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Most of there employees are now long term; with some coming up to 20 years. This was not the case during the mining boom when Western Australia struggled to find qualified people and it was the same with designtec; growing at 30% a year. That all changed in 2008 with the GFC and then the end of the mining boom, which saw demand for their product diminish rapidly. It is to the owners credit that not only did they survive, met the challenge they faced and have prospered since the downturn.
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The visit was hosted by Sten and Hannah Witherick, General Manager, on the afternoon of July 24, ASCI and associates learned the commercial, technical, industry and logistics issues around the designtec business.
ASCI WA thanks designtec, Sten Campbell, Hannah Witherick and other staff for hosting this visit and openly sharing their stories with our members. We must also not forget the office dog, who shared her love with all in a quiet and dignified manner. – end
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RAAF Site Visit

Green Light Day 2017

Our August site visit was one of the most interesting and insightful we have had to date. This is ASCI’s first step as we change the format of our site visits and ramp up the learning experience to new heights and what better way to start this take off than with the RAAF Base Richmond.

The day started off with ASCI staff and members meeting up on a crisp Richmond morning at 8:30, where we were lead into the base and given our safety briefing. The first session provided an outline of the Australian Defence Organisation’s supply chain, including the role of Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group (CASG) in supporting the C130J and C27J aircraft based at RAAF Richmond.

Now we come to the exciting part, we got to go inside the C27J Spartan , a battlefield airlift transport aircraft operated by Number 35 Squadron. This particular aircraft is able to move people, equipment and supplies in Australia and the surrounding area. Inside, we got to see how everything is packed in and all the different facilities they have to get their goods from point A to point B. The aircraft is able to take a wide variety of tasks including being able to support humanitarian missions in remote areas, delivering ammunition to front line troops and also undertake aero-medical evacuation of casualties. This aircraft is able to carry a significant amount of weight and land on airstrips that are not suited to some of their other aircraft, providing additional capability especially on humanitarian disaster relief missions.

Some of the C27J’s missions include air drops, this means they cannot land due to the damage or limited capacity of an airstrip however supplies are still able to be delivered.  Our next stop was 176 Air Dispatch Squadron, where the parachutes used for the air drops are cleaned, repairs, packed and stored.  These parachutes go through a whole production line to make sure they are suitable for both trained personnel and supplies which can include supplies as large as tractors.

Our day ended with a chat about the storage of inventory in the Australian Defence Force including the use of a national network of warehouses and storage sites. This allowed for question time, where members were able to better understand concepts used at the RAAF Base Richmond and take these notes back to their own daily job.

The whole experience was interesting and shows the steps ASCI is taking to make these experiences more exciting and intriguing for members to benefit.  One member stated, it was a “great lifetime experience… thanks for organising it.” We are eager to see what our next site visit will entail!