Most people would list some essential qualities of quarrying equipment as robust, reliable, low maintenance, and maybe high tech. But one feature becoming increasingly important, in the wake of COVID-19 restrictions is Australian-made.
In 2020, as supply chains were ravaged by the pandemic, through border closures and illness in the workforce, businesses were left stranded and without the brimming inventories they were so used to. It’s a point only worth recounting once, if that, as the effects of the health crisis were felt so universally.
In adapting to a changing market, Precisionscreen has told Quarry it has made a decision to pivot towards Australian-made products in order to combat supply chain issues.
It is a move that would have gone against the grain in recent history, but certain circumstances have called for change.
Precisionscreen general manager Paul Kerr was handed the company’s operations in the early 2000s by his father Harold, an Irish engineer. Harold founded the business in Brisbane in 1986, providing Australia with a locally based manufacturer in a world dominated by Irish-made screens. As has been custom since then, parts were still shipped from overseas.
Born in Northern Ireland, Kerr has told Quarry it is because of Precisionscreen’s history that the company has the expertise to become known for an Australian-made advantage.
“Precisionscreen takes a huge amount of inspiration from those early days in Northern Ireland, but I’ve always believed that you make your home where it is,” he said.
“We’re finding for the first time in a long time the narrative about Australian-made is turning around, people are definitely willing to pay and account for an Australian-made premium price.”
The reason for this, according to Kerr, is people are willing to pay the price for quicker delivery times on parts and equipment.
“The main change over the past 20 years has been a gradual reliance on more imported equipment, and less so on local support and local content as the Australian dollar leveraged up,” Kerr said. “As a manufacturing industry, the massive change has been the reduction of local content designed specifically for the Australian market. I think we’ve got four or five years where people will pay for uninterrupted delivery, while the supply chain remains damaged in the near-term.
“From a quarrying perspective, the cost of uninterrupted business will have a bigger factor and allow companies to leverage in a little bit of a premium.”
Thanks to Precisionscreen’s decades-long manufacturing history, the company has already well positioned itself to take advantage of a post-COVID-19 manufacturing world, as it has had the Australian Made kangaroo stamp upon some of its products since 2016.
Kerr said much of the competition may struggle to cope with the transition to Australian-made, as the market demands.
“Our competitors really don’t have the basis to turn to Australian-made. At Precisionscreen we’ve been manufacturing in Australia for 36 years, and so we have strong local content,” he explained. “We see turning to Australian-made due to a damaged supply chain, not as a market pressure, but as a market opportunity.”
When it comes to expensive quarrying equipment, businesses can scarcely afford unscheduled downtime or lengthy delivery times on parts and equipment.
Kerr acknowledged the premium placed on locally made content and said that global circumstances haven’t given suppliers or consumers much of a choice.
When given the choice between reliable or cheaper equipment, Kerr believed most would opt for reliability.
“When I speak to people in the marketplace, Australian-made is rating so highly for customers,” Kerr said.
“If our products allow a customer to run a better month because Precisionscreen runs with slightly better components, then I think that’s a win. But it comes at a cost and that is a slightly upfront cost in components which allow for a highly degree of reliability and uptime.”
Another benefit to locally made products is the creation of more Australian jobs and the development of young Australians.
It’s been a philosophy at Precisionscreen, built by Kerr’s father, to contribute to the growth of the community which allows Precisionscreen to function – in this context, in Australia.
“A big passion of mine was developing young men and women. There are too many jobs in Australia where they’re really suited to white collar work,” Kerr said. “But there’s a whole generation of really confident people where paperwork isn’t their thing – they want to be hands-on and increased manufacturing allows for that. As we build that skillset the less we are relying on overseas knowledge.” •