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New industries emerge for Australian automotive components suppliers

Manufacturing

Automotive parts manufacturers in Australia are finding new avenues to keep their once booming businesses afloat as the nation’s car industry grinds to a halt.

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South Australian-based car battery handle supplier Rope & Plastic Group had a successful business in Australia and the United States before the automotive industry’s decline.

However, the company has now begun manufacturing clotheslines, launching its first product last week.

The ‘Ecodry’ clothesline is designed to cater for the aged care and disability sectors and people living in small apartments. The portable model features castors for easy moving, line tension adjusting dials and a height adjustment lever.

Owner John Sutton said the transition from automotive supplier to clothesline manufacturer was an obvious choice.

“We were supplying car battery company Exide with handles, cases and lids, so it was a very lucrative business,” he said.

“In the meantime about five or six years beforehand we got involved with a company called Mrs Peggs Clotheslines, and started to manufacture, warehouse and distribute clotheslines in China.”

“About the same time that Exide decided to close down their manufacturing operations, Mrs Peggs came to us and said they were going to take back the business and run it themselves – we had a double whammy.”

With a future in the automotive industry out of the question, Sutton decided to draw on the company’s experience in clothesline manufacturing to design and manufacture his own washing line.

The venture was assisted by a AU$200,000 grant through the South Australian Government’s Automotive Supplier Diversification Program, which provides assistance to automotive supply chain companies effected by the impending closure of Holden’s car manufacturing facility in the state’s north.

The company produced 1000 units in its first production run, and has its sights set on an international market.

The clotheslines, available through Hegs online at hegs.com, are manufactured and assembled in South Australia. Hegs is another South Australian company that manufactures innovative clothes pegs and exports them around the globe.

General Motors Holden’s announcement that it would close its car manufacturing facility in South Australia’s capital Adelaide on October 20 this year meant many automotive suppliers, including Rope & Plastic Group, were left out of contract.

Ford closed its Australian factory in Geelong last year. Toyota will also cease manufacturing in Victoria next month.

SMR Automotive is one of the largest manufacturers of passenger car rearview mirrors in the world with 24 per cent of the global market share in production of exterior mirrors for light vehicles. It is also one of the leading experts for camera-based sensing systems.

However, the decline of the car manufacturing industry in Australia in recent years has caused the company to seek opportunities in the medical device industry in South Australia.

Through SMR Technologies, it has formed a collaboration with the University of South Australia’s Future Industries Institute to develop non-invasive diagnostic tests for bladder cancer in Adelaide. The sensors are set to simplify testing for bladder cancer recurrence, replacing the need to run tubes through the urethra to the bladder with a urine test.

An SMR spokesman said the company was very interested in exploring opportunities in the area of cancer research.

“Cancer is a global issue and we hope that these sensors will play a key role in the fight against the deadly disease,” he said.

It is now being scaled up in a AU$9.2 million project and will be trialled on 1000 patients at Flinders Medical Centre to further test its commercial potential.

Across town at Regency Park, a South Australian start-up business and automotive supply chain company Adelaide Tooling are joining forces to manufacture a unique type of retractable flyscreen and block-out blind system, has partnered with to manufacture the product. About 100 Adelaide Tooling workers, who faced an uncertain future because of the looming Holden closure, are expected to relocate to ScreenAway.

This is a Creative Commons story from The Lead South Australia, a news service providing stories about innovation in South Australia. Please feel free to use the story in any form of media. The story sources are linked in with the copy and all contacts are willing to talk further about the story.

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