What’s the future for manufacturing in Australia?
GLOBAL factors facing Australia's manufacturing sector are one of the challenges facing W.E. Smith's operations.
The company supplies process products to domestic and international markets, but external factors such as falling oil prices and costs of importing exotic materials have placed the business under renewed pressure.
W.E. Smith is one of 214 manufacturing businesses on the Coffs Coast, with the sector turning over $132 million in the 2013/14 financial year.
The company's chief executive William Van Vliet said it was vital to keep an industrial base in Australia.
"Most of the Western world is outsourcing its hard and heavy work out to lower-cost wage earners such as China," he said.
"Frankly we should have some support from the Federal Government through blocking the importation of replacement products that we have the ability to build in Australia.
"Our politicians need to keep in mind that we have to pass down our skills and knowledge to the younger generation so they can continue to innovate.
"How are we going to do that if there's no demand for that work here any more?"
His assessment is backed by findings of a recent Senate inquiry which found the rules governing Federal Government procurement must be changed to even competition between Australian manufacturers and cheaper overseas suppliers.
"For the last 10 years most of the significant projects in Australia have been owned by overseas companies and procurements have been done from offshore," W.E. Smith's vice-president Gregory A. Mann said.
"If the government was seriously thinking about building submarines we could actually roll the shell and the barrel at our site in Coffs Harbour.
"It's the only machine in Australia that can do it and these are things that everyday we come to work to find a way to promote."
W.E. Smith's management said identifying new sources of growth as well as the weakening Australian dollar presented opportunities.
"A lot of the jobs we're doing have been secured not only because of the quality but the competitive aspect of what we do," Mr Mann said.