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Holden quits: AutoCRC vows to assist parts-makers
Big potential for parts-makers in Asia as AutoCRC aims to assist devastated sector
12 Dec 2013
By IAN PORTER
GENERAL Motors’ decision to cease making Holden cars in Australia has only strengthened the resolve of the AutoCRC to work with parts-makers to ensure they have a future.
The government-funded automotive research centre has recently brokered several joint-venture projects in Australia and Malaysia, and chief executive Jim Walker believes there is a lot of potential in Asia for the local parts industry.
“Our focus is really on the component manufacturers and seeing how we can help them through the ASEA program and also with the innovation,” Mr Walker told GoAuto today.
While the innovation projects attract a lot of attention, the Automotive Supplier Excellence Australia (ASEA) program works with individual parts-makers to help them improve every aspect of their operations, from the factory floor to the administration office.
Like all co-operative research centres, the AutoCRC brings together companies, which are keen to try something new or solve a problem with a range of researchers, experts and other companies in a bid to find an answer.
Many leading parts-makers have participated in AutoCRC projects, some with excellent results. One example is Adelaide-based SMR Automotive, which was given assistance to discover a new way of coating plastic which meant it could do away with glass in its mirrors, saving valuable weight.
SMR has, however, experienced difficulties remaining viable in Australia, cutting back on its Adelaide-based operations earlier this year and shifting work offshore.
Mr Walker said the overall aim is to help the components industry develop unique intellectual property that will allow and encourage them to break into global supply chains.
“We’ve been able to encourage a number of component manufacturers to be involved in our programs, particularly through our Malaysian link, and it’s been fantastic,” he said.
"He said Dolphin Products, which makes plastic parts like door handles and fuel cap housing assemblies, was working with a Malaysian injection moulding company to develop more efficient moulds." Other companies working with Malaysian companies include IXL Backwell and Metalsa.
“The good news is, through our investment with the Malaysian Automotive Institute (MAI), we have been able to really look at developing relationships between our component manufacturers and the supply chain in Malaysia, which is fantastic because it develops partnerships and, hopefully, volume in the future,” Mr Walker said.
The MAI was formed by a Malaysian government department and is responsible for developing the country’s automotive industry policy and for promoting research and development.
“The benefit for the Australian automotive component manufacturing sector is that you have a willing partner in the MAI who appear to have some of the strategic goals that we do, so there is alignment there, which is always good,” Mr Walker said.
The AutoCRC chief said the opportunity for Australian parts-makers lay in the fact that the Malaysian car industry was not as mature as Australia’s.
“I think it would be fair to characterise the Malaysian automotive industry as not being as mature as the Australian industry, in terms of design capability,” he said.
“So this is somewhere where they want to improve and develop and this is a great opportunity for some of the supply chain component manufacturers in Australia.
“Each component manufacturer has a different goal in what they want to do when they get involved in one of these projects. Some will want to develop a relationship and grow volume, some will want to develop some IP.” Mr Walker said the AutoCRC also had some projects in China. These were mainly conducted through the CSIRO venture called the China Australia Alliance for New Vehicle Energy Innovation.
“At the moment we do have limited projects with Chinese companies. We do have some around electric vehicles and batteries, but it is certainly an area we are looking at,” he said.
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