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Flood of submissions to COVID-19 response register

Make do: Queensland-based motorsport and high-performance radiator manufacturer PWR is among the automotive manufacturers to help shore up local availability of medical supplies during the COVID-19 health crisis.

Automotive suppliers among responses to AMGC COVID-19 Manufacturer Response Register

9 Apr 2020

AUSTRALIA’S Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre (AMGC) has received more than 1800 responses to the COVID-19 Manufacturer Response Register it launched on March 25, with a number of automotive suppliers throwing their hats into the ring.


Offers include assistance with the production of ventilators, personal protective equipment and medical consumables for the COVID-19 health crisis, as well as the raw materials and skills to produce them.


AMGC PR and communications manager Tyson Bowen told GoAuto it had taken less than a week for the first 1000 submissions to flood in and that the federal government-backed organisation was working quickly to match the capabilities of respondents to needs.


“We’re at this critical point now where we’ve got a whole bunch of supply and now we’re moving to match it to demand where we can,” he said.


Mr Bowen said Queensland-based motorsport and high-performance radiator, intercooler and oil cooler manufacturer PWR “has put their hand up”, as had SMR Automotive in Adelaide, which produces and exports lighting products such as Australian-invented logo-projecting puddle lamps as well as blind-spot monitoring sensors, interior and exterior lighting lenses and rearview mirrors.


Bosch and Marand Precision Engineering – respectively located in Melbourne and Geelong – are also among the advanced manufacturing companies with automotive exposure to have signed up, with many remaining unnamed for now as submissions are treated as commercial in confidence.


Several manufacturers have already begun collaborating on essential goods and services, having been matched through the AMGC register, while other specialist skills and capabilities have been identified and allocated to working groups where they can be most effective.


Mr Bowen explained that AMGC was quickly working through the submissions to sort them into groups and establish where capabilities or capacities could be used or connections be made.


This has already started the ball rolling on hand sanitiser production, with three companies – including a candle manufacturer and a distillery – brought together to create the beginnings of a supply chain in less than 48 hours.


Mr Bowen said these were among more than 50 companies that had registered with capabilities and capacity to produce hand sanitiser, and that once the TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration) had authorised two formulations that could be manufactured without a licence, progress had been rapid.


“We set up a working group and immediately had a couple (of manufacturers) come back saying they knew what to do and were off and running,” he said.


Another activity to come out of the register is establishing and communicating standards to which products such as sanitiser must be produced and refining the details of what was needed for more complex items such as ventilators.


“If you’re working in medical, you might need TGA approval, you might need a clean room or you might need some other thing that not all businesses have,” said Mr Bowen.


“We’re trying now to provide some boundaries around what it is everybody wants to do; it’s not to dissuade people from helping, it’s to channel that enthusiasm.”


He said this part of the process was about acknowledging respondents for being keen to help and establishing the best ways of matching their abilities and facilities to what needed doing.


In addition to manufacturing capacity and capability, Mr Bowen said individuals offering their skills and experience had also been among the respondents.


“It’s a wide gamut of skillsets that have come forward and that has been critical to bridge a few gaps in knowledge,” he said.


“People are ramping up to produce stuff and might need particular machinery experience or manufacturing line experience, so you’re looking to bring people in to service a machine or set one up.”


Among those who came forward were retired or semi-retired people with experience in fields such as production techniques and design, or knowledge of how to work with certain materials.


“When you’re ramping up certain medical equipment, there are testing methodologies that you need to confirm that they meet requirements,” Mr Bowen added. “Quite a lot of people have come forward with that.”


Mr Bowen said the people side of things had “led to something or someone else” that yielded rich and unexpected seams of capability around the country.


“You might find people that were working in a business that doesn’t exist anymore or they’ve emigrated from overseas where they used their capability in a particular area and have offered their services,” he said.


“We’re getting a really good insight into some capabilities that we were aware of but didn’t know where they were, which is great because it helps us build a really good picture of what’s going on.”


In addition to administering responses to the COVID-19 register, AMGC says it will increase the output of online training offerings available through its ‘manufacturing academy’ and sharing information about government tenders and expressions of interest through its website and social media channels.


Describing the response as “extraordinary”, AMGC managing director Jens Goennemann said the organisation had been “overwhelmed by the generosity, ideas and capabilities that have been put forward to assist with the response to COVID-19”.


“As Australians, we rise to a challenge and are happy to do our bit, and the manufacturing sector is no different – we are in very capable hands and the work being done proves how essential manufacturing is in Australia,” he said.

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