Why this is important to Wisconsin businesses: Government support for modernization of processes and technologies is leading to widespread investment, creating opportunities for Wisconsin companies.

Advanced manufacturing is currently a very dynamic sector of Australia’s economy, with government initiatives such as the Modern Manufacturing Initiative driving new projects, capital investments, equipment purchases, modernization efforts and a growing appreciation of technology and its impact on business performance.

The steel fabrication and processing sector, in particular, is seeing increased activity and investment. The steel and metal fabrication industry is a significant contributor to Australia’s economy, employing approximately 110,000 in production and downstream processing. As of 2017-18, the industry was valued at approximately $22.3 billion USD.

Three industries—construction, manufacturing and mining—are the main consumers of steel products in Australia, making up almost 90% of all demand for fabricated steel. Currently, each of the sectors is facing challenges due to COVID-19, but they are all expected to bounce back, with positive long-term forecasts, especially in mining and construction. According to the Australian Construction Market Report (2020), government spending on new and improved infrastructure across Australia is expected to drive the construction industry’s recovery, supporting supplier inputs including steel manufacturing. In mining, according to MiningWeekly.com, the number of resources and major energy development projects in Australia increased by almost 20% in the 12 months leading up to November 2020, with 335 major projects in the development pipeline—and according to the Office of the Chief Economist’s 2020 Report, the value of committed projects rose by 46% in the 12 months leading up to October 2020, marking a turning point in the investment cycle.

To better support and service the downstream markets for fabricated steel products, processing companies such as Global Manufacturing Group and Stabilicorp have invested in new high-performance CNC cutting equipment that will increase productivity and efficiency. Both companies were able to access government support to facilitate these investments.

Recent industry interviews conducted by Wisconsin’s authorized trade representative in Australia (including one with the Australian Steel Institute, the peak body representing the up- and down-stream steel manufacturing industry), revealed that Australian steel processing companies consider U.S. products to be the “next best” after Australian-made products, and are open to looking overseas to source best-in-class technologies to improve business performance.

For many product categories in the equipment and automation space, there is competition in the market, both from local manufacturers and from international suppliers. International suppliers are generally most successful in Australia when they work with an in-country partner such as Baykal (Turkey), represented by Hare and Forbes; FICEP (Italy), represented by Ron Mack Machinery; or Omax (U.S.), represented by Headland Machinery. Wisconsin companies with unique and cutting-edge technologies suitable for Australia’s steel manufacturing sector are encouraged to connect with WEDC for more information and explore options for an introductory teleconference with the Australia trade office.