Car industry discipline rubs off on medical device manufacturing
April 15, 2016
August 16, 2016

High tech industries look to automotive expertise for their businesses

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: For generations, the Adelaide suburb of Elizabeth has been synonymous with the manufacture of Holden cars.

But the automaker is planning to close the plant next year.

So we’ve come to Elizabeth this morning, to explore what the future has in store.

Here at the Aquadome, you can hear swimming coaches training carefree youngsters on the pool deck.

But many of their parents are worried they won’t find another job when Holden leaves.

But there are some signs of hope, though, for workers in the car industry.

A number of high-tech manufacturing businesses are springing up in Adelaide and they want to use the highly developed skills of auto workers.

Michael Edwards has this report.

(Sound of a bike wheel spinning)

MICHAEL EDWARDS: James Moros spins the wheels of his latest creation, a hand-made racing bike that he’ll sell for well over $5,000.

JAMES MOROS: You can actually take it with you, you can have it be folded, or you can even have an electric version.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: And when this former car engineer was made redundant four years ago, he decided to put his experience to work and follow his dream.

JAMES MOROS: I actually enjoy manufacturing and love cycling, and I thought well the opportunity’s there now to start something new.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: James Moros is one of thousands who have been made redundant from South Australia’s automotive industry.

He says the shrinking car sector is creating a pool of talent that should be utilised.

JAMES MOROS: I worked on airbags, I worked on bumper bars, on tyres – all of these things give you the ability to expose yourself in high-end technical stuff.

PETER ROWLAND: What’s our schedule for this prototype next?

MICHAEL EDWARDS: High-end skills were what Peter Rowland wanted he was looking for recruits for his technology start-up, Micro-X, which is developing an ultra light-weight mobile x-ray machine.

PETER ROWLAND: The car industry is really the world’s best practice in manufacturing. Just the logistics, the focus on quality and price and production logistics is second to none.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: Car industry DNA runs deeply through the fibre of Micro-X.

The company’s located in the old Mitsubishi plant south of Adelaide.

Among its eight former Holden employees is Quality and Supply Chain Manager, Alex Blackman.

ALEX BLACKMAN: They preach this to us when we’re at Holden is that the skills that we have there, they’re really are world class and world benchmark.

But it’s one of those things that you don’t really notice until you leave and you start working in other industries and you actually see that even advanced industries, like medical device manufacturing, are quite a long way behind the auto industry in terms of how mature they are with their quality processes etc.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: Another former Holden employee at Micro-X is its Production Manager, Adam Williams.

His advice to those still in the sector is to realise what skills they have and market them properly.

ADAM WILLIAMS: Make sure that they don’t underestimate what they’ve learnt from Holden and the auto industry. They are really really valued skills for other industries to bring into their organisation.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: But it’s not that simple for some Holden workers, especially if they’re not trade-qualified and are over the age of 50.

This is the situation Murray Akehurst finds himself in.

When Holden shuts down next year, he’s not sure what he’s going to do.

MURRAY AKEHURST: I’m over 50 now. My intention was to work at Holden until I retired.

So when they announced they were going to close, along with a lot of other people who work at Holden, I was devastated when I heard that.

Now I’ve got to try and think what am I going to do for a job after Holden? Because as you know, unemployment is very high in South Australia and job opportunities are very limited.

MICHAEL EDWARDS: Lynton Stuckey is another Holden worker facing unemployment next year.

He says he’s looking at options in the health sector. He feels as though Australia is throwing away its future by letting its car industry disappear.

LYNTON STUCKEY: I’ve always been proud of our cars that we build here in Australia and it’s a real shame that no longer there will be any Australian built vehicles.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Holden worker Lynton Stuckey ending Michael Edwards’ report.