Today @AuManufacturing kicks off our new editorial series – Celebrating Australian Made – leading up to Australian Made Week (24 to 30 May). Here Jake Dingle, CEO of carbon fibre road wheel manufacturer Carbon Revolution, explains how his company’s factory investment shows that Australian advanced manufacturing is not dead, but just getting started.
There is little doubt Australian manufacturing, dismissed by some as ‘dead’, has in the past 12 months finally enjoyed some of the attention it deserves.
Supply chain disruptions across various industries caused by Covid-19 highlighted the folly in being overly dependent on offshore production, while a focus on stimulating the economy has prompted government initiatives such as October’s Modern Manufacturing Strategy to invest in local manufacturing and innovation.
This attention only confirms what we at Carbon Revolution have been arguing for some time.
There are real opportunities in advanced manufacturing where companies have developed a quality unique product, using innovative design or technology, that is not only valuable across a global market but also hard for others to replicate.
Carbon Revolution’s lightweight carbon fibre wheels are one of the most complex carbon fibre products produced anywhere in the world.
With 16 wheel development and production programs underway with 6 global OEMs in the automotive industry and a strong take-up in the prestige car segment, we see further significant growth thanks to the rapidly developing electric vehicle market.
Carbon fibre wheel technology will significantly enhance electric vehicle range through weight savings and improved aerodynamics.
Reflecting these opportunities, Carbon Revolution this week announced the most significant operational decision in its history, in moving to begin construction of Phase 1 of its first Mega-line.
The Mega-line is expected to provide additional manufacturing capacity of around 75,000 wheels per year, approximately doubling Carbon Revolution’s total capacity to 155,000 wheels.
It will reduce labour per wheel from around 17 hours to less than ten.
Notwithstanding the improved labour productivity of the Mega-line, the corresponding growth in production will see an increase in the workforce at our Geelong facility.
Importantly, the increased levels of automation will drive a shift to higher skills reflecting truly modern and advanced manufacturing.
The first of four planned Mega-lines for our Geelong facility, this step change in production scale and economics will enable Carbon Revolution to deliver large volume programs to a broader cross-section of the market.
Plans for the Mega-line have been developed using in-house expertise, equipment partners, and advanced 3D and simulation tools to reduce risk during design, construction, and commissioning.
The Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre’s 2020 report suggested that ‘Australian manufacturing’s strongest opportunity to succeed on a global scale is to differentiate through outstanding technical leadership.’
Investing in research and development, building a highly-skilled workforce and collaborating with research institutions all feed into this technical leadership, and we are very proud of our ongoing relationship with Deakin University.
This partnership offers access to state of the art laboratory and testing facilities as well as research capabilities that are truly world class.
A further factor in our success is collaborating closely with our customer base.
Carbon Revolution’s OEM relationships have recently been enhanced through the appointment of Ron Collins to our US business development team as Vice President, North America.
Ron brings over 30 years of experience within the car industry, including as global head of chassis engineering at Ford, and will help fast track growth in North America.
The same AMGC report indicated Australia’s manufacturing industry was worth $100.8 billion in gross value added or output terms in the year to June 2017.
Analysis of the potential market from improving manufacturing competitiveness suggested Australia should aim to capture a 25–35 per cent increase in value added by 2026.
Capturing this increased value means always looking for opportunities to improve, harnessing existing technology and developing our own.
Carbon Revolution is constantly innovating, using digital technology to enhance our unique physical technology.
This means a big data platform that enables artificial intelligence and machine learning to deliver increasing volumes with greater efficiency.
Our virtual product development uses proprietary computational models to simulate wheel durability and stiffness, and to forecast product performance based on proposed manufacturing changes.
These sophisticated finite element analysis (FEA) techniques enable us to optimise the product design, simulating demanding on-vehicle conditions.
The goal is to get the wheel design right the first time and to accelerate to the physical testing and validation process, ensuring simultaneous achievement of product performance, quality and efficiency.
Meanwhile we are also expanding our customer market.
Since it was founded in 2007, Carbon Revolution has taken this technology from an R&D phase through commercialisation and is now well progressed towards full industrialisation.
We are supplying wheels for some of the most prestigious automotive brands in the world.
But there is no reason to restrict ourselves to cars. We are working on a helicopter wheel design, while major aircraft manufacturers have also expressed an industry in the transferability of our technology.
Industrial applications are next.
All this points clearly to one conclusion: Australian manufacturing is not dead.
On the contrary, in the area of advanced manufacturing, we are just getting started.
Jake Dingle is a mechanical engineer and CEO and managing director of Carbon Revolution Ltd. He worked in engineering, operations, strategy and M&A roles with Goodman Fielder, BCG, L.E.K. and Tenix Defence Systems before helping found Carbon Revolution in 2008.
Picture: Jake Dingle
@AuManufacturing’s editorial series – Celebrating Australian Made – leading up to Australian Made Week (24 to 30 May) – is brought to you with the support of the Australian Made Campaign Ltd, licensor of the Australian Made logo.
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