Manufacturing news briefs — stories you might have missed

Upcoming report to look at boosting cell and gene manufacturing

AusBiotech has commissioned research into what is required for Australia to manufacture more cell and gene products. There is an opportunity for Australia to be a regional hub in the Asia Pacific region for cell and gene manufacturing, yet there are a number of barriers, according to the life sciences organisation. These include quality control processes, infrastructure and large gaps in the people-based capability for manufacturing. Unlocking Australia’s opportunities requires a much better understanding and coordination of our capabilities and addressing where the gaps lie. The project is funded by the Victorian government’s Australian Medtech Manufacturing Centre (AMMC) and is being developed by Biointelect. It will outline a strategy and specific recommendations to help the industry unlock opportunities in cell and gene manufacturing. It will also include updated data from Australia’s Regenerative Medicine Manufacturing Capacity & Capability report, originally published in 2021.

Weld Australia welcomes energy apprenticeships program, but says more work needed

Weld Australia has welcomed the federal government’s New Energy Apprenticeships program and the updated Australian Apprenticeships Priority List, but says much more must be done to tackle the nation’s deficit of skilled welders. The organisation says a “radical three-pronged approach” is needed, including an overhaul of welder training; a focus on STEM training in schools; and investment in TAFEs nationally. “A veritable army of skilled workers, including welders, will be required to build and install the infrastructure needed to achieve the Federal Government’s 43% emissions reductions target by 2030 and net zero by 2050,” said Geoff Crittenden, CEO of Weld Australia. “Unless action is taken now, Australia will be at least 70,000 welders short by 2030.”

Queensland Electric Super Highway site opened at Dingo

A new Queensland Electric Super Highway (QESH) site was opened at Dingo, this week, joining a regional network of public charging sites including Blackall, Barcaldine, Charleville, Cloncurry and Longreach – with Stanthorpe due to open later this month. Over 90,000 vehicles have been charged on the QESH since opening in 2017, according to the Queensland government, saving between 2,064 to 2,422 tonnes of CO2 compared to similar light petrol or diesel vehicles. “Queensland’s battery EV fleet, which includes passenger cars, buses, trucks, motorcycles, and light vans, has doubled in just one year with about 8500 additional battery EVs registered in the state,” said state transport minister Mark Bailey. “This brings the total number to more than 16,300.”

New Australian automation partner ASA welcomed to Aerobotix US headquarters

USA Robotics integrator Aerobotix recently welcomed a delegation from new partner company Automated Solutions Australia (ASA) to its Huntsville, Alabama headquarters. The two companies announced a partnership in June, 2022, for the development, testing and manufacturing of automated performance coating systems for hypersonic solutions. “Aerobotix teaming up with ASA means our companies now have sovereign capability in both the U.S. and Australia,” said Josh Tuttle, Aerobotix business development manager. “We can work with the U.S. State Department for approval of any technology transfer for ASA, and ASA can assist Aerobotix in fast-tracking our technology to Australian shores.” Nathan Jones, ASA general manager, added: “Since the partnership was announced, Australian customers have told us they’re excited about ASA being able to offer the latest U.S. robotic innovations for hypersonic performance coatings.” The partnership followed the 2021 signing of the AUKUS security pact between the U.S., U.K. and Australian governments, which includes provisions for the allies to work together on hypersonic and counter-hypersonic capabilities.

$1.3 million in Victorian agtech grants announced

The Victorian government has announced $1.3 million in new grants for entrepreneurs in the agtech sector, through a partnership between Agriculture Victoria and the state’s startup agency, LaunchVic. The AgTech Grants Program will allocate 20 grants of $50,000 to 20 startups, with another $300,000 to support the establishment of Victoria’s first dedicated agriculture Angel Network. The grants are part of the $15 million AgTech Regional Innovation Network (AgRIN). Information on the new grants can be accessed here.

Cleanaway builds sales momentum

Cleanaway Waste Management has reported revenue growth in all areas of its business primarily driven by acquisitions for the six months ended 31 December, and rising operating profits, also across the company. The company reported underlying EBIT of $138.3 million, up 6.5 percent on the pervious corresponding period, on revenues up 19.6 percent to $1.47 billion. The company was able to raise prices in the half year and there was a ‘general recovery in economic conditions’. Cleanaway said its landfill gas capture projects were delivering financial and environmental benefits.

Maggie Beer reports flat sales

Luxury food manufacturer Maggie Beer Holdings has reported a mixed first half year, with sales down 4.5 per cent in the half on the previous corresponding period to $49.9 million. However in the second quarter sales were stronger, ending up 4.3 percent on the pcp. E-commerce net sales were similarly up 4.3 percent in the second quarter and retail grocery sales were up 4.6 percent. The result is a rare pause in the growth of the company’s food and Hampers & Gifts Australia businesses which have shown a compound annual growth rate of 27.5 percent. “Business continues to be resilient with positive operating cashflow, $17.4 million in cash and no debt.” The board announced the commencement of its dividend programme with the declaration of a half cent fully franked dividend per share.

Economic conditions crimp Quickstep sales

Continuing supply chain disruption and skilled labour shortages, as well as equipment reliability issues in its aerostructures business, have crimped composites manufacturer Quickstep’s first half sales. Aerostructures revenues were unfavourably impacted by $2.9 million, partially offset by a $1 million uplift in revenue from the Bankstown, Sydney company’s growing aftermarket and applied composites businesses. First half revenues were down 4.0 percent in the half to $45.4 million, with underlying EBITDA of $200,000, down from a profit of $5.2 million. I the first half however, Quickstep moved back into profit, showing an EBITDA profit of $200,000. Quickstep CEO Mark Burgess predicted a stronger second half as aerostructures production and deliveries returned to historical levels.

Picture: Aerobotix Business Development Manager Josh Tuttle, left, with Automated Solutions Australia General Manager Nathan Jones (credit Business Wire)

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