31/10/2006 - 21:00

Reports of manufacturing’s death greatly exaggerated

31/10/2006 - 21:00

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Manufacturing is widely perceived to be an industry in terminal decline, so it’s rather surprising that the Australian Bureau of Statistics found it to be one of Western Australia’s biggest industry sectors, supporting more than 100,000 jobs.

Reports of manufacturing’s death greatly exaggerated

Manufacturing is widely perceived to be an industry in terminal decline, so it’s rather surprising that the Australian Bureau of Statistics found it to be one of Western Australia’s biggest industry sectors, supporting more than 100,000 jobs.

 

At first glance, the common negative perception of the manufacturing industry appears to be well founded.

 

In the past year, manufacturing operations at companies such as Canningvale Weaving Mills, Australian Fine China and Gosh Leather have closed their doors.

 

And the ABS found that the manufacturing industry’s share of total employment in WA has declined from 12 per cent 20 years ago to just more than 9 per cent currently.

 

Despite the proportionate fall, manufacturing employment has grown substantially in absolute terms and is currently at a record level of 100,500 jobs.

 

Where, then, are all of these jobs?

 

WA Business News’ annual survey of WA’s biggest employers included only one obvious manufacturing company, Henderson ship builder Austal, which has about 2,600 staff.

 

The ABS does not provide a breakdown by company but a close look at some of the state’s biggest employers indicates they have significant manufacturing operations.

 

Mining giant BHP Billiton, for instance, is the majority owner of Worsley Alumina, whose core business is manufacturing alumina.

 

Similarly, Alcoa employs a lot of staff in bauxite mining but the majority of its workers are enga-ged in manufacturing alumina.

 

Woodside Petroleum is another big employer in the resources sector.

 

Like Alcoa, it employs a lot of people extracting raw material – in its case, oil and gas – but many of its staff manufacture liquified natural gas at its processing plant on the Burrup Peninsula.

 

Another big oil company active in WA is BP. Most of its staff are also employed in manufacturing, specifically at its Kwinana petrol refinery. 

 

BGC is usually described as Australia’s biggest home builder but the majority of its employees are involved in manufacturing building materials including cement, concrete and plasterboard.

 

National building materials suppliers Boral and Brickworks are also big employers of manufacturing workers, with Boral owning the Midland Brick business and Brickworks owning the Austral Bricks and Bristile Roofing businesses in WA.

 

Another big employer in a similar sector is Adelaide Brighton, which owns WA’s biggest cement manufacturer Cockburn Cement.

 

Wesfarmers and United Group own a diversifed range of industrial and service businesses, and in each case they include major manufacturing activities.

 

Wesfarmers operations include chemicals and fertiliser manufacturer CSBP, while United Rail (formerly Goninan) has a large manufacturing business at Bassendean, primarily involved in the assembly of rail cars for the iron ore industry.

 

Publishing company West Australian Newspapers is best known as an employer of journalists but it employs many workers in the production of its newspapers and magazines.

 

Specialist manufacturing companies include steel fabri-cators Ausclad Group, Fremantle Steel and Park Engineers, which collectively have nearly 1,000 employees.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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