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The start of 2010 saw a solid upswing in new orders, fuelling growth in the manufacturing industry and indicating that the slump in orders may finally have bottomed out. But with another undoubtedly tough year ahead, industry experts and manufacturers are focusing on ways to ensure that orders continue to go to local manufacturers.

With the National Manufacturing Week and Austech opening their doors to buyers and exhibitors at Sydney Showground (Olympic Park) from May 11 to 14, Austech director Shane Infanti has little doubt about what local manufacturers should focus on.

“We face more global competition and international pressures than ever before. Our biggest challenge in this country is to maintain or indeed develop international competitiveness. I believe it is becoming more and more vital for Australian manufacturers to continue to learn how to do things better and smarter.

“The importance of our precision engineering and advanced manufacturers in this country having the opportunity to promote the capabilities and capacity they have to offer is critical in this current economic climate. Manufacturers can no longer rely on traditional advertising such as Yellow Pages to generate business. They must aggressively seek new ways in which to promote themselves and their business.” To help local manufacturers reach potential new clients, Austech’s Manufacturers Showcase provides a forum for manufacturers to promote their products to the event’s 10,000 visitors, many of whom outsource and contract out their work. The messages about innovation and marketing aren’t lost on manufacturers.

Sutton Tools is one of the icons in the local industry, having manufactured locally since 1917. It strives to meet the global challenge through its commitment to research and development.

“We treat research and development seriously. Our philosophy is to continue to stay abreast of technology advancements and invest in research and development,” explains Kaylene Knight, marketing services manager at Sutton Tools.

Sutton Tools is also strongly pushing the fact that its products are made locally. It is developing an ‘Australian-made program’ to promote the fact that its products are made domestically and therefore continue to be of high quality. The program is set to generate sales activity in stores and loyalty toward Sutton’s Australian-made products.

“Loyalty to our brand is vital to the business. We have been manufacturing quality cutting tools in Australia since 1917 and the fact that we are manufacturing in Australia is becoming a very important part of our message.

“Over 42% of our surveyed consumers spontaneously mention that they specifically look for the Australian Made logo. We have and will continue to reinforce the Australian Made message by using the Australia Made logo alongside our Sutton Tools logo in multiple advertising mediums,” explains Knight.

Sutton Tools’ view is supported by other local industry leaders. Albury-based Cooper Tools, Australia’s only manufacturer of hand tools, manufactures top-selling tools such as the Lufkin range of measuring tapes and Weller Soldering Irons. Other well-known products include the Crescent Pliers, which are the industry standard in linesman’s pliers, and the popular Wiss snips. The Australian manufacturer believes the fact that the products are made at home plays a key role in its continued success.

“Our products continue to be market leaders in their categories for very simple reasons: people know that they are locally made and therefore consistent in their high quality. They can be relied upon,” says Peter Smith, marketing manager for Cooper Tools.

“There is such a wide range of products in varying quality and price points available now that it can be overwhelming for consumers to make a purchase decision. We make it easy for our customers to make that choice. They know that our Australian-made products can be trusted and will always be of the highest quality.

“We’ve been promoting our products as Australian made for many years now and the feedback has been great from both consumers and retailers. Now and again we get calls from retailers who want to check that our products are still made here, and to us that is an obvious sign that the ‘Australian-ness’ of our products – and what that means – brings real value.”

That local manufacturers can benefit from promoting their products as Australian made may not come as a surprise. Since the launch of the Australian Made logo almost 25 years ago, research has consistently showed that consumers want to buy local. What is perhaps surprising is that it isn’t just Australian consumers who want to buy Aussie made. A survey of companies using the Australian Made, Australian Grown (AMAG) logo for export purposes – conducted during February this year by YSC Online – found that sales increased more for exported products carrying the Australian Made logo than those not carrying the logo.

“The survey clearly showed that marketing products as Australian gives businesses a competitive advantage,” says Ian Harrison, chief executive of the AMAG Campaign. “In spite of a challenging financial climate, it is encouraging to see that the number of exporters using the logo has grown in almost all surveyed markets.

“The growth in number of licensees exporting to the US during the [last] two-year period has, for example, increased by 36%, while the number of exporters to Canada has increased by 45%. And perhaps more importantly, the growth has resulted in increased sales. The number of logo users recording sales of greater than $500,000 grew by several hundred percent, while the number of non-logo users in the same sales category only increased by 20%.”

The AMAG logo has been promoted in a number of export markets during the past four years as part of a project jointly funded by the federal government and the not-for-profit Australian Made Campaign Ltd. The logo can be found on more than 10,000 products that are sold in Australia and internationally.