The Australian pump industry is significant with interests in all markets whether population or commodity driven. The annual market for pumping equipment is estimated to exceed A$1,000 million annually.
There are more than 2500 people employed directly by pump manufacturers and as many again by Agents, Distributors and other businesses supplying product and services to the pump market. Whilst their sales represent a large dollar value, the relatively small size of the Australian market (in world terms) has resulted in businesses becoming very sophisticated and efficient in their operations. This has resulted in innovation utilising the latest technology.
There is a diverse range of products that are “Made in Australia” with Australian made products supplying over 60 per cent of the domestic demand for pumping equipment. Tariff duties on imports declined from 25% in 1989 to 5% in 1996. This has lead to major changes in the structure of the Australian Industry. There has been considerable rationalisation with many local companies being acquired by International operators.
Local manufacturers have had to become more efficient in making their products and have sought markets offshore with considerable success. The Australian market has also benefited from the emergence of many new businesses representing the ever increasing range of pump product becoming available from overseas source
Many sizes and types of pumps are manufactured and supplied to Australian markets. These products fall within three main categories:
Centrifugal Hydrodynamic Pumps
This is the largest group and ranges from small domestic pressure pumps and swimming pool pumps made in plastics, to high pressure process pumps for oil refineries and very large machines for water and wastewater treatment. Also, vertical multi-stage pumps for ground-water pumping from boreholes and for other applications. Slurry pumps for abrasive solids-handling duties are supplied to the local mining industry and to overseas miners.
Rotary Positive Displacement Pumps
This group include a variety of designs, usually used for pumping viscous fluids. Gear pumps and vane pumps are used for oil transportation and power transmission and progressing cavity pumps for manufacturing processes and for handling water and slurries.
Reciprocating Positive Displacement Pumps
Australian manufacturers make a range of reciprocating pumps for metering precise doses of fluids, often chemicals requiring corrosive-resistant materials of construction.
Pump Industry Development
There are numerous companies manufacturing pumps in Australia and several hundred who import, resell or supply product to the industry. Some of Australia’s early history in pump manufacture is represented by two organizations who still operate, albeit with at least one change of ownership since their early days. Both of these organizations are over a century old and have grown out of the earliest Australian export trades of gold and agricultural produce. The oldest, Southern Cross Machinery, started in Queensland in 1871 making wooden windmills for pumping ground water. Their business has grown over the decades and has lead to their current wide range of agricultural pumps and associated equipment.
In 1875, when the gold rush in Victoria was in full swing, much of the recovery of alluvial gold was undertaken using hydraulic sluicing methods. Thompsons Kelly & Lewis had their beginnings with the manufacture of centrifugal and reciprocating pumps for sluicing and mine dewatering.
These companies now operating under the Flowserve banner are still designing and making pumps and are among the leaders in their fields.
Pump users in Australia have been very demanding and have played a valuable part in driving the development of the local industry towards the strong position it occupies today. As demand changes, so a healthy industry will react quickly and this is to be seen as the publicly owned utilities for power generation, water supply and wastewater disposal become corporatised or privatised. Pump suppliers operate in a highly competitive environment and have had to exhibit the flexibility to absorb changes in their marketplace if they are to survive.
Pump Industry Rationalisation
The pump industry in Australia has seen significant restructuring over the past decade. Pump manufacturers have taken their own initiatives with a series of takeovers which have resulted in a substantial rationalisation of the number of suppliers. This restructuring of the Australian pump industry was paralleled by similar amalgamations of pump manufacturers in North America and Europe.
A beneficial result has been seen in the improved profitability of the restructured organisations, which has attracted the interest of some global pump companies in developing Australian joint ventures.
Whilst the number of Australian pump companies has been reduced, the total plant capacity has remained almost unchanged. Continuing investment in modern plant and machinery has resulted in an industry with a strong capital base, with adequate capacity to produce in considerably greater volume than its current output and with more efficient operations.
Australian pump manufacturers are in the forefront of local industry with their use of high technology equipment such as flexible machining centres and computer-aided design and manufacturing.
Most pumps contain castings and the capacity of an indigenous pump industry is dependent on the quality and reliability of its foundry suppliers. A shakedown of the Australian foundry industry in the early 1980’s preceded the restructuring of the pump manufacturers themselves. A number of those foundries operating today have specialised in moulding techniques and metallurgy peculiar to pump designs. Several pump manufacturers maintain their own foundries.
The size of pumps which can be produced in Australia is not limited by foundry capability. Some foundries can pour castings up to 30 tonnes mass. Similarly there is no limitation in the available metallurgical techniques. Pump castings made in exotic alloy steels including super duplex stainless steels are readily available. A number of small pump designs are nowadays made in plastic materials using the latest automated injection-moulding techniques. Pump testing facilities are of a high standard, with the largest being capable of testing machines absorbing power in excess of 5 MW.
The average hourly rate paid for direct labour, including wage related extras such as workers’ compensation insurance and superannuation, is lower in Australia than in most European countries and is on a par with that in North America. The quality of design and workmanship provided by Australian pump manufacturers is well controlled using the ISO 9000 standards as the basis for quality assurance accreditation. Given access to sufficiently large markets, Australian productivity can equal that of overseas competitors and our pumps are competitive in the world marketplace.
Exchange of design technology occurs through manufacturing licenses negotiated by local companies with overseas pump manufacturers and Australian designs are also licensed to be made in other countries. During a century of experience, Australian hydraulic engineers have developed a stock of “know how” which has become an exportable asset.