Local Manufacturing

I was down at Triton’s factory earlier today – always like having a look around, and had a chance to pick up a replacement top for the workcentre (need mine to look good for demos / videos / photos etc).

It struck me as I was watching the top being assembled just how much I appreciate having things manufactured in my own country – being able to actually see the work that goes into producing something.

For example, the tracks that get riveted to the top (which are straight) would become warped by the riveting process, leaving the ends sticking out proud of the surface if not for the fact that before they get inserted, they are put into a press and pre-warped to counteract the rivets’ forces.  That is just so cool.

It is a pressed metal top, so it isn’t as robust and inherently flat as a cast and machined top, but I was also impressed that before the top was handed over, it went onto another table and had a straight edge put across its surface, and any slight high or low spots were then subjected to another press to remove them.

It is no wonder that the Triton Workcentre occupies so many home workshops in Australia (and elsewhere).  It may not have the 0.001″ accuracy of my new tablesaw, but it is definitely more than sufficient for a majority of home workshops.  I know they have their detractors, but to put it simply, if it wasn’t for the fact that there was this range of tools that escalates the backyard shed into a small woodworking workshop, and that it was (and is) Australian made, then I can say with a pretty high level of confidence that I wouldn’t be pursuing this passion (obsession) today.

Local industry, despite the extra costs, are worth supporting.  I know they will all fade and be gone soon enough to a Chinese or Indian factory near you, but until then….

Reminds me actually of a tour I did a few years ago (must be 10 years ago now – where does the time go?) of the large engineering firms in England.  There’s a country with a large manufacturing arm!  Wonder how they are traveling these days?  I went right through the Rolls Royce Gas Turbine plant, and Dunlop Aerospace Braking Systems (Dunlop may make tyres, but then you also need good brakes to stop an aircraft, and that is some amazing engineering if you consider what those components actually go through – it may feel gentle inside the plane, but those wheels and connected components are slammed heavily into the ground with a very heavy plane above them, and the forces are quite unbelievable!), and a number of other heavy engineering industries.  Fascinating things to see, and a real loss I believe if it all gets shipped to 3rd world countries just because they pay peanuts instead of wages.

However, it is hard to deny that we have tools in our workshops now that we’d never have dreamed of owning in the past because of it.  I still think though, that we will rue the day that we lost our own manufacturing capacity.

7 Responses

  1. Hi Stuart,

    Any chance of posting some pics of the Triton Factory? Many of your readers will not get a chance for a look at ‘Mecca’ – especially those of us outside of Melbourne. I’d be really interested to see what the place looks like.

    All the Best from the West

  2. Stuart:

    It’s the same thing we’ve seen over here in the US, with huge numbers of manufacturing jobs going overseas, and yet folks line up to buy tons of Chinese made stuff at our “big box” stores like Costco, Home Depot, etc. I’m a culprit too. The stuff is just so appealing and cheap. Of course, we’ve been lectured on and on about how manufacturing is not the key to economic success, it’s the “content.” I’m not buying it, so to speak. I think when a country loses its ability to produce for its own citizens, it cannot sustain itself. What you’ve seen happen to the US dollar in the last year or so will soon make its way elsewhere, including the Euro, etc, for very similar reasons. The argument that we can be the designers and “they” can serve the role of assembly-line robots just isn’t going to work in the long run. The Chinese and Indians have some of the smartest and most industrious people in the world.

    Oh well, enough of thinking these thoughts. Time to go out in the garage and finish those cabinet doors!

  3. I too would like to see some photos of the factory if that could be arranged….. as much as I want to come over for the anniversay BBQ of the Shed and visit Triton Central …… may not be able to afford it at the moment (probably because I’ve been buying so much Triton gear of late) 🙂

    Glenn in Adelaide

  4. Ditto on seeing pictures of the Triton factory and the clever things that you mentioned that ensure a quality product, please.

    May I assume that electrical products such as their routers are not made in Australia but designed here? Such seems to be the way things are usually done these days.

  5. Stu

    I like the thought of stuff being manufactured in Australia too, but the fact is that once an item becomes a mass production item, the reality is that the economics make Aussie manufacture impractical.

    Triton Workcentres can be made here as cheaply as anywhere else because the market is relatively limited and the capital cost of setting the operations up offshore (to get the cheaper labour and lower taxes and costs of business generally) outweigh the benefits in terms of that limited market. So it stays here.

    Once the product is a global one (like your TS), the economics turn the other way. So don’t feel bad that you bought a Chinese TS.

    Another example is R.M. Williams gear. The boots are still made in Adelaide – there are special skills needed and the raw materials are all local. But the rest of the clothes are designed here using materials that are chosen here, but the cloth is woven and dyed overseas and the cutting and stitching all happens in China.

    Throughout my life (and I am now 46) people have been predicting the end of manufacturing in Austrralia because of competition from, in order, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, China and India. And a number of the individual manufacturers have gone, but the result seems to be that there are more niche manufacturers who find a market and if it goes global they have to meet the market by going where the costs are less. And then the process starts again.

    But we still have the skills, and we still use them and make money out of them. It is only when the question is servicing a global market from Australia that the economics turns against Australian manufacture.

    A case in point – when the BHP steelworks in Newcastle was closed there were cries that this was the end of that city and our expertise in metals.

    Not true – the closing of the steels works freed up a huge number of talented people whose skills and imagination had been wasted doing limited tasks serving the steelworks. Freed from that drudgery , light industry in the metal manufacturing area has flourished in the Hunter (as has tourism and hospitality, now that the pollution from Koorangang Island is no more). The unemployment rate in Newcastle is much lower than even when the steelworks was open.

    The point is that the closing of one door really is the opening of another. We are not exporting jobs, we are freeing our talent to develop beyond the drudgery of dull jobs.

  6. Hi Stu,
    I was speaking to Wayne at Triton recently. I was a little disappointed that they still had the 2006 catalogue online. He assured me that there would be a new catalogue available online by the end of this month.

    Are you aware of this? And do you know if there are any modifications to some of the more popular Triton stuff being released with the new catalogue?

    I’m looking to start with Triton products (birthday in a few weeks) and I want to make sure I get the latest versions of their products (Workcentre 2000, 235mm saw,router table) to begin with

  7. I was aware the new catalog was very close – I have a pre-release version of it.

    The Workcentre and Router Table have not undergone any changes in recent times. There is a new 235mm saw coming replacing the old one. I really like the old saw, so if it came down to it and I was pushed to make a decision, I’d buy the old saw over the new one. They are proven with a long track record, and seem virtually unstoppable.

    If you don’t have a router yet, I’d RUN to Bunnings and see if there are any of the $99 MOF001 (the 1400W routers) left. At that price I would be snatching one (or two). They are not being discontinued, just being dropped by Bunnings. They normally are $280.

    I already have one, and (2 or 3?) of the larger – lost count – and even so I was extremely tempted. Still got one for my Father!

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