HOW TO DISRUPT MANUFACTURING IN AUSTRALIA
Written on the 2 August 2016 by James Perkins
DAVID Biggar sees the Australian manufacturing industry as ripe for disruption, as too many companies have products with design flaws, built with obsolete materials.
"So many industries currently aren't using the latest technology and those guys can be quantum leaped," he tells Business News Australia. "If you come along with some good design software and modern equipment and then design for manufacture you can disrupt existing industries."
Through a demanding apprenticeship working on oil tankers in Asia, then as a bespoke luxury yacht builder in Australia, he developed his knowledge of modern manufacturing processes and materials.
Driven by his own personal interest in design and an entrepreneurial streak, Biggar, 32, recently decided to move into volume manufacturing, but not in the marine industry; in caravans.
He established Zone RV in 2015 and within nine months his caravan has already been nominated for Caravan World's Best Aussie Caravan 2016 award.
Biggar is now pursuing plans to grow Zone RV staff to 50 and build a new factory to produce the luxury and off-road caravans, which use a the Tufflite composite material in the body, a dust and water-proof bonding technology and also a monocoque construction designed for boats aircrafts and rockets.
He talked to Business News Australia about his business and manufacturing in Australia.
Why the caravan industry?
There are 23,000 caravans built in Australia each year and it is an industry worth $19 billion. We identified the RV industry as one that has not embraced technology or current manufacturing processes. We have seen that as an opportunity to forge ahead and make a footprint on the industry.
I wanted to create something that was technologically advanced, and that could hit the ground running within two years.
The process and design of manufacturing has been a key interest of mine. I wanted to create a standardised product with a high level of technology, as that is where we have the opportunity in Australia high-tech volume products.
Tell me about your caravan.
The key difference with our caravan is that it doesn't have any wood in it. When you look at the rest of the transport industry, whether it is cars, planes or busses, they have not been using timber for 25 years.
Timber is problematic. It is susceptible to rats, water and vermin. By using the best materials, we have available to use in 2016, we have come up with a design that is extremely strong and a lot lighter than existing designs. We have used a lot of sandwich-style composite material, a combination of fibreglass and aluminium.
Have you used any carbon fibre?
We don't. The cost is out of reach for the caravan industry, but I wouldn't rule it out going forward. It is getting cheaper and cheaper. It is in my background through building big, lightweight and strong yachts. I am familiar with carbon and I am looking at using that moving forward at some point, but we haven't had to go to that length to disrupt the caravan industry.
Where do you get your materials from?
We are using a bunch of materials that are coming from overseas, that is part of the whole manufacturing journey in Australia, in that you need a global understanding of what modern materials are and what their availability is and then treating them like a commodity. At the end of the day, the material is the crux of any manufacturing and you need to reach broader than just Australia, you need to know what is being manufactured around the world.
What advice do you have for young Australians interested in manufacturing?
There are plenty of other opportunities much like we have identified in the caravan industry. So many industries currently aren't using the latest technology and those guys can be quantum leaped. If you come along with some good design software and modern equipment and then design for manufacture you can disrupt this industry.
And caravans aren't the only area of manufacturing you are interested in?
We are also identifying a number of other startups, including one in the truck body industry. The housing and construction industry is another one we are heavily involved in, through refining systems and using processing to create quality, faster builds.