Conma moves from cars to wine

A col­lab­o­ra­tion with a vine­yard sup­plies com­pany is help­ing a South Aus­tralian car com­po­nent man­u­fac­turer stay in busi­ness

Farms & Farm Machinery - - Contents -

Conma In­dus­tries has made com­po­nents for the car in­dus­try for 35 years but, as the Aus­tralian in­dus­try winds down, it has had to di­ver­sify.

The South Aus­tralian com­pany be­gan mak­ing parts used to re­pair metal vine­yard trel­lis posts for Ade­laide’s Ocvitti about six years ago. The prod­ucts have en­joyed suc­cess in Cal­i­for­nia fol­low­ing a ban on toxic wooden vine­yard posts there in 2000.

How­ever, two years ago the in­tro­duc­tion of Ocloc trel­lis posts and en­tire vine­yard sys­tems de­signed for Aus­tralian vine­yards proved to be the cat­a­lyst be­hind a boom in busi­ness.

Conma In­dus­tries gen­eral man­ager Richard Rebbeck says he ex­pects vine­yard prod­ucts to soon be­come the largest part of the busi­ness. Though there is still de­mand for af­ter-mar­ket car com­po­nents, the new-car com­po­nent side is al­most fin­ished.

“It used to be the big­gest part of our busi­ness, but over time Mit­subishi closed and then Ford went last year and pro­duc­tion is wind­ing down at Toy­ota and Holden so it’s been dry­ing up over a pe­riod of time,” Rebbeck says.

Conma In­dus­tries has also di­ver­si­fied into other in­dus­tries such as the man­u­fac­ture of heat ex­chang­ers for air-con­di­tion­ing units and metal press­ings for ru­ral pip­efit­tings.

“It’s al­ways a chal­lenge, you’ve just got to get out there and be known as a good sup­plier and in­no­va­tor and peo­ple come and talk to you,” Rebbeck says. “The more th­ese prod­ucts get out in the field the more peo­ple see them and want them.”

The com­pany re­cently re­ceived a $328,700 grant from the South Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment’s Au­to­mo­tive Sup­plier Di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion Pro­gram to help its di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion drive.

Conma will use the fund­ing to help man­u­fac­ture spe­cialised tool­ing and to mod­ernise and ex­pand ma­chin­ery to de­velop ad­di­tional prod­ucts that will en­hance the Ocloc steel trel­lis sys­tem range and sup­port fur­ther growth in the hor­ti­cul­tural mar­ket. The com­pany man­u­fac­tured about 100,000 posts in the past year and will have the ca­pac­ity to pro­duce up to 250,000 posts next year.

The metal posts can be used to re­place bro­ken treated pine posts, of which there are mil­lions in Aus­tralia every year, or be used as a cheaper, more durable al­ter­na­tive to the tra­di­tional toxic wooden posts when es­tab­lish­ing new vine­yards.

De­sign fea­tures in­clude soft wire holes to stop wire from wear­ing out, high-ten­sile steel and a zinc-alu­minium al­loy coat­ing, Gal­fan, which gives the posts twice the life­span of gal­vanised steel.

Ocvitti has more than 200 Aus­tralian vine­yards on its books and also has a com­pany in Cal­i­for­nia man­u­fac­tur­ing its prod­ucts un­der li­cence for the Amer­i­can mar­ket.

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