Never before has the importance of local manufacturing been more felt than now with the global pandemic throwing the international supply chain out of gear.

Something that policymakers are realising now – the important of local manufacturing to the economy – has been known to the Brisbane-based Everhard Industries for 95 years. The sudden disruption to international supply chains triggered by COVID-19 highlighted the strategic need to have a strong local manufacturing base.

Everhard chair Sue Boyce is delighted with the Australian Government’s renewed focus on manufacturing. Speaking to INQueensland, she said, “Twenty years ago, to be a manufacturer was to be very boring and tedious, so last century. People are now realising that manufacturing covers everything from vaccines to septic tanks, which is what we do.”

Local manufacturing received a boost in the Federal budget last year with treasurer Josh Frydenberg announcing a $1.5 billion Modern Manufacturing Strategy. Similarly, Queensland treasurer Cameron Dick’s State budget in December included support for the sector.

While underlining the need to keep manufacturing on the agenda, Boyce observes, “Services and exports of services are a brilliant way to grow the Australian economy but don’t forget manufacturing along the way.”

Everhard’s story begins with Boyce’s great-uncle, Alfred Davis, who co-founded Everhard in 1926 making laundry tubs out of pre-cast concrete instead of wood. The idea was a great success with the company going on to manufacture 300,000 pre-cast concrete tubs over the next 60 years.

Some of these tubs can still be seen in suburban backyards around Queensland, repurposed as planter boxes.

While laundry sinks continue to be manufactured – now from stainless steel – Everhard also produces septic and wastewater tanks as well as stormwater drainage systems, qualifying their motto ‘everything water’.

Everhard also exports their innovative water drainage systems to the United States and other countries.

The company continues to be family owned, with the fourth generation also active in the business, which is located on a large site in Geebung and employs about 140 staff.

Minister's visit

Image: (From left) Trevor Evans (Federal MP for Brisbane), Moira Harris (Everhard CEO), Sue Boyce (Everhard Industries chair), Amanda Cooper (Aspley LNP candidate), Gina Rowe (Everhard deputy chair)

Similar to many other Australian manufacturers, Everhard knows the challenges of surviving in a globalised economy. Back in the early 90s, the company used to manufacture everything themselves –Boyce knew it wasn’t feasible for them to continue to do so. Now, they manufacture about 60 per cent of their products locally with heavy investment in advanced manufacturing, product development and robotics to stay competitive. Everhard is also one of Australia’s largest users of recycled plastics, going through more than 300 tonnes of recycled polymer a month.

While Boyce is happy with the renewed interest in local manufacturing, and finds the ‘buy Australian first’ movement encouraging, she says accessing various government support programs has been difficult for the company for many reasons including finding a suitable category fit, size of the company and lack of resources to pursue the funding.

Boyce’s daughter and deputy chair of Everhard, Gina Rowe believes that supply contracts from governments would be more helpful for emerging manufacturers rather than just grants.

Rowe would also like the manufacturing sector to be seen as a career-friendly option with lots of opportunities for different career directions. Her brother Bede, a director at Everhard says the image of Australian manufacturing being sort of like a hard labour camp needs to be changed.

Future plans for the company include successfully completing 100 years in business, continuing in Australian manufacturing, and taking back some of the offshored manufacturing. With Australia’s renewed focus on local manufacturing and Everhard’s successful solutions for water management problems, the future looks promising.

Based on the article written by Robert Macdonald for INQueensland

Image: (From left) Trevor Evans (Federal MP for Brisbane) Moira Harris (Everhard CEO) and Everhard Industries chair Sue Boyce