Bumper business

A SLUMP in the automotive industry has led to job cuts for Brisbane-based manufacturer EGR Group, but joint managing director Rod Horwill expects to hire 200 more staff in the next 18 months.

The records show that in the wake of previous recessions there have been surges in car sales – what is known as ‘cumulative deferred demand’ – whereby not only does demand return to previous levels, but formerly reluctant customers join the market too.
But Horwill is not just relying on the sale of car parts – acrylic deflectors and thermoform body kits which make up around half of EGR’s business.

With developments ranging from freezer units that should be on the market by the end of the year, as well as water tank production licenses pending in Europe, Horwill is expecting revenues to rise once the global recession abates.

“We’re seeing opportunities in Europe and New Zealand for our water tanks. We will make the product moulds and get someone to make them there – we are expecting this to happen in the next six to nine months,” says Horwill.

“In the US, even though they’ve been severely affected by the economic recession, we’re still finding growth there as it’s returning to more healthy levels of activity. In particular we have made progress with our polycarbonate sheets — a clear unbreakable sheet made of plastic.

“We’re expecting good results from Obama’s stimulus package with people using the product in refurbishing pension centres, prisons, transit centres and schools.”

With 55 per cent of EGR’s sales offshore, the company has an office and manufacturing plant outside Los Angeles, an office north of London, as well as satellite offices in Detroit and Moscow.

But the majority of manufacturing comes from Brisbane across seven factories, in addition to another in Melbourne. Despite high quality innovative products, Horwill cites staff as EGR’s greatest asset.

“One of the group’s challenges, and for any business, is having the right people motivated and driven each day. Our greatest asset, although we have highly sophisticated equipment, is by far our people,” he says.

“We have 600 staff in Australia and 100 offshore – to be frank this is a reduction in staff as a result of the recession, but based on our expectations of growth for the business we would expect to see our global workforce at around 900 within 18 months.”

This would consist of roughly 750 staff in Australia and 150 abroad.

EGR also produces retail display units for companies such as Coke, Gillette and Cadbury, rotational moulds for road barriers and holds an international sourcing division to develop foreign products for export.

The manufacturer’s latest project is with perishable goods containers made with ‘eutectic plates’, in conjunction with a large beverage company whose name could not be disclosed.

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