Over the past 30 years, the Australian manufacturing industry has declined with a number of household names like Holden, Bonds and Bridgestone ceasing the manufacture of their products in Australia. Growth in cheap labour and materials from overseas, Australia’s relatively strong currency and fluctuations of global commodity prices are some of the factors contributing to this unfavourable turn in manufacturing - all of which is underlaid by a very simple goal: maximising profits.
And while the pursuit of financial gain is not inherently detrimental, the acquisition of cheap domestic materials and labour can come at the cost of quality. Australia’s advanced regulatory environment ensures that locally manufactured products are completed to a very high standard - with workers fairly treated and compensated. In contrast, cheaper overseas labour can mean decreased supply chain visibility as the producers may be purchasing poor quality materials from suppliers who may promote harsh or unfair working conditions - or even modern-day slavery.
The assessment of how vital supply chain visibility and quality assurance are - and how they weigh up against the potential financial benefits of manufacturing overseas - falls to individual business owners. And while some brands prioritise financial gains over quality assurance, Australian drainage designer, manufacturer, and supplier Stormtech has stuck to the Australian-made ethos - and is reaping the benefits.
Stormtech is a family-owned business started by concreter John Creighton 35 years ago. Due to a lack of suitable options in the market, John began designing aesthetically-pleasing drains to complement the concrete he laid - and almost organically, a specialised drainage business was born. Today, with John’s son, Troy Creighton, at the helm, Stormtech has stayed true to its core values of Australian-led design, innovation and delivering the highest quality product.
In 2004, the company won a Design Mark at the Australian Design Awards and has been a member of Standards Australia since 2006, advising on the code covering linear drainage solutions in bathrooms and other plumbing products.
Stormtech’s dedication to the Australian-made ethos has not only brought them wide recognition across the industry - but it has also kept them afloat throughout the COVID period. “We’ve weathered the storm well so far”, says Troy Creighton. “We haven’t been exposed to many of the supply chain issues that other businesses have because wherever possible, we buy locally. Our only issue has been that stainless steel is not manufactured in Australia.”
Stormtech has always been focused on establishing reliable, closely vetted supply chains and including the health of these suppliers as a key indicator of the health of their own business. “What’s really damaged the Australian manufacturing industry is the relentless focus on cost savings and trying to squeeze money out of the supply chain rather than investing in it. It would be cheaper for us to manufacture in China, but quality matters,” Creighton explains. After some unsatisfactory encounters involving counterfeit certifications and substandard products from some international suppliers, Stormtech has now secured a local, trustworthy, and high-quality producer to work with.
The commitment to high-quality products Stormtech has been demonstrating since inception is on the rise across the country. There is a growing trend across the Australian building industry away from cheaper, poorly manufactured products towards certified, higher-quality materials which are often made in Australia. And for good reason. “Poor manufacturing results in cracking buildings, flammable facades, and delamination of surfaces in wet areas,” says Creighton.
The focus on high-quality materials also has additional benefits when it comes to sustainability. Stormtech only uses marine-grade 316 stainless steel for its drain grates. “Stainless steel can be quite energy-intensive in its production, but it’s incredibly durable as a material and can last for hundreds of years,” says Creighton.
For drainage channels and fittings, Stormtech turns to virgin uPVC. “PVC is the most suitable polymer for manufacturing unequal profiles while still maintaining the tolerance we require for our fittings,” says Creighton. He acknowledges that the production of PVC can still be problematic - local PVC recycling facilities are limited, and it requires the use of common, but carcinogenic, compounds as stabilisers during the process. But even in sourcing PVC, supply chain integrity is front of mind as Creighton assures: “Our PVC is certified by Global Green Tag and by the Vinyl Council of Australia to ensure that it is produced using world’s best practice.”
Flexibility of Product and Service
Beyond the high-quality products, one of the key benefits for designers and specifiers in engaging with Australian manufacturers is the flexibility of product - and of service.
Stormtech offers a range of made-to-length drainage solutions that are easy to customise based on the specific requirements of each project. Similarly, Stormtech’s range of threshold drainage solutions can be made bespoke - either in linear or curved designs - to precisely conform to the shape of the door or area they adjoin.
Based in Australia - and familiar with domestic codes and standards - Stormtech works closely with designers and specifiers to suggest and workshop the best possible solutions for projects, as well as responsive problem solving as and when needed.
Locally-Made Looks Good
This close collaboration with industry professionals results in the best solutions that - apart from demonstrating utmost functionality - can elevate a project aesthetically too.
Since its inception, Stormtech’s key differentiator has been the visual appeal of their drains. And by staying in line with contemporary design trends, they can offer the most current and timeless range of products. From horizontal and vertical lines to tessellating hexagonal patterns, to tile inlays that allow the drains to be almost entirely camouflaged within the design - Stormtech’s range of excellent design options provides great variety for any modern project.
The Future is Bright
But Stormtech doesn’t just push the boundaries of drain design in aesthetics only. It does so also when it comes to product innovation. Having manufactured advanced, antimicrobial drains for the medical industry over the years, Stormtech’s next design goal post is an even more complex smart drain. “Imagine a drain that will remove hair blockages itself, will tell you when it needs a clean, will tell you when something’s wrong,” Troy describes the thinking behind it:
Undoubtedly optimistic about further innovation of the drain design, Troy feels as positive about the future of Australian manufacturing, believing that the higher quality offered by the locally-made products will ultimately outweigh financial gains that some businesses currently opt for.
“We’re going down the advanced manufacturing, industry 4.0 path, taking ownership of our IP, reinventing production, and inventing new manufacturing methods. There are many other businesses like ours in Australia, focusing on domestic innovation, securing supply chains, and reducing single-source risk,” says Creighton.
As a family business, Stormtech’s history has a strong connection to Australia and the company’s dedication to supporting the domestic economy continues to shine bright. With the highest-quality offering, commitment to product innovation and a detailed understanding of the local compliance landscape, the benefits to designers and specifiers are evident - and will no doubt continue to inspire Australian industry long into the future.