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Why are you risking it? When it ‘just makes good sense’ to design, source and fabricate in Australia for Australian business.

For miners selecting a steel fabricator, price driven procurement would have it that custom plant and equipment can be sourced offshore with the belief that the same deliverable will be achieved for less. But Perth-based mining fabricator and innovator, Western Metalworx has some hard truths to share with companies going offshore for their fabrication needs.

“The proof is in the pudding,” says Anthony Chiera, Managing Director reflecting on his company’s rise to trusted partner of blue chip and global mining contractors.

“The supply and manufacture of custom components and equipment from within Australia to Australian mining projects not only makes good business sense but can also save your reputation. And that is even before we had these relatively new and emerging risks like disrupted supply chains, war, rising energy and shipping costs, and shortage of components.”

Quality of the final product is of course often mistakenly thought to be comparable from offshore sources, however in many instances it’s not just the manufacturing process that could leave you open to risk, but the quality of the steel itself.

“A quality product begins with quality material, and we’ve spent more than a decade securing a strategic supply network, to ensure our procurement of steel is high end, from a diverse and trusted supply base and built for the harsh conditions and standards in the Australian mining industry,” explains Chiera.

Today Western Metalworx holds long-term relationships with pre-qualified steel merchants in locations including Korea, Japan, Sweden and China, proven to deliver steel compositions that can deal with mining industry applications, stress fatigue and harsh environmental factors like the Pilbara sun.

It’s not uncommon for Anthony and his team to fix up a job procured offshore, from shoddy welding that does not meet Australian standards, to cheap Indian steel with a high recycled content, such poor workmanship can lead to serious injury or catastrophic failure.

“Some of the offshore flaws we’ve been asked to fix recently include a hydraulic boom arm showing stress fractures just 8 weeks after commissioning, something you wouldn’t expect to see for ten years or more. When making decisions on the repair, we were unable to obtain the material data report because it didn’t exist.

Another catastrophic example – hydraulic pipes that were failing under pressure and a manufacturer’s data report (MDR) supplied in another language with no reference to an ISO or Australian Standards.

Machinery down time costs money, but when you consider the immediate impact to life and limb of those working for you, procurement needs to put the safety of the operator before anything else,” says Chiera.

With a rising focus on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, Western Metalworx has seen a positive rise in customers seeking Australian workmanship and with greater rigour around supply chain due diligence and concern for security of supply.

It comes down to being willing to associate yourself with the final output. While not every job requires an MDR, Western Metalworx have invested heavily in documentation and transparency, from reporting on welding qualifications, procedures, QA/QC inspection, surface treatment and steel source and composition – reports should reflect how reputable a job is. In addition, appropriate supplier due diligence should extend to ethical labour and working conditions, another factor to consider once sourcing moves away from home.

“I’d urge procurement professionals to remember the age old saying ‘you get what you pay for’ and if you’re going to buy overseas, at least explore the option of having it made here in Australia – I’d bet you’ll be relieved with the outcome. In most cases you’d be looking at a 20-30% price differential, but that percentage becomes irrelevant when you come out with a flawless product and your reputation still intact,” concludes Chiera.

With 35 staff, an expanding purpose-built Malaga workshop and a reputation for uncompromising quality, Western Metalworx is one of the state’s leading providers of steel and aluminium fabrication for the mining and industrial sectors.