While mining is a major part of the Hunter economy, the region is defined by its diversity, with strong capabilities in aerospace, defence, agriculture and beyond.
R&R Murphy used to rely entirely on the mining sector, but now the business is moving into a modern Hunter mindset, and diversifying across a whole range of industries. R&R Murphy is an engineering and metal fabrication company based in Gateshead, Newcastle, which was established in 2004.
For many years the business was happy to build products almost exclusively for the mining industry, for major clients such as Caterpillar, Orica, Sandvik, Centennial Coal and Anderson Group. But in recent years, the company has recognised the broad diversity of the Hunter region, and recognised the range of opportunities that exist across a plethora of industries.
Rod Murphy, who owns the business along with his wife Rose (hence the name), said the company realised it was “totally reliant on the mining sector”. The business hired a consultant, and began a five-year strategy of diversification. This involved considerable investment into accreditations and new machinery. Rod says the business was able to diversify into new markets such as aerospace, defence, architecture, food, transport and water filtration.
This is a perfect example of a Hunter business taking advantage of all that the Hunter has to offer. He said the biggest opportunity in his industry has come through “diversifying into different industry markets, to limit the risks of being reliant on one or two industries”. He continued that “this diversification will give more stability for the future as these markets continually fluctuate, as has been more apparent over the last four years with the downturn in the mining sector”. Rod reckons the biggest growth areas in the Hunter are Defence, Food, Architecture and Infrastructure.
He also sees opportunities in “collaborating with other companies to combine their strengths to go for larger projects not just in the Hunter region but further afield”.
A challenging industry According to Rod: “One of the biggest challenges in manufacturing today I believe is being competitive, not only in the Australian market but also from overseas competitors. “Another area of concern is the skills shortage of good quality trades personnel.
“Companies will have to be smarter in the way they do things in areas such as diversification, innovation, investment in new equipment, implementing lean methodology into the workplace, right culture and having a continuous improvement program in place. “Companies that are not thinking along these lines will be left behind and may not survive in the industry.”
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