Who DAIRS wins

By Shaun Inguanzo
DAVID Fraser mustered his courage and took the risk of buying car parts manufacturer DAIR Industries from American company Dura in 2001.
Mr Fraser, now managing director, spent $12 million relocating DAIR Industries from Cheltenham to Dandenong South, and then faced the ongoing challenge of working in the competitive car parts market.
DAIR Industries manufactures parking brakes, instrument panel cross-car beams, car jacks, clutch and brake pedals, hinges for bonnets, seats and deck-lids, and stamped metal assemblies, including front and rear bumpers.
It is a competitive market not just nationally, but globally, but clever business strategies and hard-working employees have generated success for DAIR Industries.
Testament to that fact surfaced this week when the State Government inducted DAIR Industries into the prestigious Victorian Manufacturing Hall of Fame.
A delighted Mr Fraser said a key part of DAIR Industries’ success was moving to Dandenong South.
“We knew that if we wanted to be around in the long term we would need to move into a new facility that was environmentally friendly, safe and efficient,” Mr Fraser said.
“We had a look around a number of areas and decided on the Dandenong South area mainly because it was a location where a majority of our people lived. It also has close freeway access to our customers in the city, and I guess it opens us up to a catchment area down the Peninsula, Berwick and Cranbourne for future employees.
“I’m sure that if we hadn’t moved we wouldn’t be where we are today as a business.”
DAIR Industries may be located in Victoria’s prime manufacturing region, but a large number of its competitors are offshore in the cheap labour markets of China, Thailand and India.
But Mr Fraser and DAIR staff have refused to bow down to the economic threat of South East Asia.
“What we have tried to do is to focus more on products that are difficult to import, or expensive to import, so that any cost advantage gained at a manufacturing level is eroded by the time it takes to put it on a boat and ship it from China,” Mr Fraser said.
“Some major products that we do would be very difficult, if not impossible, to ship in from somewhere like China by virtue of the amount of fresh air one would be shipping, and the high cost of special purpose packaging required to get it here in one piece.”
Mr Fraser said changing with the times was an essential part of DAIR Industries’ survival strategy.
“If we were still in the same business as 10 years ago, we’d be in trouble because those were products that can now be easily imported,” he said.
DAIR Industries’ clients include Holden, Toyota and Ford.
Mr Fraser said DAIR shared great relationships with its suppliers and had even made the strategic purchase of an Adelaide site to be on Holden’s doorstep.
“We do the pressing and injection moulding in Melbourne, then ship to Adelaide,” he said.
“We knew that having a footprint in Adelaide on Holden’s back door step was important to our long-term survival and success in business.
“That then flows on into Melbourne, creating additional jobs.”
Mr Fraser said the Dandenong and Adelaide sites had ben built with a strong emphasis on workplace safety.
In 2004, the company’s safety emphasis was recognised with an award from WorkSafe, and Mr Fraser said Toyota placed a strong emphasis on its suppliers having safe workplaces.
“When we were designing the Dandenong facility we eliminated forklifts out of certain parts, and created a road around (the facility) so no trucks would have to reverse,” Mr Fraser said.
Mr Fraser said the Manufacturing Hall of Fame induction ranked as the company’s highest achievement yet.
“I think its just a terrific thing for all of the people here,” he said. “It’s a nice recognition that we are doing something right.”