March 13th 2014 – Tim Modra

“Innovation and staying close to the customer is the key to success” was said in a presentation, worthy of the red carpet, given by Tim Modra, founder of Modra Technology; an export driven company that makes  flexible, small scale carpet making machinery for designers and product development around the world.”

Coming all the way from Warragul to speak at the Vernier Society’s March meeting was Tim Modra, founder and owner of Modra Technology.  The members were delighted he came as he weaved a colourful and very engaging story of the over 20 year journey of his manufacturing company’s development into the world niche provider it is today. While the news is piled high with stories on the decline of manufacturing and the difficulties of exporting, Modra Technology is another hidden success, carefully treading its way to export success as the world’s leader in the manufacture of carpet making machines specifically targeted at the design and product development area.

At the heart of Tim’s success is his mechanical engineering expertise, gained in his early days at Swinburne and through his work experience in a local company he showed his promise by being sent abroad to install product and then joining the company as a contractor.  It was in the early 1990’s that Tim saw the opportunity for developing a small, very flexible carpet making machine because the only way carpet designers could get new design samples made was to take production time of the large high volume machines, which in times of full production was very ineffective.  He produced his first Axminster sample machine in his back garden, selling it to a UK company and now has over 300 machines in 40 countries through 150 customers.

Modra Technology boomed through the early 2000’s and in a frank admission, thought that the boom would go on and on.  He had a staff of 20 and revenues of over $6m when the recession struck and Tim, like many businesses, had to cut back and actually moved his desk back next to the engineers; a move that he suggests came him new insights into product diversification and gave further impetus to the important message he had employed right through his career – the key to success is talking and listening to customers and hearing would benefit them and their business.  And then designing solutions!  It is this passion for the customer that leads Tim to spend a great deal of time on aircraft reaching his major customers in the US and China.  Somewhat surprisingly for a small company Modra prefers to make most mechanical parts in-house and explained that the cost of motion feedback systems is coming down all the time so constant innovation is now his theme.  He has now produced a ‘tufted’ carpet sample machine and has code names for his developments like the ‘split’ and the ‘hedge’.  Tim is enthusiastic about the maxim “If it can’t be done – there is money in it”.

In a lively Q&A session after; besides receiving plaudits from an admiring audience, Tim was asked about the use of government grants, an area close to the Society’s heart after the recent manufacturing audit and while he does try to maximise research tax concessions and took start up grants, he finds like many other companies that the audit process for approval takes too long.  He will have designed, built and delivered the machine by the time the grant application process is completed!

Overall Modra Technology is a great story of innovation; seeing a need in the marketplace and having the ingenuity and determination to fill the need.  It is also another example of the priority of every business to really servicing the customer.  Understand what drives the customer and the way their business is developing is crucial to ongoing success.  As the carpet industry worldwide slowly comes back, Tim has foreseen the need for further automation of the industry and is therefore looking at applying robotics to his machines; a real example of innovative thinking ahead of the curve.  Modra Technology certainly demonstrated its hard wearing qualities and Tim’s presentation was worthy of the red carpet treatment!

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Our speaker this month is Tim Modra who runs Modra Technology, a worldwide business from Warragul. Winner of the 2006 Export category of the Gippsland Business Awards.

13th March 2014 12:30pm for drinks. Lunch from 1pm – 3pm. The Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club at 489 Glenferrie Rd  Kooyong VIC 3142

December 2013 – Brendan Nottle – Salvation Army

With all the proceeds of the day going to charity, the last Vernier meeting for 2013, saw a reasonably full house of members, new guests and old friends as the Society stepped away from its regular format with a special theme of “Charity and Fun at Christmas”.

Christmas is a special time of year for most Vernier members; a time of family and of giving but to others less fortunate, it can be a time of despair and helplessness.  So we were especially privileged to have the recently appointed ‘Melbournian of the Year’, Major Brendan Nottle of the Salvation Army speak to us on the vital work they do with the homeless and the lonely, not just at Christmas but throughout the year.  Speaking straight from the heart, Major  Brendan told some moving stories of people who come under their care, endorsing to many members the understanding that “there but for fortune could go you or I”.

The ‘Fun’ part of the luncheon was provided by an amusing knowledge quiz that pitted each table against the other.  With a Master of Ceremonies to keep things light hearted and prizes to create incentive, the audience were found sorely lacking on such things as historical dates from Australia’s past, the founders of some of the world’s leading companies and most disappointingly, the sayings of such great thinkers as Spike Milligan and Groucho Marx.  One table, despite suggestions of drug use (later found to be prescription) and internet cheating romped to a resounding win.  In true Vernier fashion the prizes, quality reds personally chosen by the President, were then auctioned back further swelling the Vernier donation and the generous table collections.  In total $2500 was donated to the Salvation Army and the members left knowing, not only had they had a fun day, but they had all helped to bring a small amount of charity to those most in need at Christmas.

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Our guest speaker is Major Brendan Nottle of the Salvation Army who will talk to us about the vital work his organisation does with those less fortunate; homelessness, poverty and loneliness are still a blight on our society and we should all remember in the words of Don McLean  “There but for fortune go you and I”.  The proceeds of the day, plus a donation from the Society will go to support the Army’s excellent and necessary work and so the almoners will be busy throughout lunch.

December 12th 2013 12:30pm for drinks. Lunch from 1pm – 3pm The Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club at 489 Glenferrie Rd  Kooyong VIC 3142

November 2013 – Joe Isaac – Melbourne University

“Attendees to the Society’s November meeting were privileged to listen to Melbourne University’s Emeritus Professor Joe Isaac who gave his views on the background and current perspectives of the Industrial Relations landscape in Australia today.  Despite his octogenarian years, Professor Isaac still demonstrated a keen and insightful intellect that has obviously underpinned his long and distinguished academic career.   The Professor’s talk embraced four major areas of IR policy; the power of the trade unions, the perceived lack of flexibility in our system, its effect on productivity and areas for possible improvement.

Professor Isaacs opened his address by reminding the audience of part of the speech of Alfred Deakin to Parliament in 1904 that Australian law in this area was based on humanitarian principles and with words that are strangely still appropriate for today:

“It leaves to its opponents the creed, whose God is greed, whose devil in need and whose paradise lies in the cheapest market.”

The Professor posited in answer to the first two issues posed that unionism was declining and that the number of days lost to strikes has declined significantly since the 1970’s.  He pointed out that today there are significantly more days lost to absenteeism than strike action.

With regard to flexibility, Professor Isaac pointed out that Australia in 2006 had the second highest figures for casual employment in the OECD but the down side of this flexibility in the labour market means that it does not provide opportunity for skill formation (Editor – or  company loyalty) that is critical to productivity.  The presentation also gave two other critical facts that must contribute to Australia’s productivity dilemma; that we are above the OECD average in our % of low skilled workers, and we have a higher average of hours worked per week that other OECD countries.  (Editor – when this is considered against our cost of living which has risen significantly and is now much higher, not just against Asian competition but even against the USA and Germany today, it adds to our productivity challenge).

The Professor’s address also covered a number of questions pre-arranged from the audience and while his views on the questions posed could have been seen by some members as ‘left leaning’ he gave a reflective insight into one of the major issues of the Australian economy today as it adapts to face the global challenges of the 21st century.

Perhaps the lasting memory of Professor Isaac’s talk will be the knowledge and enthusiasm he still brings to his opinion.  He really demonstrated that wisdom should be the valued commodity of old age.”

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Our speaker for November was the Emeritus Professor Joe Isaac from the Department of Management and Marketing, University of Melbourne.

“INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS”

Emeritus Professor Joe Isaac is a Professorial Fellow in the Department of Management, University of Melbourne, following his retirement from the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.  He was Chair of the General Insurance Claims Review Panel from 1993 to 1998.  He was invited by the ILO in May 2002 to advise on suitable research projects to be supported by the ILO in Indonesia.  He has been back with further ILO consultancies for both Indonesia and Timor Leste.  Together with Professor Stuart Macintyre, he was commissioned to edit a centenary history of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (and its antecedents) which was published in 2004.  He continues his interest in the labour market and its institutions.

November 14th 2013 12:30pm. The Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club at 489 Glenferrie Rd  Kooyong VIC 3142

 

October 2013 – Rolf Glenk – GM Holden Ltd’s Powertrain Engineering

Our October speaker, Rolf Glenk from Holden has over 25 years experience in the automotive industry with Nissan, Bosch, Tickford, Delphi and now GM for the last 10 years. Rolf offered a passionate overview of the complexity of the modern automotive.  Based at GM’s Testing Grounds in Lang Lang approximately 90km south east of Melbourne, where since 1957, Holden has exhaustively tested its vehicles; Rolf’s talk gave an absorbing account of the extremely rigorous testing that goes into every new model and upgrade to ensure the car will perform across the vast range of environmental and climatic conditions, not just in Australia but across Holden’s global market.

Rolf first gave a scripted corporate presentation as an insight into the history of Holden in Australia.  Originating in the 1860’s, Holden first made saddles in Adelaide SA but then as Holden and Frost made carriages in 1885 before producing their first automobile in 1910.  The famous “Lion and Stone” was designed in 1928 and represented the legend of man’s invention of the wheel.  Following the great recession of the late twenties and the massive drop in production, GM purchased the company, merging it with their North American Operation to become GM- Holden’s and the first GM car rolled off the production line in 1948.  In 1978 the first of the very successful “Commodore” range was produced and in 2006, as a result of $1b investment, the first fully Australian designed Commodore was released.  Today, GM worldwide produces over 45 different models from 2 architectures and 6 different body styles.  The Australian facilities in SA and the Engine facility in Prot Melbourne produce the Full commodore range as well as the Cruze.

Holden exports cars mainly to the Middle East under the Chevrolet brand as well as America where the cars, according to Rolf, have been purchased for police work.  According to the Holden website the company has now exported nearly three quarter of a million cars in five decades.

As Rolf enthusiastically explained the Lang Lang property was purchased in 1955 and comprises some 44km of sealed and unsealed roads designed for a range of performance and high speed testing as well as specific and general durability testing.  The track which received a $1.2m facelift in 1992 provides a network of ride and handling roads, rough tracks, twists and ‘rattle and squeak’ tests as well as mud and water baths.  In addition, there is a state of the art emissions laboratory to do the extensive testing now required for certification to Australian and international regulatory requirements.

As Rolf pointed out, the Lang Lang facilities, extensive though they are, cannot provide the range of tests required for a global supplier and so the grounds are complemented with GM testing facilities in Arizona, Michigan, Mexico and Brazil.  Rolf’s talk gave a brief insight into the vast amount of testing that has to be done to the modern automobile to ensure that the GM car meets not just the needs of the ever more discerning customer but also the various regulatory requirements faced around the world.   The complexity of today’s vehicles was perhaps best demonstrated by the interesting point that the electronic computer programs that controls today’s automobile has the manual equivalent of 15,700 knobs to adjust!

And while Holden’s future is uncertain in Australia it seems that the testing grounds are as busy as ever, endorsed by the fact that Rolf was first spotted trying to find a parking place in an unmarked left hand drive vehicle.  The society wishes to thank Rolf and our Society member and father Dieter Glenk for arranging a very interesting talk.

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Rolf Glenk who is the Senior Calibration Engineer and Diagnostic Strategist in GM Holden Ltd’s Powertrain Engineering Department gave us an overview of the complexity of the modern automotive and the state of Australia’s car industry.

October 11th 2013 12:30pm at Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club

 

September 2013 – Gordon New – Ronson Gears

Ronson Gears was founded in 1954 by Gordon’s father Ron New, a past member of Vernier.  Gordon a qualified mechanical engineer joined the family business in the mid 70’s along with his brother Terry who now between them still run this family business.   Ronson now employs around 31 people over two shifts, in the high technology facility in Highett.

In 1990, Ronson Gears undertook their first Business Plan which identified a need to see what the Gear Industry was doing in other countries. Consequently, in 1993 Gordon went on his first international discovery tour.  Gordon now travels extensively to stay abreast of the latest developments in the gear industry and, together with his brother Terry, has been successful in taking their family business from being a small job shop into the market leading company it is today, incorporating the latest in Gear manufacturing technology.  As Gordon proudly explained his marketing efforts in the American market led him to membership of the AGMA – the American Gear Manufacturers Association, and Eurotrans, the European Committee of Power Transmission Engineering, Gordon regularly attends international meetings and events of the Gear Industry and has addressed World Gear Summit Meetings and conferences in China, Japan, Thailand, the USA and Europe. Such involvement resulted in him being invited to sit on the Board of Directors of the AGMA, from March 2009 until April 2013.

Ronson has invested significantly in the latest equipment for manufacturing and quality checking gear components that cover a range from 5mm to 900mm.  Ronson, as Gordon explained prides itself in the quality of their design and the delivery of their overall service as is explained on their website by another of the New family, Gavin New of Sales and Marketing “As gear manufacturers, our service needs to be as reliable as our products.  We are committed to delivering our customers the best of both.”

Like a number of other manufacturing skills in Australia the art of gear making is declining but Ronson through exposing themselves to overseas opportunities, particularly in America, are still supporting the proud tradition of quality manufacturing in Australia and this was appreciated by the society with their questions and the warm applause at the end of the presentation.  Thanks to Gordon and Ronson Gears on behalf of the Vernier Society.

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Gordon New the Managing Director of Ronson Gears discussed the latest developments within his company.

September 25th 2013.  12:30pm at Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club

 

February 14th 2013 – AGM and Foundation Review

The position of Vernier in the political spectrum is developing and we will take time to discuss future avenues for expansion.

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February 14th 2013

12:00pm

Venue: The Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club at 489 Glenferrie Rd  Kooyong VIC 3142

 

December 2012 – John Daley CEO The Grattan Institute

john_daley

John is one of Australia’s leading public policy thinkers, with 20 years experience in the public, private and university sectors. His current research and publishing interests include government prioritisation, the objectives and limits of government and the situations in which government intervention is justified. He has worked for ANZ and McKinsey and has a DPhil in public law from the University of Oxford.

John will provide a different view to that expressed by many of our recent guests and our challenge is to absorb diverse views and use them strengthen our own.

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December 13th 2012

12:00pm

Venue: The Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club at 489 Glenferrie Rd  Kooyong VIC 3142

November 2013 – Richard Davies MD Davies, Craig Australia

Richard will talk about his success producing electric auto cooling fans and a host of other new technology

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November 8th 2012

12:00pm

Venue: The Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club at 489 Glenferrie Rd  Kooyong VIC 3142

October 2012 – Tim Piper – Victorian Director AIG

Tim’s subject is  the state of manufacturing in Victoria.   In September, AIG have published comments on:

  • Performance of Construction Index
  • Australian Performance of Services Index
  • Performance of Manufacturing Index
  • RBA Interest Rate Cut

With luck, Tim may also cover:

  • Australian Dollar and its effect on Manufacturing
  • Our Level Playing Field

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October 11th 2012

12:00pm

Venue: The Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club at 489 Glenferrie Rd  Kooyong VIC 3142

September 2012 – The Techno Challenge

St Pauls Anglican Grammar School, Kingswood College & Port Fairy Consolidated School won the first three prizes. Bannockburn Primary School and Harrietville Primary School won encouragment awards.

August 2012 – Pat Boland CEO ANCA Pty Ltd

ANCA was founded in 1974 by Pat McCluskey and Pat Boland in Melbourne, Australia, where the company still has its headquarters. Although the two engineers had different backgrounds – one academic and one technical and trade – their skills and experience were complementary and they were like-minded in their drive to produce world class Computer Numerical Controls.

In the early 1980s ANCA expanded by applying its high level engineering and mathematical skills used in programming, to develop complete machine tools. The company developed sophisticated CNC tool grinding machines by combining leading edge technology with operating simplicity.

The decision to extend its operations launched the company into a major growth phase which involved the construction of a sophisticated machine tool factory and the employment of highly skilled and specialised staff. Continued growth has been matched by investment in factory equipment, research and development and a sales support infrastructure.
ANCA’s reputation for designing and building the highly capable and flexible CNCs used in our range of tool grinders, led to the formation of ANCA Motion in 2008. ANCA Motion produces CNC Control Systems, IO Devices, Servo Drives and Motors to suit a range of Machine Tool and Motion Control applications.

Since the company incorporation in 1974, ANCA has gained worldwide recognition in the industry as leader in the technology. All our innovations contributed to the success of our products and subsequently to the success of our customers. Some of these are:

  • First to design and manufacture an Australian CNC.
  • First to introduce a probe for digitising tools in a CNC tool and cutter grinder.
  • First to introduce modem for support and diagnostics in a CNC tool and cutter grinder.
  • First to introduce soft axes for significantly simplified programming of a CNC tool and cutter grinder.
  • First to introduce MPG Feed for safe program debugging and testing.
  • First to introduce Windows-style Graphical Users Interface and Real Time Operating System in a CNC tool and cutter grinder.
  • First to introduce a CNC tool and cutter grinder with all rotary and linear axes being directly driven.
  • First to introduce industry standard Statistical Process Control (SPC) in a CNC tool and cutter grinder.
  • First to introduce iBurr software for burr grinding, which uses Active Graphical User Interface.
  • First to introduce full and true 3D simulation of the grinding process. CIM3D (Patented in Australia & USA)

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August 9th 2012

12:00pm

Venue: The Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club at 489 Glenferrie Rd  Kooyong VIC 3142

July 2012 – John Robert from MEO Australia

An Innovative Large Manufacturing Project: Methanol

John’s presentation will provide an introduction to an example of value-added manufacturing in the gas conversion industry. Large offshore natural gas resources containing high levels of carbon dioxide may not be viable to produce for pipeline gas supply or for LNG export.   The production of methanol from such gas can be the basis of a viable manufacturing business.  Methanol is an important ‘chemical building block’ and fuel component with a very broad range of applications.  An innovative approach has been adopted to develop a project concept which can make an valuable export business.

John is a Chemical Engineer and industrial economist with a broad background in petrochemicals manufacturing, export promotion, business development and consulting.  He is currently Project Development Advisor with MEO Australia Limited.

Further details can be found at:
http://www.meoaustralia.com.au/icms_docs/46166_Greenhouse_Gas_to_Liquid_Asset.pdf

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July 12th 2012

12:00pm

Venue: The Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club at 489 Glenferrie Rd  Kooyong VIC 3142