North American thermoforming consultant Robert Browning is citing Brisbane, Australia-based EGR as an example of how innovative Australian companies can penetrate U.S. niche markets.
EGR's holding company is Oakmoore Pty. Ltd.
In recent presentations to plastics industry personnel in Melbourne and Brisbane, Browning said Australian plastics manufacturers can take advantage of the tough U.S. economic conditions if they invest in innovation.
``It's no secret conditions in the U.S. are tough right now, but foreign exporters can often sell their products in the U.S. market more cost-effectively than their U.S. competitors,'' he said.
Niche markets in the U.S. thermoforming industry, which was worth about US$2.25 billion in 2001, could be highly lucrative for overseas manufacturers, he said.
Browning is an Atlanta-based partner with McConnell Co. Inc.
Browning said EGR's thermoforming division has become a leading supplier of automotive accessories to the United States and supplies more than 50 automotive original equipment manufacturers worldwide.
Rod Horwill, who founded and manages the company with his brother, Greg, said EGR invested heavily in facilities, personnel and technology. It installed a state-of-the-art extrusion line in 1999 and will install a larger, A$10 million (US$5.62 million) extrusion line with greater capacity in November.
Horwill said EGR invested more than A$12 million (US$6.74 million) in technology in 2002, including advanced computer numerically controlled forming and trimming equipment, a high-volume robotic spray painting line, and a German vacuum forming machine.
The company will install two more vacuum forming machines in March, he said.
``Carmakers now see EGR at the cutting edge of its industry, and have awarded the company some of the most highly sought after automotive contracts in the world,'' he said.
``There's no reason more Australian manufacturers who invest in technology and innovation to support their niche capabilities can't operate successfully in the U.S. marketplace,'' Browning said.
EGR has five divisions: thermoforming; a display division specializing in plastic, vacuum formed point-of-purchase products; an extrusion division that manufactures rigid acrylic, ABS and polycarbonate sheet; an industrial division that designs and makes thermoformed returnable packaging; and an acrylics division that manufactures auto accessories such as sunroof wind deflectors.
EGR's head office and manufacturing plant is in Brisbane. It has sales and distribution centers in California, England, Brazil, New Zealand and Australia.