Adelaide, Australia — The demise of Australia's auto manufacturing industry has seen an injection molder diversify into mobile garbage bins.
Until recently, Trident Plastics (SA) Pty. Ltd., a privately held company headquartered in the Adelaide suburb of St Clair, had been exclusively an auto parts molder. Now about 40 percent of its production is making high density polyethylene trash bins, known in Australia as wheelie bins.
Trident Managing Director Steen Saurbrey estimates his company's share of Australia's wheelie bin market at 20 percent to 25 percent, rivaled only by Sulo MGB (Aust.) Pty. Ltd., which has about 50 percent of the market.
Melbourne-based, publicly listed Pact Group Holdings Ltd. owns Sulo and its subsidiary Sulo (NZ) Ltd., which it bought for A$34.8 million in August 2014.
Saurbrey and his brother, Jan, established Trident in 1993 after leaving the family plastics tooling and manufacturing business. The Danish-born brothers had worked in their father's plastics business in Denmark, which moved to Adelaide in 1988. Saurbrey bought his brother's share of Trident last year.
Trident, which has an annual sales of A$35 million (US$26.1 million), became a major supplier to Adelaide's once-thriving auto manufacturing sector and was selling auto parts and accessories to Detroit-based OEMs as well.
Trident started diversifying in 2009.
"We got caught in the U.S. auto industry collapses," he said. The demise of the Australian auto industry soon followed, with Australian auto production ending this year.
Trident was in voluntary administration for 10 weeks in mid-2009, but the directors worked on turning the business around after they took back control in August 2009.
Trident had molded wheelie bins for other companies starting in 2003. Its own branded bins include up to 30 percent recycled content, depending on customer specifications. Trident collects and recycles used wheelie bins from municipalities around Australia.
Auto work still accounts for about 30 percent of company sales. Trident manufactures niche parts and accessories, including hoods, bumpers, side skirts and instrument panels for imported vehicles that manufacturers want to "Australianize."
Saurbery said Trident has just signed a 14-year contract with Holden Spare Parts, a unit of Port Melbourne-based GM Holden Ltd., to manufacture all its plastic auto parts. That contract will see Trident expand significantly. Saurbery expects the 115 employees to increase by 10 percent to 20 percent over the next year.
While most of Trident's manufacturing is for the domestic market, the company has been exporting large wheelie bins to China over the past year. He has entered a niche market segment, supplying large bins to customers including high-end hotels that require frequent waste disposal services.
Trident's St. Clair 172,222-square-foot plant has 32 molding machines, a painting facility, and a recycling facility.
Saurbery said Trident is South Australia's largest custom molder, and that the company's newest molding machine is the largest in the Southern Hemisphere.