The State Government and industry have urged struggling carmakers to transfer their accumulated knowledge and expertise to prefabricated construction sector, which is tipped to be the next big thing of the 21st century building.
Manufacturing Minister David Hodgett said the prefabrication industry could make good use of the large pool of skilled workforce which will become available on the job market once global automotive giants Holden, Toyota and Ford close their manufacturing capacities in Australia.
“The emerging prefabrication industry has a great opportunity to take advantage of the skills of the automotive sector,” he said, addressing the inaugural Prefabricating Australia conference in Melbourne.
Prefabricated housing is manufactured off-site in advance, usually in simple sections that can easily be shipped and transported.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Australia’s share in the global prefabricated housing market – worth $US96 billion – is barely 3%. Domestically, prefabricated housing made up only 3% of the national housing market, a long way from Finland’s 50% and Sweden’s 74%.
Mr Hodgett said the Australian industry was aiming to reach 10% by 2020.
“Ten per cent is still relatively small, but I recognise there are growth opportunities in the commercial market – health and education,” he said.
The conference also saw the launch of a specialist manufacturing body that aims to determine how Australia can transform its out-dated construction industry to a smarter, leaner manufacturing mind-set.
It will operate under META, a collaborative network of engaged manufacturing businesses and researchers, and PrefabAUS, a non-profit organisation representing key businesses in the design, manufacture and construction of prefabricated buildings and building modules.
META’s PrefabAUS Hub has 15 members, including manufacturers and the University of Queensland. META’s managing director Zoran Angelkovski told the conference a primary objective of the Hub was to identify how the local construction industry could transform and compete against imported products in terms of quality, value and speed.