Building on Australia’s manufacturing capabilities

Building on Australia’s manufacturing capabilities

“We make things in Australia. We do it well. We need to keep making things in Australia.”

Those were Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s comments when he announced, in October 2020, the launch of a “new era of Australian manufacturing” in line with the federal government’s $1.5 billion funding over the next four years to scale up Australia’s manufacturing capabilities.

As a second-generation owner of Clarks Mining Services, a manufacturing company based in Wollongong that provides services and products to the mining and construction industries, Robert Clark’s views resonate with those of the nation’s Prime Minister.

“The future of the Australian manufacturing and engineering culture will be dependent on our ability to support each other and encourage growth, as much as on our ability to innovate,” says Robert.

“We can support each other by actively sourcing Australian made products where possible, and if it isn’t possible, we can innovate by developing a way to make that product in Australia. Creativity will be our greatest commodity in the future.”

Robert’s father, David Clark, established Clarks Mining Services in 1990 with the objective of manufacturing equipment for the underground coal mining industry. Thirty years later, Clarks Mining’s products for underground coal mining, rock mining and civil construction sectors have found acceptance throughout Australia, as well as in New Zealand and Asia.

Robert says Clarks Mining’s ability to combine theoretical know-how with practical understandings of mining challenges is what drives the company’s innovations.

“The steady growth of Clarks Mining comes from the original aim of ‘designing, developing and manufacturing equipment by mining people for mining people’.

“We have an excellent design team that consistently demonstrates the knowledge, drive, and capacity for innovation to envision solutions, and the practicality to execute these solutions effectively. This is also supported by our sales, compliance staff, and experienced tradespeople that work as a team to offer a complete solution for customers.”

Along with providing key products such as grouting equipment and hand-held rib drills, Clarks Mining also manufactures stone dusting equipment, air ventilation machines and crawler track drill rigs. In 2003, Clarks Mining was the first manufacturer to utilise a hydraulic rotator for the feed mast, allowing rigs to easily drill floor, roof and face rib bolts.

On the services side, Clarks Mining has a large repair facility in Wollongong, where the team works on repair of compressed air powered equipment and hydraulic machines for both the mining and civil engineering industries. The business also holds a large inventory of spare parts to assist customers with unscheduled repairs, as well as an equipment-for-hire fleet to minimise upfront investments for customers.

Supporting Clarks Mining’s manufacturing and industrial services has been CBC – the largest distributor of bearings, power transmission and engineering solutions in Australia.

Robert says through the CBC Wollongong branch, Clarks Mining has found a reliable source of industrial components, which predominantly include the NTN range of bearing and sealing solutions, among other power transmission products.

“CBC has been a fabulous support in the almost 30 years that we have dealt with them. They have a great range of products and service and their accounts sales team are very personable. They are willing to help us at all times,” says Robert.

CBC Sales Specialist Jose Costa says the CBC team work hard to ensure Clarks Mining has regular and easy access to the bearings and power transmission components required in their machines.

“We always hold in stock the necessary components to make sure these are available when the monthly orders come through from Clarks Mining. They are a key customer of our NTN bearings range and a few years ago, we introduced a special type of NTN seal to Clarks Mining that allows for expansion of the bearing in the aluminum housings. They took it up and have been using it in their products ever since with great success,” says Jose.

Robert says he is quite happy with the performance and reliability of the NTN bearings.

“We have been a long-term user of the NTN products supplied by CBC. These products have been faultless over the years and are very dependable products. This is vital to the machines that we manufacture,” he says.

According to Robert, Clarks Mining’s objective is to continue to develop products that help its customers reduce operational health and safety costs and improve productivity. Over the past year, Clarks Mining has been focusing on streamlining the design of its in-house developed air motors, making them more competitive in the global market.

“Clarks Mining Services has developed a unique methodology that combines physical testing regimes with mathematical modelling to optimise and streamline the air motor design process. This methodology has enabled us to perfect the existing motors and create competitive new products,” he says.

Clarks Mining take great pride in being Australian manufacturers, a value that Robert says is deeply embedded into every aspect of the company’s manufacturing supply chain.

“Every Clarks product we sell is assembled with components supplied by other Australian companies, produced by Australian hands, on Australian soil,” he says.

“Every bit of wealth generated by the sale of a Clarks product will trickle back through the supply chain, supporting local businesses and the families that are supported by these businesses.”