Page 1

Vol 12 No 5


September • October 2012

Marine Special Showcasing members’ boating covers and structures Members’ insights into marine trimming Textiles fabrication training by TAFE Compensation Marine trimming workshops

and elasticity in structures

For more information on Shann Australia see page 44

structure fabrics to create the future

The wrap race:

vinyl films on the fast track

STA member news | industry training | Members in the spotlight | RTOs




2 4 32 41

34 Compensation and Elastic moduli Chris Nolan’s insights into architectural fabrics

Report by STA President STA office update State and Committee reports STA welcomes new members

8 The business landscape 42 Member news

38 The wrap race: Vinyl films on the transportation fast track Vinyl films are helping vehicles meet at the “finish” line



11 Ebb and flow The world of marine trimming

44 Shann and HVG Members’ products and services

16 Excellence in marine Showcasing superb marine themed structures



26 Textile Fabrication Certificate III Trainer Lawrence De Paoli on marine and motor trimming 28 Up-skilling in marine textiles Serge Ferrari and Innova International stage specialist workshops

CONNECTIONS magazine is published on behalf of the Specialised Textiles Association Inc. by CommStrat Limited. Publisher CommStrat Editor Nicola Card Design & production Annette Epifanidis

National Sales MANAGER Yuri Mamistvalov Phone: 03 8534 5008 Contributors Lawrence De Paoli, Janice Kleinschmidt, Beatrice Moonen, Chris Nolan, Ruwini Perera, Melissa Vine and Kent Williamson.

48 Industry events and RTOs

subscriptions To subscribe to Connections for just $75 inc GST annually contact Ruth Spiegel

COMMSTRAT ABN 31 008 434 802

Level 8, 574 St Kilda Rd Melbourne Vic 3004 Specialised Textiles Association Suite 201, 22 St Kilda Road, St Kilda 3182 VIC Phone: 03 9521 2114 Local call: 1300 555 787 Fax: 03 9521 2116

Disclaimer: Except where specifically stated, the opinions and material published in the magazine are not necessarily those of the publisher or the STA Council.




From the STA office

“I am always urging member companies to get more employees involved in our wonderful organisation. We now have even more reasons for this. The Young Leaders' initiative is an excellent example … [as is] the new training initiative and the potential for more funding … consider all the short- and long-term benefits to our industry and textile fabrication in Australia.”

Past vs present

Insights from the President of the Specialised Textiles Association – Lance St Hill Much has been happening during the past eight weeks, since I last prepared a report for Connections magazine. In early July in Melbourne the Specialised Textiles Association’s Council of Management (COM) spent a full day in a face-to-face meeting, predominately to be briefed and to approve the progress to date in development of the Accreditation Program. Following that STA Office Manager Ana Drougas and I, along with our consultant Mary Simcic and COM members, conducted whirlwind member information sessions in State capitals. We subsequently held COM phone meetings to progress the agenda of the combined STA/BMAA Trade Show and Convention taking place in June 2013. And in late August we have another Super Expo meeting, this time at the Expo venue on the Gold Coast. This list of association meetings and activities does, I hope, convey the focus and dedication of the association’s elected officers on behalf of the organisation and indeed the industry as a whole. This COM certainly has a lot on its plate for the year and each of the elected officers is working hard on the various tasks that they have been delegated. 2 · CONNECTIONS

I recently met up with an ex-ACASPA/STA member and mentioned to him that I was the incumbent President of STA. He explained the reasons why he chose not to renew his association membership. I felt that things may have been different back in those days, and outlined the range of programs and initiatives undertaken in recent times and about all the work in progress. His eyebrows were raised, his surprise and new interest was evident – he had no idea of what the ‘new look’ STA was up to; the goals we have been kicking and what was in the pipeline. This ex-member expressed particular interest in the merits of the Young Leaders’ Program, the association’s Accreditation Program, and latest training initiative and funding from the NWDF. I am pleased to say that this ex-member is now keen to rejoin the organisation.

Boosting awareness – and committee activity The challenge that I now have is to increase awareness among our membership and the wider industry. The aim is to continue to inform all about where we are going, why we are doing it and how we are doing it. As I mentioned earlier, the COM has a very full agenda. New sub-committees are being formed to assist and make recommendations to the COM on a range of different issues. These sub-committees follow in the footsteps of the very successful Fabric Structures Committee headed up by Beatrice Moonen. As I mentioned during our member sessions, the COM is guided by the strategic plan that was developed based on findings

from the survey conducted two years ago by the University of Ballarat. The bottom line is we are developing the organisation and making it more relevant. In general, I have no doubt that we are heading in the right direction; the amount of comments and the feedback that we receive is testament to that. However we – the COM – do not have all the answers and we encourage all members to have their say. Get involved, come to member sessions, raise issues and speak your piece publicly or to Ana or myself. You only get out of the organisation what you put into it. As you know, I am always urging member companies to get more employees involved in our wonderful organisation. We now have even more reasons for this. The Young Leaders' initiative is an excellent example of how and why you should encourage your people to get involved. The new training initiatives and the potential for more funding – hence more training – is another. I would suggest that rather than think about the cost you consider all the short- and long-term benefits to our industry and textile fabrication in Australia. Again, I urge you to encourage your employees to attend STA member sessions and to ensure you have enough copies of our association publication Connections. Provide the STA office with your employees’ email contact details so they can receive STA’s electronic newsletters and updates. We all want our organisation to be as vibrant, relevant and effective as possible, so I would urge one and all to rally to the cause and get all staff involved. Finally, a reminder that we still have some positions available on the various subcommittees. Please encourage your staff to nominate, and give them a little time and encouragement to participate.



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Specialised Textiles Association Looking forward Office report by Ana Drougas, Association Manager

Member meetings and advancing Accreditation Kicking off in late July in Adelaide, we recently ran a series of meeting for members in Perth, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide. The main intent of the meetings was to update members on the association’s Accreditation program, and provide the opportunity for all members to help shape the program by providing input, comment and suggestions. The Council of Management agrees that it is important that our members embrace accreditation and become involved because it focuses on the industry at large and is for the benefit of members. Accreditation also paves the way for the association to set up industry standards and to recognise businesses that are performing work in a professional manner. 4 · CONNECTIONS

What it does not represent is an opportunity for the association to finger-point at those who are lacking in certain areas. It is not about excluding anyone; instead it is focused on raising awareness and presenting a professional industry. Overall I would describe the Accreditation program as about identifying gaps in the industry – in our member base initially – in which we can assist businesses to come up to the next level. For example we would help someone who is an installer but lacks trade licenses by sending them in the right direction. During the association member meetings we talked about whether Accreditation should be compulsory, open only to members, or to all in the industry. And we also discussed a ‘business in a box’ plan that encompasses a business plan and financial accounting methods. The Accreditation update was very well received at the sessions and attracted much positive feedback, with some saying the program was welcome and overdue. We are still working through the finer details and members are being contacted by our consultant and taken through the questionnaire as part of a pilot program. We are looking to roll out Stage One, a basic level that enables us to benchmark the industry, before year’s end.

Strategic Plan At the recent member meetings President Lance St Hill addressed the direction of the association, in particular our long-standing aim to establish industry Accreditation; and our intention to provide pathways for younger members that fosters growth and increases awareness of the industry.

Super Expo 2013 – June 5 to 7, Gold Coast Plans are progressing for next year’s Expo which we are running in conjunction with the Blind Manufacturers Association of Australia. The date is set and the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre booked. We have now assigned a project manager to progress the event. Importantly, we will be running our respective association events without compromising each other’s traditions, with the Gala dinner and our Awards dinner still taking pride of place. Registrations will be received under the event name which is Super Expo 2013 and the trade expo along with all the events will be open to all in the industry.

The Young Leaders Challenge (2011) At the 2012 Expo STA members were in awe of the achievements of the Young Leaders Groups. So successful were the endeavours that a Committee has now been established to advance plans for commercialising the winning relief shelter. Leading the charge are Bob Cahill, Glenn Barlow, Jamie Howard, Robert Bull and Leisa Manning.

During our member meetings we talked about a ‘business in a box’ plan

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STA MATTERS An application for a design patent will be lodged on the YLC 2012 winning entry and the licensing rights will belong to the association. Members will be able to access and use the design plans.

And the next Challenge … The 2012 Young Leaders Challenge takes place on the weekend of 13-14 October. Many members have already expressed interest and we hope to soon confirm the venue which is likely to be a conference centre in Sydney. Following our criteria on the nature of this year’s challenge ‘to in some way give back to the community’ (such as in the environmental or humanitarian sphere) we have received many sound, practical suggestions. For his part, 2011 team leader Jamie Howard has suggested the two teams be given a different community project and each judged individually.

Specialist Committees During the round of member sessions held in February, it became clear that many members wanted more involvement in association matters. Timing is good as we are currently establishing several committees; among them Accreditation; Editorial, Training and a Young Leaders' Committee. We have already established the Fabric Structures Committee which is ably led by Beatrice Moonen. The association’s July meetings held across the nation presented the ideal opportunity to advance the formation of specialist committees, with several members expressing interest.

The NWDF National Workforce Development Fund We were successful in our mission to secure funding for Certificate II in Blinds, Awnings and Shade Sail Installation and we have since been working in conjunction with TAFE to deliver the training. We will soon see our first batch of graduate trainees.

Because there is an Council of opportunity to apply for STA Management more government funding SPECIALISED TEXTILES Inc. we encourage members Association Suite 201, 22 St Kilda Rd Vic 3182 to approach the STA StPh:Kilda, (03) 9521 2114 Call: 1300 555 787 office with suggestions for Local Facsimile: (03) 9521 2116 training enhancements to Email: Web: benefit the industry.” ASSOCIATION MANAGER Winding the clock back to March this year when we lodged the submission we needed 50 EOIs (expressions of interest) but we actually received 126, which indicates the strength of interest. The Certificate II training is unique because it brings together three different (and normally competing) college training providers to deliver the one course, but for reasons of efficacy it will be managed by one TAFE with one registration for the course that will be overseen by just one college. Shade structures in NSW can only be installed by those who are licensed by the Office of Fair Trade and although it was not overly difficult for people to obtain the necessary certificate, the process was regarded somewhat cumbersome as textile fabrication took place in one venue and installation training another. Now these have been combined. Importantly for our industry, Certificate II training recognises prior learning (RPL) which until now has been lacking. Many of our long-standing industry experts – some of whom have clocked up 30 or 40 years’ experience – are master craftsmen yet their skills are not formally recognised. Under new arrangement industry specialists will be able to obtain credits for experience and at the same time obtain funds for training. Because there is an opportunity to apply for more government funding we encourage members to approach the STA office with suggestions for training enhancements to benefit the industry.

Ana Drougas Email:

President Lance St Hill Fabric Solutions Australia Pty Ltd PO Box 6283 Yatala DC Qld 4207 Mobile: 0400 103 534 Ph: (07) 3807 0200 Fax: (07) 3807 8217 Email:

COUNCILLORS Kent Williamson Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) 25 Dawson Street Brunswick, Vic 3056 Ph: (03) 9925 9182 Fax: (03) 9925 9129 Email: Gary Smith Campbell & Heeps 5/125 Highbury Rd, Burwood, Vic 3125 Mobile: 0419 311 899 Ph: (03) 98086911 Fax: (03) 9808 3148 Email: Tom Gastin Pattons—Textile Fabrication 80 McDougall St, Kirribilli, NSW, 2061 Mobile: 0414 952 007 Ph: (02) 9955 2563 or 1300 799 980 Fax: (02) 9959 3158 Email: David Burton Ricky Richards 16 Park Road, Homebush NSW 2140 Ph: 02 9735 3333 Fax: 02 9735 3311 Email: Jamie Howard Total Shade Solutions 4 Aldinga St, Brendale Qld Ph: 07 3889 7200 Fax: 07 3889 8865 Email:

Connections Magazine Advertising submissions: Ph: 03 8534 5008

STA Committee L to R: Kent Williamson of RMIT, Tom Gastin of Pattons, David Burton of Ricky Richards, Lance St Hill (President) of Fabric Solutions Australia, Jamie Howard of Total Shade Solutions and Gary Smith of Campbell and Heeps. 6 · CONNECTIONS

Editorial: Nicola Card


The world of business Building blocks for a stronger manufacturing sector In mid August Ai Group Chief Executive Innes Willox handed the Government The Smarter Manufacturing for A Smarter Australia Report which highlights the role manufacturing can play in building a stronger, balanced and more resilient economy. In a nutshell the Report proposes that Australia capitalises on its considerable strengths and builds new sources of strength to position the sector to take advantage of emerging opportunities. "Its recommendations go to policies around innovation; making research organisations more business facing; skilling and education; energy and climate policy; procurement … lifting management capabilities; and trade,”

said Australian Industry Group Chief Executive Innes Willox, “ ... this is about building a stronger manufacturing sector and a balanced and more resilient national economy.” Over a number of years the Ai Group has called for a reduction in the company tax rate to 25%, and Innes Willox believes the Business Tax Working Group (BTWG) Discussion Paper lays the foundation for an informed debate around business tax reform. "Reducing the tax burden on business income should be a major priority for all sides of politics as it would promote investment, encourage direct investment from abroad and boost productivity. This is particularly important for non-mining trade exposed sectors in the current economic environment,” he said.

Business trends Late last year the SME Association of Australia’s Chief Executive Officer Dr Caroline Hong said "the introduction of the Carbon Tax which would see an increase in green conscious businesses and customers as the awareness of emissions and carbon outputs grows.” And while many SMEs may not be directly impacted by the carbon tax, there may be a flow-on effect of costs from big businesses to small businesses," she said. Spelling out the likely trends for small to medium enterprises (SMEs) this year, Hong also listed social media, saying it will challenge the way SMEs do business and increasingly be an important part of a competitive strategy, and “present SMEs with more and more opportunities for economical ways of interacting with customers and conducting business transactions themselves”. Social commerce - where Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and mobile technology come together with social networks to prompt consumers to download apps, pay with their mobile phone or check out deals - will become more commonplace. Also, businesses will find new ways of lowering costs and attracting customers through innovative products and ideas such as pop-up shops, creative apps, shared office space and cloud computing. 8 · CONNECTIONS

What’s in store? According to the latest Dun & Bradstreet National Business Expectations Survey, expectations among Australian firms have soared to levels not seen in almost a decade, with over half of businesses anticipating an increase in sales during the upcoming December quarter, The survey revealed businesses also plan to replenish stock levels and increase staff numbers, but lingering pressures such as the high dollar will likely weigh on business outlook, with more than a quarter (29%) of retailers expecting the high Australian dollar to have a significant negative impact on operations. Almost half (46%) of retailers expect online competition to have a large adverse affect on business performance, and "There is a growing awareness among retailers they are operating in a rapidly changing environment, where consumers exercise far greater power than they used to. Access to price comparison websites and cheaper overseas alternatives will continue to impact margins," CEO Gareth Jones said. There were indications the outlook may not remain upbeat, as plans for capital investment remained flat across sectors and fewer executives expect to seek credit to finance expansion. Likewise, close to 100 per cent of retail firms have no plans to finance capital investment in the coming months, demonstrating lingering uncertainties. Countering the ‘soaring expectations’ found by the Dun & Bradstreet survey was KPMG’s annual Private Companies Survey which indicates the economic slowdown was worrying private companies. Around a third experienced a fall in both revenue and profit over the previous 12 months and 44% are experiencing skills shortages, down from 55 percent in 2011. Almost two thirds of the companies have plans to introduce new digital communication channels this year. Businesses listed key challenges as continuing global uncertainty, impaired consumer confidence and skill shortages. That said, almost nine in ten were “moderately or well prepared” to meet the challenges ahead and a similar percentage forecasted revenue growth for 2012-13.

S P e C I A L I S e d

T e X T I L e S


Young LeAdeRS 2nd National Conference Saturday 13th and Sunday 14th October 2012 Novotel, Brighton Beach, NSW We are looking for our industry’s younger leaders under the age of 35. This is a learning experience that will enhance the careers of our young talent. Are you or do you know a young leader in our industry?

Register your interest to attend now Contact Mina on 03 9521 2114 or email by Tuesday 25th September


Manufacturers, installers and suppliers. Together we cover the world.


Specialised Textiles Association Inc. Suite 201, 22 St Kilda Road, St Kilda Vic 3182 Phone 03 9521 2114 n Local Call 1300 555 787 Fax 03 9521 2116 n ABN 83 594 171 330 n Registration Number A0010895W Association

Specialised Textiles Suite 201, 22 St Kilda Road, St Kilda Vic 3182 Phone 03 9521 2114 Fax 03 9521 2116 n


Carbon impact The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission received more than 630 complaints and enquiries about the carbon price in the 10 days following the introduction of the Carbon Tax on July 1, but very few enquiries concerned SMEs. The highest category of complaints received were about claims made by energy retailers, particularly in relation to electricity bill price increases and whether they were appropriate. Other enquiries related to landfill, building and construction and refrigerant gases, but just a fraction of the carbon price queries related to SMEs.

At the helm of IFAI In early June the Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI) named Mary Hennessy president and CEO. She has been an IFAI employee for 24 years. Mary described the IFAI membership as a close-knit, diverse community of companies, saying “I have often heard it described as a family: noisy, raucous, opinionated and loyal. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”


Would you start a business with your family? Clearly for STA members the answer is YES, with many operating a business alongside a spouse, sibling or parent. But that is not altogether surprising, given that family businesses account for around 70 per cent of all businesses in Australia. Family Business Australia CEO Philippa Taylor says good governance systems are a major factor in determining the longevity of family businesses but that only 12 per cent have a family constitution or charter, which is a vital document to help avoid family conflict in business and ease the transition from one generation to the other. The major benefits of the family constitution are: it documents the values and principles that guide the conduct of the business; defines the strategic objectives, and sets out the way in which the family will make decisions affecting the ownership and management of the business. “It is imperative that more family businesses adopt a family business constitution, to help ease the transition from one generation to the next and ensure the longevity of family businesses and the Australian economy,” Ms Taylor said.

marine FEATURE

Ebb and flow Australia’s sailing prowess stood out at the Olympics, but as a business sector how is the marine industry performing? We ask marine trimmers across the nation for their views. And the picture we gained is not unlike choppy seas – up and down. By Nicola Card As the anthem goes, our home is girt by sea, and with most of our population wrapped around the shores, it is little wonder Australians boast one of the highest per capita water sports participation rates. The passion for water sports may extend to a tinny, a mirror dingy or a cruiser of varying length or size. Or for the better off or more affluent, an ocean going yacht. In short, boating is big business. According to the Boating Industries Alliance Australia the industry directly employs over 28,000 people and generates revenues of close to $8 billion, a figure that doubles when indirect employees and revenues are factored in. Marine trimmers fit into the ‘indirect’ category, and within the Specialised Textiles Association many members are involved fulltime or part-time in motor trimming, or alternatively sourcing and supplying fabric to the industry. The latter is one of the many missions of HVG Fabrics. Daniel Gollan who is HVG Business Manager says while boating is a natural extension of the outdoor, sports oriented Australian lifestyle,

“In the past two years people’s cash has been tied up so they have spent less on luxuries”

good weather is a big driver and that “During sunny warm seasons people’s minds drift to beaches and water. That said, boating fits into the luxury market which comes as a discretionary spend, and people will only spend when there is confidence in the economic climate. “When people are feeling insecure about their jobs they do not want to go and spend money on their ‘toys’ as it were. From what I have seen overall over the past five years the market has been stronger and trending upwards – that was until the last twelve months when people have struggled to maintain their growth in the industry. But it is still higher than it was 15 years ago,” Gollan said.


Image courtesy of Pattons

marine FEATURE

The market that has hurt the most is the “trailerble” market. “Let’s call it the lower end of the demographic, people who can just stretch themselves to the weekender, they are the ones who have hurt the most. But the middle upper as I will call it tend to always have money and are comfortable spending money on their 40 footers or cruiser yachts. They have maintained their lifestyle.” Therein lies the mainstay of HVG’s marine activity: sale of fabric for upholstered and trimmed products for cruisers in the middle to upper niche. The company sources Nautolex and brands it under ‘Maritime’, and supplies seating trim vinyls and clears for canopies blinds and general marine enclosures. HVG also caters for awnings and enclosures. Demand stems from tropical coastal regions from north Queensland and down into NSW, and over on the West coast from Perth and up the coast. For its part, Melbourne has a strong weekend “trailer-ble” market but demand generally is weaker along the south coast. Marine activities constitute a relatively small component of HVG’s business. “We like to keep our toes in the water,” Gollan said. “But there are challenges, clearly the high Aussie dollar creates opportunities as it is cheaper to import fully finished products or upholstered solutions for boats; the downside is the local market and economy are unable to compete. “That is challenging. And we need to be prepared for the next trends develop from a fully imported environment. Meantime, the market is soft but we are all hoping for a strong season. We have had a lot of rain across the country which may be good for farmers but has impacted on outdoor living. A good spell of hot dry weather over summer will send people to their boats,”

“The economy is not what it was ten years ago when there was more money floating around and more people were buying boats.”

Rise in water levels and boating activity Apparently rainfall has a different – namely, positive - impact inland, as Rob of Patch’s Canvas Manufacturing in Bendigo illustrated. Nearby is Lake Eppaloch which is circled by a series of caravan parks, and the drought which all but completely dried up the otherwise popular lake also hit water sports hard. “For many years boats were just sitting unused under cover on trailers with flat tyres … people could not use them during the dry weather. It caused a mass exodus from Image courtesy of Ken Stone Motor Trimmers Bendigo with owners heading north and to the and Pattons 12 · CONNECTIONS

River Murray in Echuca,” he explained. He describes the marine industry in general as “a feast or famine,” saying “Big boats are like high end sports cars ... these “toys” are sold off or mothballed when the industry takes a dive.” Concurring with him is fabricator Corie Kotzur of Kotzur Kanvas located “out in the sticks” of Wagga. He observes that “During the past two years people’s cash has been tied up so they have spent less on luxuries. That is the big picture. And many lost their boats when the economy shut down, it went sour grapes as boat owners could not afford to do anything with them. Some just left them in their back yard.” The scenario was echoed by Nigel Gillie of NG Upholstery which is located on the North West coast of Tasmania between Burnie and Devonport and since 1995 has fabricated canopies, tops and side curtains and travel covers for protection from the elements. Gillie watched as marine demand tapered off in tandem with the economy, and today demand for marine upholstery represents a lesser part of his business. “The economy is not what it was ten years ago when there was more money floating around and people were buying boats,” he told Connections. Paul Medforth of Paradise PVC Welding in Queensland also reported a market dip but finds it varies month to month. “The marine industry is not as seasonal as you think it would be. It gets busier at Christmas, that is a given, but it does not die off in winter like you think it would.” At the diagonally opposite end of the continent is Albany which is home to Ken Stone of Ken Stone Motor Trimmers. In his experience the larger boat market - 25 to 40 footers – has remained more buoyant compared with smaller boats, an observation which parallels Gollan’s view. “These bigger boats are moored in pens and owners need trimmers and others to come and work on them,” Stone said. “They cannot just pluck them out of the water and go to the nearest shops for a quote! So we do custom marine fittings such as big clears on fly bridge type boats. “Demand for custom designed products is greater in bigger boats, compared with parts for smaller and ‘trailer-ble’ boats of 12 to 25 feet which are more commonly bought from a

“Being a nonessential, the leisure industry is generally the first hit and the last to come back.”

boat dealer. Commercial stuff has fallen a bit by the wayside in recent years.” But again echoing Gollan’s experience he says the marine activity had taken a dive due in part to the rise in Chinese manufactured products and the kit forms that are produced. “The more of that the less busy you get. In the west of Australia there used to be up to a dozen big boat builders or dealers but now there are just four or five because they make their own products and sell it all as a package deal – boat, canopy, fishing items. And instead of repairing products the local dealer just gets a new one in. “The whole trade is shrinking, that is the problem. So people are looking for new markets.”

funds they tend to order customised covers, but the cheaper option is a factory set.” Gastin did say that the marine side of business had been slower than normal over the past year, “However in the past few months things have picked up and I have been told by Nolan.UDA that they are selling more marine related materials.”

Holding value

No trimmer, no marine

The good news for boat owners is unlike cars, boats tend not to lose their value, depending on the brand and appearance some hold their value for decades, which leads to a healthy second-hand market and a willingness by owners of older boats to invest in parts to maintain their asset. In turn that shores up demand for maintenance and parts, a scenario that benefits Pattons. The business is located idyllically on the Kirribilli foreshore on Sydney harbour. Tom Gastin said “What we are finding is that people are sprucing up their boats rather than buying new ones, so sales of new boats may be down. And when people are flushed with

There is good reason why the marine market has completely dried up for Joel Chamberlain of BDM Leather and Canvas at Rockingham south of Perth. Up until five years ago his business was industriously involved in marine trimming but today it has whittled away to nothing. “We lost our skilled marine and motor trimmer so that was the end of it, we gave it away!” he said. “We do not miss it too much as it was a bit of a pain, people off the street are harder to deal with and tend to create more issues and problems. We now deal with more industrial clients. We have not looked back.” Still over in the west but much further north is Loi Odore of Tropical Upholstery.

New for 2012

Situated in Broome, he presented a colourful snapshot of local dynamics. In common with other businesses located in relatively remote regions, Tropical Upholstery tends to cover all facets of fabrication from trim and upholstery. “I am not unique – that is what we all do. But the marine side of our business is nothing like it used to be, we are doing different work. We used to do lots of work on charter and diving boats and also for the pearling industry but that is changing. Mining personnel [new to the district] are starting to buy bigger boats so we are getting more orders for clears for the ten to 25 footers and for canopies, clears, cushions clears and covers “There is quite a bit of money up here and people are investing, there are lots of fly-in fly-out people, and if the gas project on the peninsula gets going things will get even busier and bring more money into town.” Odore added that property prices in Broome had shot right up and the population had doubled in size over the past 20 years to 20,000. “The building industry is going hell for leather. Western Australia is the [economic] backbone of Australia right now – it is where the money is. From Geraldton upwards where there is mining there is money.”

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marine FEATURE

“Marine is a feast or famine … big boats are like high end sports cars ... these “toys” are sold off when the economy takes a dive.”

veteran Paul Baker told Connections that the marine industry suffered, diving heavily due to the GFC and cheap imports. “The GFC really hit hard, we noticed the decline over a space of 12 months then it bottomed out say three years ago and did not start to pick up till six months ago. Being a non-essential, the leisure industry is generally the first hit and the last to come back. “But marine sales are now climbing back up as people are regaining a bit of confidence and we are finding that they are doing up their old boats. Many have been putting it off for ages but can no longer.” Quality Craft Coverings has been servicing “trailer-able” boats of up to 6.5 metres but moving with the times now does more on-site work with larger vessels. “Previously we were too busy in-house but with the economic downturn we have been out chasing more on-site business. This takes the team as far east as Lakes Entrance, west to Geelong and north to Eildon working mainly on cruisers fitting bimini tops and new clears on fly bridges.” Quality Craft Coverings imports marine acrylic from the US but sources marine vinyl from a distributor. Over the years the company has developed a range of marine fittings: nylon fitting for frameworks and boat, plastic tracking around the hard tops, plus a range of stainless steel fittings; which they sell around Australia. 14 · CONNECTIONS

“We are very committed to boating! We got into café blinds but probably should have diversified more but you tend to get stuck in your ways. I have been doing boat covers for 37 years now and that is what I am good at!” Baker chuckled. Business diversification is strongly advocated by Rob of Patch’s Canvas Manufacturing in Bendigo.


The veteran’s advice? “Do a bit of everything … stay in a range of things, diversify as a means of protection when the makes shifts and turns.” Sage advice from a long-timer, given the apparent ups and downs and ins and outs of the marine sector. By our tally there are many elements beyond control – too much rain, not enough rain, a deluge of imported goods, wavering economic confidence. It therefore bodes well to equip yourself for all sales and seasons.

Training developments For an update on marine and motor trimming training, see Lawrence De Paoli’s (Head Teacher - Autobody Repair, Refinish & Trimming Sydney TAFE) insights on page 26, also the Serge Ferrari / Innova International marine workshops feature on page 28.

Given his lengthy span in the marine industry we asked Paul Baker of Quality Craft Coverings to cast his mind back over the decades. Back in 1982 when he started out the marine industry was predominantly all about white marine vinyls with a little beige thrown in for good measure. “That was all that was available until acrylic came on to the market in the mid eighties and took over, as it came with a range of eight [attractive] colours. Everyone turned away from vinyl which had shrinkage and other problems and was heavy to work with.” He added that during the ‘80s and ‘90s they sourced acrylic locally but experienced problems with leakage. “We wanted to get all our stock from Australia but had no choice … the fabric leaked and the manufacturer was unable to improve it. So when we went over to the Miami boat show in the mid nineties we looked for and found the best acrylic and introduced it to Australia. It now comes in 50 different colours.” Half a container is imported at a time to their factory opposite from where it is distributed to other trimmers across Australia. “Basic designs have also developed over the years,” Baker said. “Boat owners have moved away from canopies to bimini tops so they can stand and look through a clear at the front rather than through a windscreen.” Boating evidently runs in the family, 30 years ago Paul’s brother Phillip established Craft Coverings in Queensland.

SUPEREXPO2013 Inspiration in design & textiles!




5-7 June 2013

Gold Coast Convention & Exhibition Centre Showcase your business at Australia’s largest trade exhibition for the window furnishings and specialised textiles industries.

To book your exhibition space or become a sponsor partner contact Brett Greene on 07 3262 3114 or email

Presented by



Connections Sept/Oct 2012 – sample  

The Official Magazine of the Specialised Textiles Association

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