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The Australian fabrication industry is characterised by a diverse range of fabricators operating across a range of markets from industrial buildings, to complex structures in the oil and gas field. With a total market output of approximately 1.6 million tonnes/annum the medium and larger fabricators process approximately 1.1 million tonnes/annum with the largest fabricators producing in excess of 20,000 tonnes per annum. Productivity step changes have been generated with a shift from labour-based fabrication to numeric controlled CNC, beam lining, angle lines and plasma and gas profile cutting. This equipment efficiently creates fabricated stelwork straight from the detailer model. A characteristic of steel fabrication in recent years has been the move to introduce technology throughout the steel value chain, including CNC facilities at distribution level.
New and innovative business models are being developed with better interface in the technology areas between engineers and detailers and the fabricator. Flowing from the UK we are seeing an emergence of the ‘Design and Construct’ Steel Contractor taking on an increased share of design and erection for the buildings market sector.
This market includes portal frame buildings like factories and warehouses and commercial buildings such as offices, shops, schools, health and civic facilities. Steel brings advantages in speed of construction, lightweight and reduced foundation costs and a smaller manufacturing footprint to the construction site as most fabrication is off-site in more secure and safer manufacturing environments.
The Australian fabrication industry capacity is extended by the outsourcing of some functions to specialist processors and coaters. A community of specialist subcontractors augment the fabrication capacity in:
- Steel detailing
- Blast cleaning
- Non-destructive testing
- Grating and handrail manufacture
Fabricators will often specialise in structural steel, pipe fabrication, plate fabrication or mechanical fabrication. This has served the industry well, maintaining capability, cost effectiveness and flexibility. In fact, fabricators often specialise in certain market segments which makes them more competitive and profitable in these areas.
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