Fabrication of metal products refers to a range of processes such as shaping, cutting, welding, assembling, folding, roll forming and machining. A variety of products come from the metal fabrication sector. These range from steel beams and panels used in major construction to boilers and tanks and domestic pre-fabricated buildings such as garages.
Businesses in the sector are numerous and varied in size, with relatively low profit margins. Larger businesses manufacture large volume products and benefit from economies of scale. The majority of businesses have less than 20 employees, manufacture products of low volume and have aging technology and labour intensive processes.
Demand is driven by domestic markets in construction and mining. Some businesses are somewhat protected from global competitors, for example, if they produce specialised products for a local market and can supply them quickly. However the high Australian dollar and low wages and compliance requirements in other countries leads to increasing imports, typically smaller items or high value items.
Sustainability issues in metal fabrication arise from the use of non-renewable materials which are mined and processed into ferrous and non-ferrous metals. Fuel consumption can be significant for transporting heavy and bulky materials to production sites and distributing products. Electricity is the primary energy source and is used to run equipment for shaping, punching, machining and grinding activities. Chemicals are also used for cutting, cleaning, abrasion and surface treatments.
The mix of sustainability issues will vary between sectors and enterprises. The mix might even vary between work processes in a business. It really depends on the context of market pressures, regulations and the steps that make up the daily routine. And how they all interact with the range of social, economic and environmental sustainability issues
There are many different ways to approach understanding the sustainability issues within a sector. Areas of research might include barriers to entry and expansion into markets, drivers of demand for services and products, geographic location, major markets and suppliers, technology and workforce demographics and skills profile.
Sources of information
Employment and occupations
Sustainability issues in metal fabrication
IBIS World Industry Research Reports
IBIS World Industry Research Reports can be purchased individually or as a subscription. For this sector they include:
- C2741: Structural Steel Fabricating in Australia
- E4224: Structural Steel Services in Australia
- C2910: Pre-fabricated Building and Kit Home Manufacturing in Australia
- C2769: Fabricated Metal Product Manufacturing in Australia