The expansion of secondary industry gave powerful impetus to the growth of population and the South Australian economy for twenty years after the Second World War. In 1983, just over 98,000 people were employed in the State's manufacturing industry, a decline of 20% from the peak which occurred in 1974-75. Since then South Australian industry, in common with Australian industry generally, has experienced a period of structural readjustment and uncertainty. By shedding labour, the State's manufacturing industry is now leaner and more efficient than it was a decade ago, with some plants competing effectively in international markets and others maintaining important shares of Australia-wide markets. However, the days are unlikely to return when manufacturers could enjoy the security of a steadily rising demand for automobiles and durable household goods in a tariff-protected home market.
In 1982-83, South Australia had 9.1% of the Australian Manufacturing work force, a slightly larger share than its proportion of the total Australian population. Compared with Australian manufacturing generally, South Australian plants had a larger average work force, a lower fixed capital investment, and a smaller proportion of female employees. Only in one group of industries - textiles, clothing and footwear - did women form more than 50% of the work force compared with 22% over the whole of the State's manufacturing industry. Industries with a traditionally male-dominated work force - transport equipment, other machinery and equipment, and wood and furniture - are strongly represented in South Australia, whereas the textiles, clothing and footwear group is much weaker. There were 3209 manufacturing establishments in South Australia in 1983; however, 1110 of these employed fewer than four persons each and accounted for only 2.4% of the manufacturing work force. At the other end of the scale, the twenty-four establishments which employed more than 500 people accounted for 28% of all manufacturing employment and 34% of the value added.
Manufacturing in South Australia had its origins in the processing of primary products in the early years of European settlement. Flour-milling, copper smelting, brewing and tanning industries were established by the 1840s. Agricultural implement manufacture flourished from the 1850s onward, and in 1889 coke furnaces and lead smelting plant were established at Port Pirie to treat ores from Broken Hill. Although the copper and lead smelting plants at Wallaroo and Port Pirie were large by world standards they produced metal ingots only for export and contributed little to the growth of other manufacturing industries in the State. During the 1880s many foundries in Gawler and Adelaide responded to the growing local demand for urban construction materials such as cast-iron water pipes, and for railway engines and rolling stock.
During the 1920s automobile assembly expanded rapidly as two long-estimated Adelaide carriage building and saddlery firms reaped the benefit of protective tariffs levied by the Commonwealth Government's decision to locate three large munitions plants in Adelaide during the Second World War. Until about 1950 most urban factories were located within the City of Adelaide and the nearby western and northern suburbs and in a prominent industrial axis extending north-west through Woodville and Port Adelaide. This pattern reflected the proximity to rail and sea terminals and the need for labour-intensive light industry to have a central situation accessible to its work force.
The manufacturing boom of the 1950s was based on major expansion of the motor vehicle industry and the production of larger household 'white-goods' such as refrigerators, washing-machines, cooking stoves and ranges. Although the State is not centrally located in relation to the Australian market, South Australia's good record for labour relations and its lower housing costs were widely advertised as compensating for the slight transport disadvantage to firms establishing in Adelaide. Manufacturing plants spread into the outer suburbs extending to the south along South Road and in the north along Grand Junction Road and Main North Road. Industrial estates were established at Elizabeth and Lonsdale by the South Australian Housing Trust and attracted some of the larger new plants. These included the General Motors-Holdens Ltd plant at Elizabeth and the large foundry and engine plant of Mitsubishi Motors Australia Ltd (formerly Chrysler Australia Ltd) at Lonsdale. For pattern of land currently zoned industrial in the metropolitan areas.
Manufacturing industry offers considerably less scope for representation than does primary production. Confidentiality rules applying to the official presentation of statistics preclude the publication of much industrial information at the level of Local Government Areas. All that can be released is the total employment in manufacturing industry as a whole and the number of plants (but not employment) in particular industrial categories.
The dominance of the Adelaide Statistical division within the State is outstanding, accounting for 79% of the manufacturing employment compared with 72% of the population. Industries making particular products vary in their relative concentration within the urban area. M anufacturing establishments employing more than three persons should be interpreted with caution as one plant can employ as many as several thousand persons. The food, beverages and tobacco group accounts for 19.5% of the State's manufacturing employment. The plants within this group are concentrated within the City of Adelaide and the inner suburbs, with only a few plants outside the urban area in the specialised agricultural production districts. The paper and printing group, employing 7.8% of the manufacturing work force, shows a markedly central emphasis with may small plants; however, there are a few large plants in the western suburbs. The fabricated metal products group, accounting for 7.5% of the State total, is located mainly in the western, northern and southern suburbs and includes many small plants producing components for the vehicle and household 'white-goods' industries. On the 'pie' diagram opposite, the machinery and equipment category is the combination of the two classes - transport equipment and other machinery and equipment. This category accounted for 32.5% of the State's manufacturing work force and included agricultural machinery, motor vehicles, omnibus and commercial vehicle bodies, trailers, caravans and a wide range of vehicle accessories.
Manufacturing plants outside the Adelaide Statistical Division are generally located near the sources of their raw materials. The largest is the basic-oxygen steelmaking plant of Broken Hill Pty Co Ltd at Whyalla which produces structural steel sections such as girders, beams and rails. The South-East has Australia's largest concentration of saw-mill and paper pulp industries. The world's largest silver-lead-zinc smelter is located at Port Pirie.
Electric power generation and railway workshops provide the industrial base for Port Augusta. Other non-metropolitan plants include the fruit juice and fruit cannery industries of the Riverland, wineries and distilleries of the Riverland and Barossa Valley, and various meat slaughtering and fish processing plants and chemical fertiliser production at Port Lincoln and Wallaroo.
An Adelaide based manufacturing company with an extensive international market for its products is Sola International Holdings Ltd. Founded in 1960 as Scientific Optical Laboratories of Australia, it moved in 1970 from its inner suburban premises at Black Forest to the Housing Trust industrial estate at Lonsdale, a southern outer suburb. Sola is now the world's largest producer of hard resin plastic lenses for vision correction and sunglasses. It manufactures in ten countries, has major interest in the contact lens industry and employs 3000 people throughout the world. Since 1970, Sola has been a subsidiary of the Pilkington Group of the United Kingdom.
'High technology' rather than mass 'on-line' manufacturing is often seen as the best hope for promoting the growth of local and national economies. With a few exceptions Australia's recent performance in manufacturing innovation has not been impressive. South Australia, however, was the first State to establish a technology park - a special area set aside for research, development and high technology manufacturing, and a modern variant of the older concept of the industrial estate. Technology Park Adelaide was established by the Tonkin Government in 1982 on an 85 hectare site at The Levels, adjacent to the northern suburban campus of the South Australian Institute of Technology.
Recognising the advantages of building on the State's existing base in advanced electronics, fostered largely by the Defence Research Centre at Salisbury, the Park's management concentrated its early efforts on local firms wishing to develop new products and processes. The hope is that the landscaped site and facilities should play an 'incubator' role for innovative, technology-oriented companies. By early 1986 twenty-four companies had established or were intending to establish on the Park. There are risks as well as potential records from the promotion of high technology enterprise. However, as the essential resources are highly trained technical and scientific workers, and as the markets are frequently international, there is no reason why Adelaide should be at a disadvantage in developing such enterprises.