A company that has combined long-sighted family values of integrity, quality, and performance with dedication to local manufacturing and building world-class skills within Australia is today reaping the benefits of its foresight and 50 years of growth.
The LAI Group – originally based Hendon, South Australia with 50 employees – has expanded from that single base to multiple factories and more than 500 employees across Australia through its philosophy of sustainable growth through quality engineering for highly competitive markets, including infrastructure, industrial, mining, defence, rail, and key industries requiring advanced technology backed by strong local service.
On this base it is poised to extend its leadership as Australia steps deeper into the World’s new Age of Electrification and Clean Energy, “which is truly a New Age that extends from our own homes and electric cars and workplaces, through to entire transport networks, across decentralised green energy distribution platforms, and massive changes flowing through to industry, mining, construction, social and physical infrastructure, and every corner of our lives. It is a very exciting time locally and internationally – provided the Australian electrical industry acts together to safeguard our Standards, quality, and safety. It has to be a level playing field to protect our customers from inferior engineering and service that often come from opportunists in times of rapid change,” says LAI Group General Manager – SA, Gary Mason, who has More than 30 years’ experience in the electrical industry, including experiencing increasingly rapid transformation in the last 10.
“Our company objectives have remained constant and strong over all the years and are benefiting our customers and our staff now. We’re a family business, we want to be the best at what we do, and we want to employ families.”
“I think the most obvious company achievement in recent years as a result of our quality outlook is contained sustainable growth in a highly competitive market,” says Gary Mason. “LAI has been in business since 1969 and in the last 10 years particularly – with outstanding people at the helm such as Managing Director Frank Iarriccio – we’ve experienced great progress in bringing jobs and skills back home.”
“We are no longer solely a low voltage switchboard manufacturer. We now have our own medium voltage products, prefabricated switchroom manufacturing, structural steel works, and a service department backing our technologies to help prevent lost time caused outages sometimes from lower quality imports.”
“We are strong supporters of advancing industry Standards through the National Electrical Switchboard Manufacturers Association, NESMA, which leads industry awareness of the latest safety and compliance issues, including the new AS/NZS 61439 Standard Update,” says Gary Mason. This is the most significant change in the low voltage switchboard design and manufacturing industry for more than 20 years.
“Compliance with the new Standards – and widespread support and education through NESMA about their importance – is critical at a time when managing energy, safety and sustainability are more important than they have ever been before. In response to climate change, our electrical infrastructure in Australia faces massive change and massive opportunity as we electrify transport and industry and switch to renewables.
“NESMA has been at the forefront of the switchboard industry for decades. NESMA has representatives on Australian Standards committees and is committed to improving the Australian switchboard manufacturing industry. “
“We’ve seen new Standards roll into the industry in recent years, which has been a challenge at the time but has ultimately improved levels of compliance and safety.”
“We’ve invested heavily in local manufacturing and AS61439:2016 compliance. Designing new switchboard assembly systems, increased spending on local NATA test labs and, in our case, constructing our own high current temperature rise test lab. We’ve been upgrading production equipment and machines and we’ve also employed a team of staff to work exclusively on compliance and design improvement.
“We will continue to develop and help build our local manufacturing, including support of NESMA from LAI (with several LAI employees being past NESMA State presidents from South Australia and Victoria).
“We will always have competition from overseas, that really doesn’t do much for local employment and skills, so we need NESMA to continue its role within the industry. We want a level playing field, in which all suppliers must achieve the same statutory standards of compliance and safety. There is no opt-out clause in our Industry Standards. If as a manufacturer or customer they are not built into your product, you may be posting a very expensive rectification bill to your customer’s future. All of LAI’s products have Standard compliance and top quality safety and testing built in, including our low voltage equipment and medium-voltage technology.”
Case Study – Medium Voltage Switchgear 11 & 22kV
“We’re particularly proud of our medium voltage product, which is locally engineered, ASTA type tested, with full arc fault containment, and manufactured here in Australia. It’s great to see how successful the product has become. We now have over 600 panels in service in mining, defence, industrial and rail projects. The product has become the first choice for some of our largest customers and this has enabled us to consistently train/employ new staff and invest in new equipment.”
“We have survived the Covid pandemic, including massive challenges, such as staff shortages, reliability of supply chain, and pricing changes. Managing these manufacturing delays and maintaining client expectations and relationships has been at the forefront of our efforts, including to this day.
“But as a result of our planning, local manufacturing philosophy and resilience, we are strongly optimistic about the future, and planning to be a big part of it.”
“We see renewables and defence spending being the large infrastructure investments into the medium and long term, which will help drive Australian manufacturing, employment, and skills. Australia will continue to rely on coal investment in the foreseeable future, while global pricing is still favorable.”
“Longer term, the mining industry will continue significant growth, especially in battery metals, copper, iron ore and gold – and plenty of other minerals and resources required for industry and agriculture.”
“This is truly an exciting time for industry, that can benefit Australian engineering, industry and employment decades into the future.”