Sydney-based systems integrator and services company ASI Solutions extended its national network last week, announcing it will open offices in South Australia and construct the Northern Territory's first computer manufacturing plant.
ASI CEO Ken Lowe and vice chancellor of NT University Professor Ron Mackay have signed a memorandum of understanding for the establishment of a facility on the university's Palmerston Campus. ASI has been working in the Northern Territory since last year, after winning a Federal Government Department of Health IT outsourcing contract with partner IBM GSA.
At first glance, Darwin may not seem like a logical point from which to base manufacturing operations, but as ASI marketing manager Graham Orford explained, the city has some little-known advantages.
"It is cheaper to ship PCs from Darwin to Perth, Adelaide or Brisbane than from Sydney, because people ship a lot into Darwin and are only too happy to fill those empty containers on the way out," he said.
"Furthermore, in geographic terms, components from Asia have a lot less distance to travel. In a sense, we are not hopping on board an existing infrastructure - we are helping to create it."
The company hopes to have production at the plant up and running by the end of November. Like the Botany facility, the plant will use a $200,000 stacker which has already been manufactured in Adelaide. The plant will supply ASI's requirements for the Perth and Adelaide markets.
ASI takes a certain pride in its national presence, and Orford predicts the plant will have a "multiflyer effect" on the industry from supply services associated with production. Phase two of the project will incorporate the establishment of a learning centre within the facility, where students can gain a first-hand knowledge of the computer industry.
"To an extent, people in the Northern Territory see themselves as a separate community," Orford said. "They know they have to import everything and they are trying to not only reverse that trend by becoming self-sufficient, but to get to the Net export stage.
"It is a conscious decision on our part to do this because while other large Australian IT companies have gone offshore to cut costs, we are fiercely Australian and proud of it."
The company has also announced it will begin operations in South Australia after securing a contract to supply PCs and notebooks to the State Government, in conjunction with seven other preferred PC suppliers. The contract will run for two years, with the option to extend the deal for an additional 12 months.
ASI has been working on the tender for about 12 months. It expects to open its SA branch in Adelaide soon and will work with local resellers offering services and support.
"We are hiring a sales force now. It is a strong and growing market and while we will have a direct sales presence of our own, the long-term strategy is strong partner development."
To that end, Orford foreshadowed ASI's fledgling partner project.
"We only deal with people who are serious and have a commitment to the local area. As our national contracts proliferate, our partners would fulfil part of the contract in their area in return for marketing our sales presence."
The project will also consolidate factors such as business management programs, inventory management, floor plans and colour schemes. While still in the conceptual stages, the scheme should be up and running by next year.