The COVID 19 pandemic will change a lot of things permanently around the world and businesses are having to adjust to the new situation in different ways.
“I’m hearing from other people in business that on the positive side companies are saving a lot of money on travel and credit cards. It has led us to look more closely at what we can offer our customers via an online presence. I think attending all the big expensive tradeshows around the world will become less of a requirement than it once was,” says Stuart Payne from sorting machine manufacturer GP Graders.
“Continued investment in machinery is very geographically specific at the moment. We had some early sales in Chile then it went quiet because of the banking system which is not giving a lot of freedom to borrow and it has caused a bit of nervousness in big capital expenditure. This has started to pick back up as we approach the new season however. In the US it is a bit of wait and see, they can get access to capital but the focus is elsewhere at the moment because COVID is rife over there. Despite that it is still looking like it will be a reasonable year for us as we are getting a lot of orders in Australia and we are as busy as we have always been.”
GP Graders have a lot of orders for a wide range of machinery from apple to mango, cherry and blueberry sorting lines. In Australia people see that labour is going to continue to be a problem for a long time. Australia has always relied on foreigners to harvest and sort the fruit. At the moment labour is extremely limited by the pandemic, the country has closed both international and state borders to all but essential travel and goods. The backpackers have gone home and the university students who do seasonal work have stayed away, and it is uncertain when they will be able to return.
“The mango season is coming up in the north and they anticipate they will only have 8000 of the 12000 people they need for the harvest which will mean that fruit will get left on the trees. Any workers who are still in country can’t move up there because the state borders are still closed as well. This situation looks set to stay and they are now saying that Queensland may stay locked off till December.
“Overall the focus is about taking people out of the equation by automating as much as possible and in terms of our prospective sales we have never been stronger. Those customers are not going anywhere they are just waiting, and we expect next year to be the biggest year we have had by far. So we are gearing up and are buying a lot of capital equipment for our factories so we are ready. The pandemic has been a bit of a bump and some markets have been buoyant while others haven’t. It is mainly an issue of borrowing money, in some case the banks are not lending but here in Australia the banks are backed by the government are freely lending money especially to agriculture.”
GP Graders recently started marketing their equipment under the Australian Made label, it is an initiative which is supported by the government. “Australia has a reputation for making very robust equipment, solid good quality engineered product. It is a stand out value that we have against a lot other of equipment which is produced around the world. We are not a company that is chasing down our manufacturing costs, we are not trying to cheapen the cost to increase our margin, our machinery is very solid and built to last. GP Graders is 57 years old and we have hundreds of machines in Australia which have been operating for 30-35 years. They are well made machines and we still have the spare parts for them. Our modern machines are made so that they can be upgraded as technology changes."