Posts Tagged “manufacturing”


Lasercraft Australia is celebrating 30 years of operating a manufacturing business in West Gosford that employs disabled workers.

Lasercraft makes and sells corporate recognition awards, plaques and business gifts to major companies and government departments.
It also makes survey pegs for construction firms and surveyors.
It is a not-for-profit company and registered as a charity.
Revenue from its sales goes toward employment of supported workers with disabilities.

It currently employs 23 supported workers and provides training and workplace skills.
General Manager, Mr Peter Britton, said: “I love working with the supported workers.
“It is a delight to see them flower by gaining skills, having a normal work routine, increased socialisation and feeling accepted.

“Our aim is to create more places for supported workers, but this is only possible if we increase sales revenue.”
The supported workers are paid wages, and all have NDIS plans.




The Open Shutters story demonstrates how not being afraid to take a calculated risk and move in the opposite direction of the herd can allow you to prevail in a marketplace increasingly dominated by offshore production.

This is also a story that celebrates women working in a traditionally male dominated industry and how manufacturers like Open Shutters are keeping the timeless tradition of quality master craftsmanship alive for future generations.

The journey began in the NSW Blue Mountains in the mid 1980’s with Danish born master cabinetmaker, Jens Mikkelsen crafting solid timber furniture from home supported by his wife Marion, a textiles and design high school teacher and self-taught business manager. As the business grew, Ms Mikkelsen’s two children, Bruce Cottrill (a qualified carpenter) and Gail Cottrill (an expert in service management), also became involved, each bringing diverse skillsets to the table. “A family business really starts with the talents and diversities that exist within the family,” said Ms Mikkelsen. “You use the resources you have in order to survive and put bread on the table until you get lucky as we did.” By “getting lucky”Ms Mikkelsen clarified that they pioneered the manufacture of quality shutters in Australia, crafted in the tradition of the original 19th century southern American plantation shutter but altered to suit our climate and way of life.

While some Australian businesses had been tinkering with the development of shutters, Jens Mikkelsen took them to a whole new level. “The designer market really embraced what we were doing because we had a high quality product with substance and we were focused on sustainability,” said Ms Mikkelsen. Once the shutters started to take off, Ms Mikkelsen left full-time teaching to focus on the company. She learnt very quickly that she was stepping into a “man’s world” and would have to learn on the run how to manage the business and staff without any formal business qualifications. “It was the customers who taught me,” said Ms Mikkelsen. “When you’re dealing with people you have to listen. And because we listened and we delivered, they let others in their network know about us. We caught a wave of fashion and Australia embraced it. And that’s how we grew the business.”

Not only could Ms Mikkelsen hold her own when it came to technical product knowledge (politely refusing to transfer people to “one of the boys” when they called), she also had the foresight to translate all technical language into layman’s terms for the company’s marketing collateral, in-house manuals and the early designs for their computer system.

Outgrowing the Blue Mountains, the family moved the business to the Central Coast in 1995. By that stage Open Shutters had grown into a substantial manufacturing operation and they were recognised for their efforts in sustainability and people development with a string of awards.

For the next fifteen years, the shutter industry in Australia thrived. Open Shutters had a staff of sixty, active offices in two major cities and a number of affiliated representatives throughout Australia. However cheaper overseas imports combined with the constant struggle of obtaining finance and increasing red tape around compliance really began to take its toll, particularly when the GFC hit.

Following what Ms Mikkelsen described as “very difficult years”, it was time for the family to make a big decision – close the business, follow the herd, or “go back to the future” and return to their roots by creating one-off designs for a high-end niche market. After a study trip to the US highlighted that their product was truly world-class, the family decided that honing in on their point of difference was the best way forward. “We had to ensure our production was set up to focus on the core of what we were, which was to make one-offs, and not be driven by the market,” said Ms Mikkelsen.

A large part of making that work was to focus on people. “We have always been very deliberately focused on the fact that we are making a product for somebody’s castle.