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A former elite sailor who hopes his pipeline business might one day unseat trains as the most effective way to move iron ore is responding to high commodity prices by investing in a new production line.
Josh Beaver reached number eight in the world rankings for the Finn class before a career-ending injury moved him from a job where he travelled across water to one where he moved it.
His WA-based Beaver Group of businesses specialise in solutions to problems in the resources industry. The fastest growing among them is a slurry pipeline manufacturer arm that counts Rio Tinto, BHP and Fortescue Metals as clients.
In the last five years Beaver Group, which employs about 65 people and expects to turnover $50 million this year, has spent about $5 million improving its manufacturing operations. It's a number reflected in an upbeat capex report released on Thursday.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics' forecast strong future capex plans, despite a slight decline in private business investment for the September quarter. The report forecast private business investment for 2018-9 would be $114 billion. The market was expecting the figure to be $108 billion.
"We're excited about the future and will continue to invest the free cash flow of the business back into product innovation and manufacturing capex," Mr Beaver told The Australian Financial Review. "We've got a great economy, we're the success story of the last 20 years in terms of economic growth.
"We've just commissioned a new production line in our manufacturing facility in Brisbane for our new Abrasiguard product line, which is taking polymer technology and putting it inside pipelines for slurry."
Mr Beaver said he is not directly influenced by the Australian political environment in considering Beaver Group's capex decisions.
"For us, fundamentally our primary market is mining on a global scale, so commodity prices matter to us," he said. His main concern was attracting high quality employees to an industry perceived as unattractive.
"The biggest bottleneck of growth for us by far is talent," he said. "It's important that kids coming through school don't just want to build the next Atlassian and go into technology, that they get excited about building real world products."
Slurry pipelines are typically used to move coal and iron ore across long distances. The ore is mixed with water to allow it to travel through the pipeline and then the water is filtered out at the destination.
Mr Beaver said the ultimate goal for the slurry pipeline business is to make rail redundant as a method of transporting iron ore.
"Ideally the long-term vision is to build a product stack so we can offer a product as a managed service that will allow us to make other forms of bulk ore transport redundant."
"That's a pretty radical vision," Mr Beaver said.
"I think it's very achievable in the medium term and if we do that, that will create an enormous amount of value both for our clients, as well as build a really significant business, and an Australian manufacturing success story."
This article first appeared on www.afr.com
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