The history of the Australian pump industry dates back at least as far as the gold rush of the 19th Century, while the industry association itself will celebrate 50 years of continuous operation later in 2014.
Some of Australia’s early history in pump manufacture is represented by two family owned businesses, which still operate, albeit with several changes of ownership since their early days. Both of these organisations are over a century old and have grown out of the earliest Australian export trades of gold and agricultural produce. The oldest, Southern Cross, started in Queensland in 1871 making wooden windmills for pumping ground water. The business grew over the decades to the point where Southern Cross became a household name in rural communities and has led to their current wide range of agricultural pumps and associated equipment.
In 1875, when the gold rush in Victoria was in full swing, much of the recovery of alluvial gold was undertaken using hydraulic sluicing methods. Thompsons Castlemaine had their beginnings with the manufacture of centrifugal and reciprocating pumps for sluicing and mine dewatering. In 1988, Thompsons merged with Kelly & Lewis to form TKL. These companies, now operating under the Flowserve banner, are still designing and making pumps and are among the leaders in their field.
Early in the 20th century, as Australia industrialised, more pump manufacturing companies emerged in Australia, including McPhersons (Ajax Pumps), Industrial Engineering and Mono Pumps. These businesses became the core of the industry to the point where the Australian Government saw the export potential for pumps in the region and encouraged the formation of a Pump Association, to promote the idea.
The Australian Pump Manufacturers Association was first considered in 1963 and then officially came into being in late 1964. Companies involved included Southern Cross, Thompsons, Kelly & Lewis, Ajax, IEL and Mono. George Snow of Mono played a major role in the early years of the Association. In addition, many of the current PIA Life Members were active in the early development of the APMA.
Over the past 50 years, the organisation has consistently adjusted its activities to take into account the changing nature of the global pump market and its impact in Australia. In the 1990s, there was a significant rationalisation in Australia through mergers and acquisitions. This resulted in a change of name from APMA to Pump Industry Australia and now the membership ranges from multinational companies, who are “full-liners” in the Industry, through to small independent businesses who specialise in providing products and services for niche markets.
The November 2014 edition of Pump Industry will have a special focus on the history of both the industry and the PIA. Anyone with a suggestion, a story to tell or any old photographs is encouraged to contact the Editor at [email protected]