Technology and lean manufacturing enables a new kind of car maker – Tomcar Australia

Being part of a thriving start-up culture is one of the key drivers for Melbourne-based car manufacturers Tomcar Australia, which develops unique, high quality off-road vehicles.

Co-founder David Brim says his goal with Tomcar Australia is to remain an agile company that is constantly evolving, and being based in Victoria makes it easier to interact with like-minded entrepreneurs.

“The future of business is small, not big,” Brim said. “We consider ourselves a technology company that happens to make and sell cars.”

“Melbourne is a very international city: the local business community is well-networked, advanced education-wise and with global ambition,” Brim said.

Tomcar Australia vehicles are designed to deliver exceptional off-roading performance, with military-grade materials and fewer moving parts that ensures superior durability and reduced maintenance costs.

Brim says the company targets the niche, high-end market including clients in defence, agribusiness, mining and recreational users—and they’ve been highly successful selling the cars direct to customers online.

“We sell online because it allows us to touch customers all over Australia. We’re proof you don’t need a huge corporate manufacturing infrastructure or dealer network to compete, but technology has allowed us to do that—20 years ago we couldn’t’ do this,” Brim said.

He said Tomcar Australia partners with Melbourne-based manufacturing and automotive components supplier MTM to manufacture the vehicles. Around 70 per cent of components are sourced locally and each car is 100 per cent fabricated in Australia.

“Victoria is the best place in Australia for manufacturing, with the legacy of the automotive industry there is an established supply chain,” he said.

“There wasn’t the manufacturing base we needed in other states—we needed a manufacturer that understands low-volume, high-value production, with the skills and structures in place to ensure quality.

“It’s also about the attitudes to manufacturing. There’s more of an entrepreneurial spirit and start-up culture here in Melbourne.”

The capacity to outsource manufacturing allows Tomcar Australia to focus on research, development and marketing to grow the business and continue to improve the product.

“Most of our business is research and development,” Brim said. “We just developed an electric vehicle, and we’re always developing our product, that’s what we’re about.”

He says another advantage of doing business in Victoria is access to talented people. “We need creative thinking and problem-solvers, because we’re a lean operation I expect everyone to be able to do everything.”

The Tomcar Australia team works remotely, relying on cloud computing to work effectively and reduce IT costs and infrastructure. They apply technology in the manufacturing process including a digitised scheduling system for lean manufacturing (modelled on kanban), a barcode scanning system to track each step in the process to manage costs, and large TV screens on the production line to help workers see what’s happening.

“Local labour is expensive because it’s some of the best in the world, but you need to utilise their time in the best ways and we do that through improved efficiency,” Brim said.

“Our product is designed to be simple. We use technology to streamline our process to produce a very low-tech vehicle because that’s what delivers quality, performance and low maintenance cars.”