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Born in a backyard

Hofmann Engineering, Then and Now
Then and now: Hofmann's engineering in the 1960s and today


In 1969, two brothers from Germany set up a small toolmaking shop in a backyard in Perth. They thought there was a future in gears. They were right.


Today, Hofmann Engineering is one of the biggest gear-making operations in the Southern Hemisphere. It operates from five cities and employs over 500 Australian workers. The current manager, Erich Hofmann, says he's never seen a bad year — and he's been in the business since he was four-years-old.

He puts Hofmann's success down to the simple principle he learned from his father and uncle: you can always get better at what you do. That's not just a challenge for Hofmann's engineers and managers. Every worker has good ideas and every idea deserves to be heard. From the people who answer the phones to the people who deliver the orders, every Hofmann employee is in the business of innovation.

Erich's team sees great potential in the clean technology market. The company has already developed wind turbine gears for clients in Germany. Now Australia is gearing up for a clean energy future the same opportunities are opening here at home. Hofmann is building better components for the local wind power industry with the support of a $5 million grant from the Federal Government. The Hofwind project will produce an additional 900 megawatts of green power, enough to supply more than 200,000 homes.

Hofmann's story is the story of our nation.

Its two founders couldn't have known the mining boom was coming to Western Australia. They certainly didn't predict the clean technology boom. Australians did different jobs, for a different era.

In 1969, more than 14 million phonograph records were made in Australia.

Australians took home, on average, $52 for a full week's work. The average woman's weekly wage was $38. Few Australians had seen a computer, let alone had one installed in their workplace. In the early 1960s, computers cost about $US5 million — and rented for $US17,000 a month. More than 120 million words were sent out from Australia via the international telegraph service.


"Everyone here does R&D"

Hofmann Engineering Managing Director Erich Hofmann


But companies born in the backyard in the 1960s still prosper today. Two generations of Australians have gone from strength to strength. Our children have opportunities our parents couldn't imagine.

Erich Hofmann is optimistic about that future. He sees Australia's workers as the lifeblood of the new economy. Their tools and skills will always change — but their ingenuity continues to be vital.

By Doug Gorrel.