The family-owned Mett Pty Ltd has been named one of the suppliers of the year to the whole General Motors group.
The company had also been able to reverse a two-year decline in revenue, and was forecasting a 10% rise this year, thanks to some export contracts with GM in the US, said executive manager Erwin Schulter.
"We are confident about winning new contracts, so confident we are actually installing new equipment for it," he said. "You have to be a bit entrepreneurial."
The contracts are a reward for looking outward at a time when local demand was waning.
"We had a slump period for a couple of years," he said. "We didn't get a single inquiry. So we had to do a lot of work - spent a lot of time in the USA - to drum up some new business, and I think it has paid off."
It was the fourth time Mett had been nominated as a GM supplier of the year. It was the only local company of the 97 GM named, out of about 10,000 GM suppliers around the world. Mett supplies GMH with oil pan assemblies, engine front cover assemblies and various brackets. It is planning to export the same engine covers to the US for installation on V6 engines almost identical to the Commodore.
Mr Schulter said that when he was in the US accepting the award, he was asked how Mett could manage to compete with the low labour costs of China.
"I said we use less labour, or none at all. We use robots."
Mett had more than 50 robots and, without them, would have to employ double its 300-person workforce, Mr Schulter said.
And he thinks China's advantage is a passing phase.
"I look at China and think that there is a period we will have to survive," he said. "Once they settle down, they will be no better off (than Australia). Not so long ago it was the East bloc - Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, East Germany, they were the cheap countries. They are not cheap any more.
"Rising living standards in China will bring prices back into line. I don't know if it will take five years or 10 years, but it has to come."
To qualify for the award, Mett had to beat a specified reject rate and meet standards in service, reliability and technology, as well as price. "Our current target (reject rate) was 150 parts per million, or 0.15%, but this has been reset to 71 ppm."