Alex Murphy (far left) and the Ausco Products team with the Smart Buoy. 

As Director and Head of Engineering at Ausco Products, Alex is proud of the generational heritage at Ausco Products and is excited to lead the business to future innovation, expansion, and diversification over the next 20 years to the company’s centenary. After graduating with Honours in Mechanical Engineering from Curtin University WA, Alex gained experience with several multi-national organisations, managing complex, high-profile projects. We chatted with Alex about his career and the recent collaboration between Harvest Technology Group, Ausco Products and another Perth company, Land and Sea Services. Led by Harvest, together, these three innovative companies developed a smart buoy solution enabling live monitoring from the seafloor. This world-first technological achievement brings live underwater data directly to a client’s office.

How long have you been working with Harvest? 

I’ve enjoyed working with Harvest since its inception, both in my current company director role at Ausco, and previously when I was a Lead Engineer at a global market-leading company in the remote operations and technology space. So, since the very beginning!

Tell us about Ausco Products…

Ausco Products is a West Australian family-owned and operated company established post-World War II in 1946. With a proud legacy of nearly 80 years of business operation, we are a trusted name in the engineering, manufacturing, and technology business sectors. We provide end-to-end engineering, design, project management and manufacturing of bespoke components for clients across many global industries such as oil and gas, mining, marine, defence and other industries. 

As the third-generation family member to join the business, what made you stick with it?

Operating for nearly 80 years, I was exposed to all aspects of the Ausco business from an early age. Throughout my professional career, I have continued to be involved in the business and always envisioned a future where I returned in a director position, to lead succession planning and future business development. I’m passionate about the family’s business legacy and am committed to seeing the company continue to thrive. The opportunity to work alongside my parents (CFO and Managing Director) is invaluable. It is a unique and special relationship, working so closely together, and our collective expertise, knowledge and skills help us deliver quality service to our clients. 

What attracted you to engineering?

I was drawn to engineering from a very young age. As a youngster, I was very mechanically minded and liked pulling things apart to discover how they worked. Exposure to the business obviously fostered this interest and over time I wanted to work on bigger projects to understand the intricacies of the complete end-to-end process, not just my little piece of the puzzle. I’ve always had the conceptual ability to look holistically at the entire project, and mechanical engineering was a natural fit. 

Ausco Products was one-third of the innovation team to develop the smart buoy solution. Tell us what the goal was, and the role Ausco played in achieving it. 

Our collective goal was to enable live monitoring on the seafloor for 12 months without an umbilical cord and power being fed subsea. Achievement of this goal required a bespoke solution rather than an “off-the-shelf” product. Our role at Ausco was to deliver specialist services that included engineering design, drafting, manufacturing, fabrication, assembly, and remote technology. We also conducted the factory acceptance testing of the smart buoy, subsea system, platform system, and monitoring technology. Our staff manufactured, fabricated and assembled the system at the Ausco manufacturing facility in Perth, WA. 

What’s a smart buoy for those who don’t know and what was so smart about it?

A smart buoy is a remote monitoring system that acts as a modem to communicate data back from the seafloor back onshore via mobile or satellite link – at a fraction of the bandwidth typically required. This alleviates the challenge of relying on retrospective data to make critical operational decisions. Companies want access to more live data without having to go and fetch it themselves. This is where the smart buoy comes in. If you have a buoy on the surface that’s transmitting data about what’s happening underwater and you’re able to have that data displayed in your office, that’s a real asset. In terms of forward-thinking and preventative maintenance, there are numerous benefits that can be realised through the utilisation of smart buoys. 

What is the potential for this product?

This smart buoy is a world-first-of-its-kind, and was designed locally in WA. We expect to see high demand for the product globally and in various markets. We’ve been able to offer a West Australian turnkey solution to Harvest’s customers. All three of the businesses involved are based here in Perth, so it showcases our region’s capabilities to other markets and customers, such as subsea exploration and monitoring for the vast oceans that we have not yet discovered.

What is the most remote location you’ve ever worked?

I’ve worked in the most southern points in New Zealand and the most northern tips in Aberdeen Scotland, and many locations in between. In Australia, the most remote and unique location I have worked at would be in outback WA at the very top of Mount Augustus, which is the largest single rock in the world – I had to climb it several times!

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