Ron Dorman

Engineer and Company Founder
21.5.1918  -  31.3.2006

He would perhaps best be described as impatient, demanding yet without undue aggression, encouraging of others sound ideas and possessing that innate ability to rapidly cut through fluff and nonsense.

The son of a Victorian Railways station assistant and eldest of three brothers and sister, he was born in Newstead Victoria. The family eventually moved to Melbourne where Ron attended Cheltenham State Primary school. Secondary education was at Caulfield Technical College from where he graduated dux of his final year with a certificate and scholarship to attend the Melbourne Technical College. In 1939 he graduated with a Diploma of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering, acceptable to the Institution of Engineers Australia.

During his MTC years he worked part-time for Elcon Fans. His first significant early engineering was with Bearing Service Co.. In 1940 he used the term draughtsman rather than engineer - a reserved occupation, to enlist in the AIF. This was quickly exposed and he was refused entry but shortly answered an RAAF advertisement for engineers, becoming a Commissioned Pilot Officer Engineer in 1941. After service in Australia and eighteen months in the South West Pacific war zone, he was demobbed in 1946 as a Squadron Leader.

He then joined H.V. McKay Massey Harris Ltd. Victoria as an engineer involved in cultivator development. In 1948, he decided to ‘do his own thing’ and formed a partnership called ARC (Athol Ron & Cec) with youngest brother Athol and pre-war friend Cec Palmer. Together they built a small jobbing machining facility in Mentone Victoria and began machining plummer bearing blocks for Bearing Service Company. This was supplemented with ARC’s own products, a fishing reel with the brand name of Woodside and a series of manual pipe benders labelled ARC.

In 1951, Ron married June Deverell at Mornington Victoria.

In 1957 he was introduced to the Rootes Group Fishermen’s Bend Victoria, assembling Hillman cars and Commer commercial vehicles. This was pivotal to what was to follow. Because of sourcing difficulties from elsewhere, ARC became a key supplier of spot welding electrodes, adaptors and spot welding gun spare parts. Ford’s Geelong vehicle assembly plant was also having supply problems and ARC became involved in a similar way. At this time Ford began planning for the Falcon to be built in a new plant at Broadmeadows Victoria. Coincidentally, Volkswagen was setting up to build the Beetle at Clayton Victoria. Ron quickly saw the opportunity of becoming the prime supplier of resistance welding equipment to the Australian vehicle builders as there wasn’t a comparable reliable supplier at that time. Based on this and introductions from Ford, Ron went to the USA and purchased a set of spot welding gun and machine drawings from the Progressive Welder Company. These were adapted, altered and developed to become wholly DORMAN designs that were world best practice of their time.

It soon became apparent that for ARC to realise its potential, it would need to become a fully fledged engineering and manufacturing operation. In 1958, R.V. Dorman & Co. Pty. Ltd. was formed and new premises were opened on four acres of land at Mordialloc Victoria in 1959 to manufacture welding equipment under the brand name of DORMAN. Initially the company was making spot, projection and seam welding equipment for the motor vehicle builders and special purpose spot welders for the white goods appliance industry. The welding transformers and electronic controls were sourced from elsewhere but soon even these were made in-house to DORMAN’s own designs.

In 1961, Ron formed a cooperative alliance with the Taylor-Winfield Corporation USA, one of the world’s largest welding companies. This coincided with the decision of Lysaght Steel to build a strip processing mill at Hastings Victoria. Strip processing lines invariably require coil joiners for continuous flow operation. DORMAN adapted the Taylor-Winfield concepts and over many years built several coil joining welders, the largest of these being a 112 tonne flash-butt welder for Lysaght’s Hastings VIC. pickle line.

 Thousands of the DORMAN suspension type spot welding gun sets were supplied to all of the motor vehicle builders in Australia along with a large range of special purpose welders. They were exported to New Zealand, the ASEAN nations, Taiwan, Korea and Kenya. Specialised three-phase spot welders were supplied to the aircraft industry in Australia for aluminium fabrication and copper nickel alloy jet engine combustion chambers and jet pipes. Another line of related equipment was metal forming machines; presses, folders, tangent benders and roll formers. Individual stand alone items and complete processing lines were supplied to the white goods manufacturers.

In 1967, Ron opened a new division within the company to manufacture special purpose machine tools. Most of the product line, including single machines and multi-station transfer lines was supplied to Chrysler, Ford, Leyland Australia, Holden, Mitsubishi, Toyota and IEL-Rockwell Axles plus the white goods appliance manufacturers Malleys, Kelvinator and Simpson. At its peak in 1980, DORMAN was Australia’s third largest special purpose machine tool builder.

In 1970, WELTEC Pty. Ltd. was formed; a low cost operation situated in Moorabbin Victoria especially for the manufacture of vehicle framing fixtures and simple machines not requiring high overhead engineering and manufacturing facilities.

DORMAN was eventually sold April 1st. 1981 to Inductotherm Australia Pty. Ltd. When production was at its height, DORMAN employed in excess of 170 people and supplied a large range of equipment, both standard and special purpose for industries and processes too numerous to cover here.

DORMAN maintained technical memberships of The British Welding Institute (BWI) and the American Welding Society (AWS) until 1986. DORMAN was also a member of the Australian Federation of Automotive Parts Manufacturers (FAPM) and the Metal Trades Industry Association of Australia (MTIA).

In 1972 he retired as managing director of DORMAN but retaining chairmanship, moved with his young family to Proserpine Queensland and maintained interest and guiding influence over DORMAN by frequent visits and extensive consulting. Concurrent with this activity he set up a new enterprise, Shute Harbour Industries Pty. Ltd. A subsidiary company Cannonvale Marine Centre at Airlie Beach Queensland was opened in 1973. The business activity was boat and outboard motor sales and service. As part of this operation was an 11.3 metre aluminium cruiser for game fishing charter. Ron gained another qualification, a grade IV coastal ship's masters ticket, and together with son Mark ran the charter side of the business whilst son Peter ran sales and management of CMC.

In 1988, a small jobbing machine shop was added. Yet another new product appeared, the DORMAN marine fuel filter. CMC was sold in 1993 but the jobbing shop/fuel filter manufacturing facility remained in business till 2005 when Ron’s advancing years brought about the closure of SHI. Ron passed away at age 87.