Develop leaders, better plan for the future, build a skilled workforce, and don’t fear technology. These are some of the leading recommendations from a report compiled by the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre and released last month.
Titled, Moving From A Lucky Country To A Smart Country: Ten Ways For Australian Manufacturers To Succeed, the report seeks to identify the manufacturing sector’s pain points and opportunities to give industry players guidance on where to focus efforts to lift confidence and performance.
The insights land at a time when the manufacturing sector has shown impressive resilience and an ability to evolve, emerging as an intrinsic part of the nation’s fight against COVID-19.
But according to the report, Australian manufacturers must look longer-term and become smarter operators – more advanced, resilient, competitive and globally impactful.
Speaking on the findings, Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre Managing Director, Dr Jens Goennemann said, “Australia remains very much a manufacturing nation, reliant on global trade. We must take decisive action to reduce our dependence on the export of primary raw materials and transition from being a lucky country to a smart country, by adding value and advancing our onshore capabilities.
“Manufacturing is a capability, an enabler and a vital component of our economy, it is a key driver of prosperity – it deserves our attention and needs to be nurtured.”
In order to achieve this goal, addressing the need for considered planning within Australian manufactures will be key. The report found that business owners and operators worked ‘in’ rather than ‘on’ the business with 88.2 per cent of businesses failing to have a strategic plan, while 42 per cent did not monitor KPIs. The findings also suggest this is impacting on businesses’ ability to access capital.
The lack of rigour around planning is closely linked to the need to build leaders with the report finding local management skills rate average when compared to countries with similar GDP. At the same time, manufacturing must also address a skills shortage with the report saying that while perceptions are changing with two-thirds of the public recognising manufacturing as an evolving and innovative sector, a mere 3 per cent of students considered a career in the industry.
Neil Bone, Managing Director of Wastech Engineering, said that while the report had identified important trends and opportunities for the manufacturing sector, there is still more work to be done to nurture the local industry.
“To fully realise our potential local manufacturers needs to cut through the noise and show domestic customers why Australian designed and made solutions are not just superior products, but also cost effective. It goes both ways too, local businesses should be looking to Australian manufacturers – especially as we all look to rebuild our economy.
When it comes to technology, the AMGC wants the industry to shake off its negative notions and move with, not against it. AMGC says technology is far from being a job killer with planned and well-execute technological investment an enabler and equaliser that can lift productivity, quality and upskilling opportunities. The report points out that Australian manufacturing lags other industries in adopting advanced technologies with some manufacturers ‘put-off’ by a lack of understanding or misconceptions about the cost of investment.
Paul Cooper, Chairman at the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre, added, “By embracing technology, attracting the right people, investing for growth and actively managing their business, Australian manufacturers can realise substantial benefits for their business and in the process support greater local jobs and capabilities.”