What do Australians really think of manufacturing?

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Manufacturing has an image problem – so we made a video to tackle common misconceptions about advanced manufacturing and to encourage students to enter one of our most important and innovative industry sectors.

While the headlines continue to proclaim the death of Australian competitiveness, many manufacturing companies are making their mark in the world; they are finding new opportunities and becoming the best at what they do.

Australia has an estimated 2500 advanced manufacturers who are not only surviving, they are prospering.

These are companies leveraging the latest thinking in design, technology and materials, producing for global markets.

When a sector suffers from an image problem – a confidence problem – it has knock-on effects in terms of attracting new investment and in terms of attracting new talent.

So we’ve put together a video to help dispel some of the rumors and to tackle some misconceptions:

These advanced industries might produce the next Apple or the next Qualcomm, or they might create an entirely new industry with new science, just as Cochlear, the bionic ear manufacturer, has done.

The sector suffers when governments and the public are not aware of the opportunity – and it suffers when the challenges of global competition are not fully understood. A great example of this is the misunderstanding about what it takes to be truly viable in a global sense – the importance of scale for instance for a small or medium sized company.

The Federal Government decision last week to raise the definition of a small business from a threshold of $2 million turnover to $10 million was very welcome.

For advanced manufacturers seeking to become global suppliers, scale is an issue. They are required to invest heavily in skills development, in process technologies, in new marketing. Ensuring these companies – who are major employers – enjoy small business support and a lower company tax rate simply acknowledges the challenges they face, and helps their growth and viability into the future.

We want to reach young people deciding on a career – to be sure we are attracting the best talent. In many industries and countries, the most in-demand occupations or specialties did not exist 10 or even five years ago, and the pace of change is set to accelerate. By one popular estimate, 65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist.

In such a rapidly evolving employment landscape, the ability to anticipate and prepare for future skills requirements, job content and the aggregate effect on employment is increasingly critical for businesses, governments and individuals.

Advanced manufacturing – What is it?

Advanced manufacturing might be simply defined as being the best at what you do. It may be what you produce – or the way you produce it.

An Australian manufacturing company, in order to compete in the world, must be advanced – because the conditions are tough; they are unforgiving.

Australia does not want to compromise our standard of living, our comparatively high wages; that is understood. So we have to produce high value products – high-tech potentially, but definitely high margin – and that means creating something that the world wants and needs, creating it in a way that makes Australia competitive, and it means being creative about what you do whether it is designing a phenomenon in the global toy industry (as Moose Toys in Melbourne has done) or researching and developing a process to make carbon fibre more efficiently (as Carbon Revolution in Geelong has done).

Advanced manufacturers do not fit neatly into a single sector: they work in food processing and agribusiness, in mining equipment and technology, in a range of engineering applications, in precision instruments, in cyber technologies, in defence, aerospace and transport, in medical devices, in blood plasma therapies, and in advanced materials and chemicals.

Keep an eye out for the video at National Manufacturing Week events in Sydney from today until Friday.

Are you an Australian manufacturer? What are some of the common misconceptions that you encounter in representing your business and your industry? Share your comments below to start the conversation.

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John Pollaers
John Pollaers is Chairman of the Australian Advanced Manufacturing Council. He has a distinguished International career in the Consumer Products and Advanced Manufacturing industries, including as CEO and Managing Director at Pacific Brands and CEO of Foster's Group Limited. In May 2015 John was appointed Chair of the Federal Government’s Industry and Skills Committee and in April 2016 was appointed as a member of the Prime Minister’s Industry 4.0 Taskforce.
John Pollaers

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