Last Thursday night an appreciative audience were highly engaged by a presentation by Andrew Stevens, (Class of '77) Chair of the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre, as he outlined the opportunities for Australian manufacturing across a range of sectors.
Andrew dispelled the myth that Australia cannot keep up with the changing world, and inspired the audience to consider engaging in the 'intangible' - creative and innovative aspects of the process, not just specifically the 'tangible' product focus that has often been common in key areas of manufacturing, such as car manufacturing. He dispelled the common view that automation and increasing e-commerce is cutting job opportunities overnight, highlighting that this perception of an instantaneous removal of jobs is not true. He noted that the way forward for the manufacturing industry is through increased competitiveness and ensuring we continue to innovate and make quality contributions, ensuring we do not undermine quality for the cost benefit. Australian manufacturers need to compete on value.
In 2014 the Australian government created the 'Industry Growth Centre Initiative' to identify what is working well in which sectors and encourage more of this behaviour. The six identified sectors are Advanced Manufacturing, Medical Technologies & Pharmaceuticals, Cyber Security, Food & Agribusiness, Mining Equipment, Technology & Services and Oil, Gas & Energy Resources. Andrew highlighted that our view and approach to Global Manufacturing must change as the nature of manufacturing continues to change rapidly around the world. Research has shown that it is at either end of the product life cycle where the most exciting opportunities exist to value add to a product and create new jobs.
As the actual manufacturing cost is less in a product's overall value than it was in the past, companies that focus much more on adding value at the start or end of the product life cycle will be the ones to thrive. He noted that the research and development process, product design and logistics, termed the "Technical Leadership" are all integral to a product's success. Likewise sales, services and distribution termed "Servitisation" on the other end of a product life cycle will create longevity and value of a product. Andrew cited how much it costs to physically manufacture the new iPhone 10 (around one tenth of the retail selling price), and how much the Technical Leadership and Servitisation linked to this Apple product has created a perfect example that reflects the future of advanced manufacturing.
Comments from the audience such as "It totally changed my opinion about Australian manufacturing","He provided a comprehensive view of the opportunities within manufacturing, and that jobs in this sector are much broader than I thought", "It's pleasing to hear that manufacturing isn't dead in Australia and that we seem to be at the cutting edge of different industries" and "I learnt things I didn't know" provide an overview of the reflections from those in attendance.
Andrew suggested that the wider implications for Australia and its young people is for the future designers and manufacturers to create their career around the "intangible" arena of the product life cycle, in an area that is linked to their passion. He highlighted that the key factors of environment, competition, value drivers and differentiation are critical areas to consider now and into the future.
The Barker Institute thanks Andrew Stevens for sharing his wisdom and expertise and looks forward to inviting him back to Barker again in the future.