Implementing new technologies to succeed on a global scale

BOC South Pacific head of regional operations Ashley Mills said producing products in Australia can be costly.

Living in a global marketplace can make it difficult for Australian manufacturers to stand out in a crowd. But integrating new technologies can give them an advantage that will boost them to the top of the podium. Unfortunately, competing with international leaders such as China, Germany and the US can have its drawbacks as others are able to get products out to the market faster.

One way to market Australian products as better than the rest is with good branding. In January 2019, Australian Made announced it now has a registered logo trademarked in India, which allows Australian exporters to have a registered symbol that can be used on locally made or grown exports into India. The “Australian Made, Australian Grown” logo is now formally registered as a trademark in Australia’s fifth largest export market. This gives Australian exporters the opportunity to establish products as genuinely Australian and it is legally protected under Indian law.

While Australian made products have a pull in some markets, finding a niche or optimising on Australian manufacturers’ greatest attributes, such as the defence sector, is an approach that can help a larger percentage of businesses.

Tackling issues faced by manufacturers

BOC South Pacific head of regional operations Ashley Mills said producing products in Australia can be costlier, therefore cost-effective methods are needed. “Australian manufacturing has a highly skilled workforce, but at a cost premium compared to our competitors overseas. Therefore, we will always be looking for an edge by finding and quickly implementing profitable fit-for-purpose technology.

Last year, BOC opened a new $20 million specialty gases production facility, which incorporates advanced engineering in hardware and software in a push to reduce production lead times for more than 8,000 specialty gas mixtures. This faster manufacturing cycle allows BOC to overcome shipping times to overseas markets such as Malaysia, Thailand, India and China – creating new export markets in environmental, medical, electronics and manufacturing sectors.

“Hydrogen has significant potential, with global demand and local research and development positioning Australian manufacturing as a key player in the future global supply chain. While some of the developments are still in their infancy, we believe financially supporting research and development into new hydrogen technologies is essential,” said Mills.

“Welding technologies are also offering important opportunities for Australian manufacturers of all sizes to compete globally. Multi-process welding robot solutions are helping reduce welding times by 70-90 per cent. While new welding processes, shielding gas mixtures and digital welding machines, are increasing efficiency and safety while giving companies such as ours new engineering and operational challenges to overcome.”

Staying relevant is critical

In a market that constantly develops new trends and better technology, moving with or even ahead of technological advances can get Australian products noticed in the global supply chain. Mills explained that advanced manufacturing technologies, including automation and robotics, coupled with the rapid pace of digitalisation, are critical in improving operational efficiency, safety and quality.

“There are significant untapped opportunities around the world for Australian manufacturers that invest in the right technologies and keep investing. For example, Japan and South Korea are driving demand for hydrogen. So with the right technology and infrastructure in Australia, a new export opportunity could be created to support the overall economy. The volatility and pace of change in an uncertain economic environment mean this is not an option, but the ability to rapidly embed these technologies is something that is critical for Australian businesses to remain competitive,” he said.

The Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade) indicated that the rise of robotics, big data and machine learning have created multiple applications across many industry sectors, which have transformed traditional single sector-focused manufacturing practices. This has created fully integrated and diversified global value chains (GVCs) that offer significant opportunities in specialised, high value-add manufacturing for innovative Australian SMEs.

Redarc Electronics managing director Anthony Kittel.

An advanced manufacturing cross-sector strategy, led by Austrade, is centred on introducing Australian suppliers across the transport, resources and energy and medical sectors into GVCs of major multinational corporations. Austrade has been engaging with large multinational corporations to help identify supply chain gaps, and then develop tailored customer access programs to address demand.

New opportunities for Australia

Austrade’s programs look beyond company names, profiles and traditional areas of focus to instead match capabilities and solutions with the requirements of multinational GVC’s. This approach has helped identify new export opportunities for Australia’s auto industry with car manufacturers in markets where full-scale automotive production is still being undertaken, such as Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, India and Mexico.

It has also led to opportunities in industries such as aviation, defence and medical technologies for Australian auto sector companies, which are able to adapt their existing capabilities and solutions to new applications.

Redarc Electronics managing director Anthony Kittel said Redarc is embracing a number of new technologies to ensure it becomes a part of global supply chains, particularly in the defence industry.

The company aims to improve its operations through the integration and application of sensors and big data, advanced materials, smart robotics and automation, additive manufacturing, and augmented and virtual reality.

“One example of the above is that we have invested in three cobots for automated production assembly and product testing.  The assembly of our products, via the cobots, will be directly integrated with both the product test equipment and the related database, as well as the ERP system.

“To adopt and realise the full potential of these technologies, Australian manufacturers, including Redarc, are transforming the way we run our businesses, investing in new knowledge and practices,” said Kittel.

This includes having a greater focus on, and participation in, global value chains, implementing improved business-to-business collaboration with a global outlook, and improved collaboration between industry and research, he explained.

Redarc invests 15 per cent of sales revenue annually into research and development. The company also sees value in investing in the automotive sector. “Redarc plans to play a key role in building Australia’s electric vehicle charging infrastructure, as part of its strategic partnership with Norwegian Electronic Vehicle charging solution provider DEFA.  Redarc is riding high, having just completed a $22 million upgrade to its manufacturing facility in Adelaide on the back of its burgeoning export business, diversification into the defence and medical industries, and annual sales growth averaging 20 per cent over the past fifteen years,” said Kittel.

Defence’s role in the global supply chain

With defence offering huge opportunities for companies to enter in international markets, the Australian government has programs in place to support this. The Global Supply Chain (GSC) program involves working with multinational defence companies to identify opportunities for Australian companies within their international supply chains.

Since 2007, participating global supply chain contractors have awarded more than $1 billion of work to predominantly SMEs in Australia. The GSC program is based on the commercial needs of the primes. For companies that have a capability, such as machining, engineering, or a technology of interest to the primes, the Centre for Defence Industry Capability (CDIC) can help facilitate access to the primes’ global supply chains.

The CDIC is managing the GSC program on behalf of defence and the eight prime contractors involved in the program – BAE Systems, Boeing, Leidos, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Rheinmetall and Thales.

The primes are funded to establish a GSC team within their company to:

• Identify opportunities across their business units and at all technology readiness levels, and to provide these opportunities to Australian companies,

• Identify, assess and qualify capable Australian companies to be part of their global supply chain,

• Provide mentoring, training and regular feedback, including why a company was successful or unsuccessful in its tender,

• Organise meetings for the SMEs with key decision-makers within the prime and provide advocacy overseas, including at team defence Australia trade events,

• Work with the other primes’ GSC teams to grow Australian industry, share information to boost exports, and reduce the burden on the SME.

The CDIC can provide eligible Australian SMEs with defence export advice, export development and promotion, supply chain facilitation and business development.