Adapting to a changing manufacturing landscape

Picture Credit: Industry Partners Australia

Manufacturers’ Monthly speaks to Industry Partners Australia CEO Gary Silversides about training, networking, leadership, and adding value to the Australian manufacturing industry.


Industry Partners Australia has contributed to the betterment of the Australian manufacturing industry for 27 years. CEO Gary Silversides describes the outfit as a business that brings together large organisations, senior professionals, and partners from consulting and training, who together can contribute to the overall goal ­– bringing value back to Australian industry.

Silversides arrived in Australia from the UK in 1991 and possesses a supply chain and general management background. He worked with James Hardie Industries in a national procurement role with Iplex pipelines. After that, he ran Volvo Trucks’ manufacturing facility in Brisbane and brought the Volvo & Mack brands under one roof. From there, he moved to Riviera Marine, a large manufacturer of power yachts and luxury boats. Following that, he joined Transpacific Industries, and headed up their manufacturing division. Eventually, he left corporate life and after some time exploring what brings facets of the industry together, formed Industry Partners Australia.

After being in the industry for 30 years, Silversides has seen great changes in Australian manufacturing and is very passionate about giving back and altering attitudes towards better ways of doing things.

“Manufacturing is at my heart. What I’d like to do is create a community of companies and people, consultants, and trainers, that all get together and discuss ideals and improved methods in going about things,” Silversides said. “For the first time ever, the government and the community as a whole are aligned in wanting Australia to become more independent in regard to manufacturing and have our own capabilities again.

Industry Partners Australia is all about sharing innovation and ideas across various manufacturing and other industry sectors. These include food, beverage, housing, pharmaceutical, essentially every element of manufacturing. Silversides told Manufacturers’ Monthly that aside from the drive to share innovation being at the core of the business, the current COVID-19 crisis has also shaped the trajectory that the company is taking.

“I think COVID has actually allowed us to take time out and think, and what’s come to the fore after evaluating where we stand is we excel in creating networks and connecting people,” Silversides said. “We have a network of some of the largest companies and professionals in Australia. Now, on top of that, we’re adding our partner network, which consists of consultants and trainers that can bring thought-leading ideas to complement what we already have.”

Solutions for member organisations

“Like us COVID-19 has allowed businesses to take time and reflect, and many are looking for the next step and new opportunities, I think this is one of the areas where we can really help manufacturing. Should they be investing in Industry 4.0, looking at more automation, what are the right solutions for them?” Silversides said. “Because of the vast knowledge of information among our community, members find solutions simply through attending events, and talking with other members. We are also there to connect the dots on occasion and introduce them to organisations that have implemented a similar change already.”

One of the value propositions that the organisation provides is the opportunity to discuss things freely providing a safe environment to exchange ideas. Silversides emphasises that there is no discussion about propriety information, intellectual property or manufacturing techniques – the discussions are all about learning and the connections between people.

The other value proposition that Silversides talks about is transferring knowledge expertise from leaders to younger people in the field and focus on a diversity in the sector.

“There is a significant role for women in senior leadership roles, as they bring a different element to manufacturing. For me, education and diversity in the sector are critical for growth, but also the government need to get the message across – that industry and manufacturing provide long term security to encourage young leaders into the sectors.” Silversides said.

For him, leadership is important because that is where it all starts and enjoys cultivating the sense of responsibility in young potential leaders.

“Those guys that have actually been on the shop floor, and suddenly somebody says, ‘I’m going to make you a team leader.’ This means a pay rise, but also, that comes with more responsibilities. We want to create a balance of bringing young leaders through as much as possible. We’re very proud of our program called Evolve2 Leadership – which has had hundreds of students go through it – and have been running it for over five years now,” Silversides said.

In the Evolve2 Leadership program, 16 students are brought in at a time from all different industries and backgrounds, and then equipped with some core skills of what it means to be a leader. These include skills like giving feedback, change management, communication, and presentations.

Reinventing the business strategy

In the past six months, as an organisation that puts on events that people come and network together with, Industry Partners Australia has put in considerable effort into reinventing their business.

“From our point of view, while we’ve not really been open to a lot of new business during that period, we certainly have been redeveloping,” Silversides said. We are introducing a more interactive website, better membership options, and a new program for members called IPA Pathway, which helps members Engage, Learn, and Connect. A roadmap is given of how they might be able to get the best from their membership.

“We will continue to offer Root Cause Analysis training, and the Evolve2 Leadership program. When members come looking for training and consulting outside of these two areas, we connect them with our partners.”

According to Silversides, their partners have seen an increase in activity, but it’s been very much around online training, and they have had to adapt their business model around that to meet new market needs.

 You would think companies have plenty of time for training and development of their people, but at the moment, I haven’t seen too much investment in that. There are also companies embracing themselves for financial difficulty, and not spending money.”

The direction of Australian manufacturing

For Silversides, he feels the industry needs to be led with newer ideas that can be followed through into the workforce – which can be achieved through education and learning. At the moment he says the industry can do more to be aligned and work together. He feels there is the underlying need for change in thoughts, idealisms and leadership.

“To me, what stops manufacturing from really thriving in Australia right now is a little bit of conservatism,” Silversides said. “We need new lifeblood into industry, new leadership and their ideas being brought forward and allowed to flow through. I think we need to continue driving education, bring up the new leaders, new programs.”

He believes that the best minds are not going into manufacturing because they’re nervous of the future of manufacturing in Australia, and he thinks this is a misconception that needs to change.

“People need to be saying yes, this is a sector I actually want to join, because I can further my education and career in that. After all, it’s around the people element and not necessarily just the technical aspects, which makes a difference. We’ve got to make the industry attractive again.”