Future-proofing the Australian SMEs with futuremap

David Chuter, managing director and CEO of IMCRC at the futuremap workshop.

The Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre, Innovative Manufacturing CRC and Entrepreneurs’ Programme are jointly taking futuremap, a business diagnostic tool developed by IMCRC, to market to help SME manufacturers on their journey to the Industry 4.0 transition. Manufacturers’ Monthly reports.

Australian manufacturers across the country have an opportunity to get on board with the transition to what is referred to as the fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0) and to assess the current state of their businesses with regards to the benchmark characteristics for advanced manufacturing.

The futuremap workshops, jointly developed by the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre (AMGC), the Innovative Manufacturing CRC (IMCRC) and the Entrepreneurs Programme, are designed specifically for Australian SME manufacturers to help foster cooperation among research and industry.

According to the AMGC managing director, Jens Goennemann, this industry engagement program using futuremap intends to achieve three main objectives: first, to help Australian manufacturers get an insight on the opportunities and challenges of digital and advanced manufacturing; second, to act as a mirror for the participants to analyse the current state of their business and compare this to where they aspire to be in two years’ time; and third, to help businesses understand where they can seek assistance on their transition to digital manufacturing.

“The futuremap workshops provide an opportunity to share with the participants outcomes from AMGC’s research on the advanced characteristics of globally successful businesses, as well as to connect and build relationships with manufactures throughout the country,” Goennemann told Manufacturers’ Monthly.

As part of the workshop, the participants answer a number of questions that help them map the current state of their businesses and their future aspirations by comparing them against 13 key areas to become an advanced and digital manufacturer. At the end of the session, participants receive an immediate online assessment report, showing their current state in all of the 13 key areas, as well as their aspirations and ambitions going forward. The report also connects the participating SMEs with further educational materials and access to a broad eco-system of supporting government organisations and programs.

The futuremap program helps SME manufacturers map the current state of their businesses and their future aspirations by comparing them against 13 key areas.
The futuremap program helps SME manufacturers map the current state of their businesses and their future aspirations by comparing them against 13 key areas.

“This is a confidential exercise, which means the companies continue to own their data. These futuremap workshops act as a marketplace, to connect the businesses with other like-minded companies, as well as to the relevant organisations and growth centres. If, for example, the outcome of the self-assessment tool indicates that a business would like to become more globally competitive within the next two years, we would connect the company to representatives from Austrade. If a company would like to have a holistic review of their business strategy, they can connect with a representative from the Entrepreneurs’ Programme,” Goennemann said.

The first series of the futuremap workshops were held in parallel with the National Manufacturing Week from May 9-11. The AMGC, the IMCRC and the Entrepreneurs’ Programme plan to hold similar workshops throughout the country over the next 12 months to reach out to a broader audience, not just in the metropolitan areas, but also in the regional areas.

“I would like to see that those who participate become part of our constituency and form an on-going relationship with our state directors in their journey to become part of the transformation in manufacturing,” Goennemann said.

Insights from the workshop

The first series of futuremap workshops were held in Sydney from May 9-11, over three breakfast events running parallel to the National Manufacturing Week. The workshops received a positive feedback and strong participation from the manufacturers.

The program complements the outcomes of the research by AMGC on building resiliency in the manufacturing sector and helping Australia transition into smart, high- value and export-focused industries.

According to Goennemann, AMGC’s study of over 3,000 globally successful manufacturers showed that to be globally competitive, these companies did not need to be cost competitive. Instead, he suggested models where companies can compete on value rather than on cost.

“Australian manufacturers cannot only compete globally in terms of cost. Rather, they need to compete on value, rather than on cost,” he said.

“Manufacturing is more than just production,” he said. “That’s because some things come before you produce and some after. In fact, there are manufacturers today who do everything except production.

You can do something before, in research and development or design, or do some thing after in sales and services. You can still produce something and combine service on top of that.”

Fred Eske, sector director- advanced manufacturing, the Entrepreneurs’ Programme, explained the role of his organisation in offering support to businesses and encouraged participants to seek guidance from the programme’s advisers.

The Entrepreneurs’ Programme is the Australian Government’s flagship initiative for business competitiveness and productivity. The programme offers support to businesses through four elements: accelerating commercialisation, business management, incubator support and innovation connect.

David Chuter, managing director and CEO of IMCRC, took a closer look at Industry 4.0, the wave of  technological advances sweeping the world of manufacturing, and how Australia can capitalise on the resulting opportunities.

“We’re seeing an explosion of opportunities with this thing called the Internet of Things (IoT),” said Chuter. “Fifty billion connected devices – it’ll just keep growing. If you look at emerging technology trends, the IoT is the single biggest investment opportunity the world has seen. IoT is forecast to attract more than $1.4 trillion globally by 2021. So what are the opportunities for Australian manufacturing in this?

“The second largest investment trend is in robotics, forecasted at US$225 billion ($294 billion) by 2021. As manufacturers we’ve had robots in factories for decades. But those robots have been behind cages and cost at least a quarter of a million dollars. It’s disruptive, but nowhere nearly as disruptive as cobots, little robots that work alongside people, doing things that people probably shouldn’t be doing. What could that do in your business to free up opportunities?” he asked.

The first series of futuremap workshops received positive feedback and strong participation from the manufacturers.
The first series of futuremap workshops received positive feedback and strong participation from the manufacturers.

He mentioned artificial intelligence and the computing power as the next big emerging and disruptive technologies. “That investment continues unabated, faster, quicker, at lower costs. It’s game-changing,” he said.

Chuter also spoke about the concept of servitisation as a sales strategy to help manufacturers maximise their profits.

Citing examples of companies such as Rolls-Royce, Microsoft, Apple and Michelin tyres, he demonstrated how international companies are coming up with selling models that enable them to sell services rather than simply selling products, thereby maintaining an ongoing relationship with their customers.

Throughout the session, Chuter invited the participants to reflect on their current state with complete honesty and to ask themselves how much they were prepared for adopting the new trends and where they thought they would be standing in two years’ time.

“Why two years? Because one year passes very quickly. Three years is a horizon that’s a bit beyond most peoples’ planning. So, we have set a goal of two years. You may not change the world in two years but you may be well on the journey in certain areas.

“The idea of futuremap is to help you and point you in the direction, or help you point yourselves in the direction where you think you need to invest your resources,” he said.

To register your interest in participating in a futuremap workshop, please click here. 

To connect with the three organisations, please visit:

Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre – www.amgc.org.au

Innovative Manufacturing CRC – imcrc.org

Entrepreneurs’ Programme – business.gov.au

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