Is manufacturing a risk-averse industry?

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to predict the outcome of a recent CFO survey in Australia. The American Express CFO Future-proofing Survey examined the views of 285 CFOs from companies with revenues between $2 million and $200 million as part of an exploration of their future-proofing strategies.

Forty percent of those surveyed for the qualitative study were from the manufacturing and primary industry sector. The survey revealed that, comparatively, manufacturing is not a forward thinking sector when it comes to future proofing.

Also, less CFOs in the manufacturing sector have a high or very high appetite for risk: 19 percent vs 30 percent average. CFOs in the sector are also less likely to have sufficient investment for recruiting, managing and leading employees (40 percent vs 64 percent average) and marketing and promotion (38 percent vs 52 percent).

Australia’s manufacturing sector is dominated by SMEs and formed a significant proportion of those surveyed. As is often said, the CFO is the neck that turns the head and CFOs play a key role in shaping a company’s strategy and direction. So then, is manufacturng a particularly risk-averse industry?

Last week I received a call from a manufacturing innovator who says he offered to transfer his proven technology to anyone interested – for free. The number of responses? Zero. He also knocked on the doors of many venture capitalists seeking to commercialise his technology, but was turned away. The door was often slammed soon after he mentioned ‘manufacturing’.

Part of the misconception surrounding our industry stems from the stories that get covered in mainstream media. It’s the unfortunate truth – dismal news on websites garners more eyeballs. And this has an impact on the perceptions of those interacting with this industry.

It’s a big ask to make manufacturing cool again but there are many successes out there. Manufacturers’ Monthly recently published a Hidden Champions series showcasing small, nimble and innovative manufacturers who are, for want of a better word, cool. And we’re going to unearth and showcase more of them.

What are the technologies that will shape manufacturing in the years ahead? The following six, picked from the latest IEEE report, are forecast to have a major impact over the next seven years.

Sustainability will shape the goods we make and how we make them. Lighting, renewables, energy will be key drivers.

Nanotechnology is going mainstream. It is already used in manufacturing sunscreen, tyres and medical devices. Expect more.

Cloud computing will change the way manufacturers use software and store their data. Celebrity leaks nothwitstanding, data and software programs will reside in the cloud.

The Internet of Things can be a fuzzy concept for some because it has so many different names. But devices with built-in sensors and internet connectivity are set to lower cost through automation, reduce loss and wastage and enable shorter durations for supply chains.

3D printing is an obvious one and this technology will move into mainstream manufacturing.

Computer vision and pattern recognition will transform the shopfloor which will also see the increasing use of robotics.