Awards showcase manufacturing’s prowess

BEING an engineer in a previous life, I tend to stick to the facts and I’m not renowned for flamboyant comments, but for those readers who were at Doltone House, Darling Harbour May 28th they will understand why I describe the 2008 Endeavour Awards presentation ceremony as a fantastic ‘best-ever’ evening.

BEING an engineer in a previous life, I tend to stick to the facts and I’m not renowned for flamboyant comments, but for those readers who were at Doltone House, Darling Harbour May 28th they will understand why I describe the 2008 Endeavour Awards presentation ceremony as a fantastic ‘best-ever’ evening.

The passion, the enthusiasm, the determination, and the commitment of the winners and finalists were there for all to see, and feel.

The calibre of the entries to this year’s Endeavour Awards, and the stories behind them, were exceptional. Please go to page 20 and read on.

Industry minister, Senator Kim Carr was on hand for the evening and emphasised that under his watch manufacturing industry would be taken “seriously” and his team will bring a lot more energy and focus to industry policy; “manufacturing is a priority”.

While brushing aside the demise of the former government’s successful $700m (over four years) Commercial Ready program, Carr was quickly on the front foot talking-up the recently announced $251m Enterprise Connect network.

The network will include five new manufacturing centres scattered around the country, plus QMI Solutions in Brisbane, where experienced business advisers will work directly with companies providing free business reviews, benchmarking of business and manufacturing processes, plus help in finding the latest research, technology and organisational knowledge.

At last count, Carr said over 630 companies had applied for the free business reviews.

With any meeting of manufacturers, the car industry is never far away. This year we were lucky to attract Max Gillard, VP and COO of Toyota’s Technical Centre for Asia Pacific, to the Endeavour Awards ceremony.

With a theme of “management for the future”, Gillard’s speech highlighted some of the reasons why Toyota is the number one car manufacturer in the world.

With seven other Toyota Camryplants around the world, Gillard explained that the Melbourne plant can never rest on its laurels. “Each would jump at the chance to provide Camry’s to Australia and/or our high volume Middle East export markets.”

And with the Australian dollar so strong, Gillard says the only way to compete is to reduce costs “drastically”.

This obviously hasn’t gone down to well with local suppliers, but as Gillard said this is the only way to keep the business. The fact that Toyota plans to build the hybrid Camry locally has been welcome news, but it will be built on the existing Camry production line, for the time being at least.

More than just cars

But the evening was not just about the car industry, with manufacturer of the year Marand Engineering heavily involved with the F-35 JSF (joint strike fighter) project.

Rohan Stocker, Marand’s CEO, said the project is a major piece of the company’s growth strategy, and has enabled the company to get into the aerospace export market. “The successes we’ve had on JSF have given us credibility with other aerospace companies”.

However, the move into aerospace was not by chance, Marand carried out extensive research to identify a number of world best practices and technologies, and developed a long term strategy to support the expected 30 year JSF project requirements.

Winning JSF work is a big tick for local companies and a testament to how competitive they have become.

The work is not just handed out, companies have had to lift their game, especially the components suppliers working with such fine tolerances and removing large amounts of metal.

For Mirand it enabled the company to look at how it managed projects, learning from Lockheed Martin in terms of systems engineering and project management processes.

Stocker also emphasised the need for patience and determination, “you need to get to know your customers and what they really require”.

While JSF projects are not an everyday occurrence, on my recent trip to the US, it was clear this is the way forward for Lockheed Martin.

Next cab off the rank could be a replacement for the US army’s Hummer (Humwv). According to Lockheed Martin many components for the proposed JLTV (joint light tactical vehicle) could be made in Australia, including the body, armour, suspension, dashboards and other major parts. The JLTV is basically a 24t vehicle that swims, can operate off road, and uses five times less fuel than the Hummer.

These types of contracts are tremendous opportunities for Australian manufacturers; they extend our capabilities, giving us access to new technologies and creating jobs and wealth.

While many in the media talk of our manufacturing industry in negative terms, as if we no longer play a major part in Australia’s economy, what they fail to recognise is the sheer depth and breadth of our industry and the pivotal role it still plays, as showcased at this year’s Endeavours.

For more information on next year’s awards please drop me an email at alan.johnson@reedbusiness.com.au