Demand for mining workers is affecting manufacturing

Siemens head of productivity research, Picture the Future Australia, Matthew Rait, has claimed that the incessant demand for mining workers is seriously affecting the manufacturing industry.

After tackling water and energy last year, Siemens turns the spotlight on Australia’s productivity in its Picture the Future Series. According to Siemens, this is one of the largest industry based meta-research studies in the nation’s history.

There aren’t many surprises and the picture isn’t pretty: Australia’s rate of productivity has been in decline by approximately 1.2% per year since 2003-04. Ageing, infrastructure and congestion are the main suspects, with Siemens head of productivity research, Picture the Future Australia, Matthew Rait, expecting a dire future if we don’t lift our productivity. 

"Only 42% of Australian businesses measure productivity, have a target for it, or know what it is," he said at the official research launch in Sydney.

"Australia’s productivity is in decline. Mining, utilities and manufacturing are the worst, with large investment in labour for little output." 

For Rait, the mining boom has "masked" the seriousness of the problem. Rait says mining is an area of concern, with productivity declining 4.6% since 2003-04. 

"The real concern is how the economy will prosper beyond the mining boom – and booms are cyclical. Historically, they don’t end well," says Rait, who would like to see our economy thrive off green industry. "The demand for mining workers is affecting manufacturing – it is inflating the Australian dollar."

He believes manufacturers ought to be looking at what they can do to improve their productivity from a green perspective because once the carbon tax is imposed, that’s going to cost. 

"We need to improve our productivity to absorb these costs," he said. "We believe productivity is everything." 

According to Siemens research, digitalisation and automation will enable flexibility within the manufacturing environment, and are steps towards a fix. 

"We will then be able to adapt quickly to market changes and also handle the high level of customisation demanded by customers. It also hits one of our other solution areas, which is environmental sustainability," said Rait.

Things like Smart Grid Smart Management Systems are expected to place less pressure on the environment and on raw materials, and enable sustainability. Following on from its successful PLM solutions, Siemens is now promoting Totally Integrated Automation (TIA), which has a common level protocol for communications between systems enabling continuous manufacturing optimisation. 

"Both PLM and TIA are enablers for improving productivity," says Rait.

To action and implement the Picture the Future proposals, Siemens has expressed a willingness to work with other companies in "collaborative innovation," thereby allowing a spread of risk, a spread of cost and a spread of IP.

Siemens chairman and managing director, Albert Goller, says this collaboration is crucial to the research’s positive outcome.

"We want to get as many people as we can to share a vision for the future. We want to influence the legislation in Australia," he told Manufacturers’ Monthly.

Siemens hopes enough people will commit to the research to see shifts in production and productivity performance over time.

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