EVERYONE strives for innovation, but not everyone understands what the word actually means. This year's winner of this year's Most Innovative Company of the Year Award, Melbourne-based product development and design and manufacturing company, Integra Systems seems to have decoded the "innovation secret". The Most Innovative Company of the Year Award was sponsored by Advanced Manufacturing CRC.
Innovation is not about being "first" said Erika Hughes, marketing director of Integra Systems when accepting the award.
"Over time, we at Integra Systems have learnt that innovation isn't always about being the first at everything; it's about being the smartest and being the best, and makings sure that we are globally competitive," Hughes said.
According to Hughes, innovation is the foundation of the family-owned company. "It's entrenched in everything we do. It was the cornerstone of where we began 21 years ago," she said.
"We were the first to produce the fastest high speed coil processing line, which has been a globally competitive.
"We're just absolutely honoured to be accepting this award. We want to thank Manufacturers' Monthly for recognising all manufacturers and the contribution that everybody makes to this valuable industry."
The company developed the first high speed coil processing line, the "Punch-IT Coil Processing Line" in 1995 – it was also the first of its kind in the world.
This breakthrough production system became the foundation of 'Punch-IT Systems'.
The application of other Integra tooling innovations, combined with state-of-the-art CNC plant and equipment has built the framework for the company's delivery of world class engineering and manufacturing solutions.
Also, proving that innovation is indeed about being "smart" rather than "first" is green tech renewable energy company Dyesol, who manufactures and supplies Dye Solar Cell (DSC) materials and technology.
The company was highly commended on the night for its DSC technology innovation – DSC is a photovoltaic technology enabling metal, glass and polymeric based products to generate energy and improve energy efficiency particularly in the building, transport and electronics sectors.
While manufacturers large and small are driving innovation to achieve best practice, only one company can take the title of Most Innovative Company of the Year Award; a title which can surprise even the winner themselves.
"Looking at all those other companies we thought, well if you're here tonight then you're obviously an innovative company, and to then be selected at the top of all those innovative companies was a real honour and we're really humbled by it," said Paul Hughes, MD and CEO, of Integra Systems.
Looking forward, he sees the challenges facing industry as an opportunity for Integra, and Australian manufacturing, to discover, develop and competitively implement new technology, solutions and processes.
"The high cost of production will always be an issue unless we are smart about how our technology is applied," he said.
"We will always support our brand's promise of 'manufacturing innovations' by not offering the world; but by providing our customers with innovative thinking, innovative use of technology, and always challenging the expected to provide the unexpected – the only way to stay ahead of import competition."
According to Paul Hughes, harnessing the brainpower and inventive nature of Australians will enable the local industry to stay ahead of the high volume imported products.
"Innovation has always been in my upbringing, being proud to be Australian and feeling like we can do something better; that has been the philosophy of our business, and that always trying to do things as best as we can to compete against the rest of the world – knowing that we can do it best in Australia."
Regular product iterations and smart manufacturing can help keep Australia ahead of the game, Hughes says.
"State of the art technology needs to be engaged to ensure quality is second to none, and that the productions services remain lean," he added.
Founded in 1991, Integra manufactures globally competitive, contract manufacturing for fully specified products and components. The company's proprietary product ranges are developed from concept through to distribution.
Image: Bruce Grey, MD, Advanced Manufacturing CRC (left) presenting the Award to Erika and Paul Hughes of Integra Systems.