National Manufacturing Week kicks off, sees a focus on working smarter

The need to work more responsively and flexibly was highlighted as National Manufacturing Week 2013 got underway on Wednesday.

The need to work more responsively and flexibly was highlighted as National Manufacturing Week 2013 got underway on Wednesday.

NMW, co-located with Austech, had over 1,000 companies come through its doors on the opening day, according to organiser Reed Exhibitions.

The two events were opened by Senator Kate Lundy, who spoke of the industry’s importance in terms of research and development, its challenges, and its continuing overall relevance.

“The sector employs almost a million Australians and in 2012 contributed approximately $106 billion to the economy,” pointed out Lundy.

“Manufacturing is a major innovator. In 2010-11 manufacturers invested about $4.8 billion on R&D, a quarter of all such business investment.

“It’s the key to survival for manufacturers, adapting to the significant structural change in the sector since the 1980s, driven by globalising markets, technical change and changing consumer preferences.”

A presentation at the NMW Solutions Theatre by software company Cincom offered a few suggestions on how the industry might be able to adapt to its much-cited challenges.

Five Ways To Make Manufacturing Pay In Troubled Times looked at ways to respond to issues such as the increasing demand for “mass customisation” and quick responses, both to a customer and through the supply chain.

According to Cincom’s ANZ Country Manager Greg Mills, his company’s survey research had found nearly a half of its manufacturing customers listed planning as an area where their business needed the most improvement.

He mentioned that operations had been a focus and – while it was certainly critical to get product out the door – that ERP software had needed to meet the demand for attention to be given to not just transactions, but needed to help plan to meet ‘the demand chain’.

Solutions had to “focus on what they call the demand chain – moving away from the supply chain and focus on doing things like mass customisation of products, you can do things like tailoring the purchase experience or the needs analysis of a customer to that particular requirement, you can dynamically price things things so they’ve got quotes instantaneously.

“There’s a whole host of ways [through ERP software] of automating that demand chain and dealing with your customer so you improve service, improve the quality of your product and improve the value you get out of selling to that customer.”

The focus on a need to adapt to changing and challenging times is sure to continue today, with the launch of a CSIRO white paper on making manufacturers more productive and responsive through new technology and industrial robots.

Australian Manufacturing is shifting away from large-volume production to mass customisation, and companies are telling us they need more flexible systems to deliver these more customised products,” said the paper’s co-author yesterday ahead of the launch.