Politicians vie for manufacturing vote with unprecedented Awards attendance

After eight years and almost 100 times as many entries, the 2011 Manufacturers’ Monthly Endeavour Awards has reached a whole new level of prestige – and roused the interest of Canberra to boot. Sarah Falson writes.

OVER 300 manufacturers gathered at the RACV Club in Melbourne on 25 May – the biggest turnout ever – to celebrate Australian manufacturing innovation and excellence. Not surprisingly, ‘carbon’ and ‘tax’ were the words of the night, and every guest speaker had their say.

Carbon tax debate

Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott asked the industry to support him in his fight against the proposed tax; Innovation Minister Senator Kim Carr encouraged delegates to work towards leading the world in cheaper, cleaner production; and Holden executive director of manufacturing operations Martyn Cray claimed the government doesn’t throw enough support behind manufacturing. 

"This is a very bad tax. It can’t be fixed, it has to be fought and if it’s not fought the manufacturing sector in this country, I regret to say, is almost certain to die and I think this is as stark as that, the choice you face: do you fight or do you die?" said Abbott.

"The introduction of the carbon price will attract investors to those opportunities. And every cent of the revenue we raise will be used to help our people and industries adjust to the new economy," said Senator Carr.

"Manufacturing needs support from the government. I’ve worked around the world, and governments all around the world support manufacturing – don’t let this government tell you anything different," said Holden’s Cray.

"The government is carefully considering the price of carbon to make sure there are opportunities for [Australian] manufacturers as the country moves to a low-carbon economy along with the rest of the world," said Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change, Mark Dreyfus.

Cruze saves Holden

But perhaps the most moving part of the evening was the story of Holden’s new small car, the Cruze, told by Cray. The Elizabeth plant in South Australia went from manufacturing the Monaro at 50% production levels in 2008 to producing the Cruze today – including plastic parts, precision parts, and main assembly – which has been so well-received by the Australian public that the factory will raise its output from 430 to 480 Commodores and Cruzes next month. A mighty positive story about Australian manufacturing. 

"About two and a half years ago, it was a pretty dark time for the auto industry, and a dark time for people in Holden as well. But the Holden senior leadership team made a decision which some people thought we were absolutely crazy to do. We announced that we were going to start making a small car in Australia," he said.

"There were sceptics, there were critics, there were a lot of people saying we couldn’t pull it off. But General Motors and the Holden senior leadership team thought otherwise, and the result that we’ve just launched that car, with support from the government and our trade union colleagues as well, is testament to the confidence that the team has in this workforce.

"In late 2008, make no mistake, it was make or break time for Holden. Not many people know that, but it was tough. There were questions about whether we’d be part of General Motors; there were newspapers saying we were going to be bought by the Chinese. But the Holden leadership team had confidence in its workforce, it has confidence in Australia, and confidence in the Australian public that it would buy a small car that was built in Australia. 

"It took a very bold step and my words to you are: to be successful, manufacturers have to take bold steps. I would encourage you to keep on taking those bold steps to ensure that manufacturing is secure here in Australia."

From late 2008 to January this year, the Holden maintenance and engineering team completely remodelled the Monaro bodyshop for Cruze production. They installed 22 new robots, they refurbished 48 robots, and they installed an entirely new assembly line – an assembly line that now puts together a Holden Commodore, which includes 3,500 parts, in 100 seconds flat.

The refurbished factory works in one-piece flow, producing cars only to meet customer orders, meaning it is very lean and efficient.

The Holden Cruze saved Holden in Australia. Watch the video here.

Endeavour Awards raises the bar

The story of Holden is testament to the ingenuity and power of Australian manufacturers. The Endeavour Awards exist to bring these stories to the public. 

Congratulations to all the winners of the 2011 Manufacturers’ Monthly Endeavour Awards, and thank you to all 300 guests, speakers and sponsors who helped make the 2011 Awards the best ever. The following 23 pages tell their stories. Together, we are raising the bar for Australian manufacturing.

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