IN a tough economic landscape for industry, the ninth annual Manufacturers' Monthly Endeavour Awards proved that Australian manufacturing still has the fighting spirit as well as the talents to back it.
Held at Doltone House in Sydney on 9 May, the awards evening drew together over 250 guests from large and small manufacturers, government bodies and industry associations to celebrate the "best manufacturing practice" the industry has to offer.
Keynote speaker Dick Warburton, executive chairman of Manufacturing Australia, highlighted the key issues the local industry is facing to a supportive audience.
"We're currently fighting multiple fires on multiple fronts," Warburton said.
"We hear about the challenges like the high Aussie dollar, high input costs, the unbalance competition with international markets and importers, the war on talent, industrial relations, the cost of running and constructing manufacturing plants, and excessive or inconsistent regulation.
"Individually, none of these challenges are completely insurmountable, but accumulatively they are absolutely formidable. And yet the silver bullet solution to stop this patterned decline has eluded us because there is simply no silver bullet."
More damaging to industry, Warburton said, is creating and fuelling a national mindset that believes Australian manufacturing can't be saved. "This line of thought is not only dangerous, but misconstrued.
"Manufacturing is value-adding lifeblood of a balanced economy. Until recently, this sector employed 10% of Australia's pollution in stable rewarding jobs, these are the kind of jobs where communities are built on, and ancillary businesses established, cities grown and families raised," he said.
"To put simply, manufacturing is too important to the Australian economy and to the nation to allow its continued decline."
One example of local manufacturing resilience and brilliance is Homart Pharmaceuticals, who took out Manufacturers' Monthly's 2012 Manufacturer of the Year award, as well as the Exporter of the Year award.
While many local manufacturers are sinking under a high Aussie dollar, Homart's story demonstrates that local manufacturers can build a successful export manufacturing business.
According to Manufacturers' Monthly's editor-at-large Alan Johnson, Homart Pharmaceuticals is "a great coals to Newcastle story".
"Homart has demonstrated that when R&D is strategically focused on products for China, success will follow," he said.
The company has been able grown its export by 850% in the last three financial years, despite the global financial crisis and strong Australian dollar.
Johnson thanked this year's Endeavour Awards judges: Dr John Blakemore, Blakemore Consulting; Dr Ivan Cole, CSIRO; Mark Goodsell, Ai Group; Derek Lark, ICN; and Stephen Johnson, NSW TAFE, and 2012 Endeavour sponsors: ABB, Advanced Manufacturing CRC, Atlas Copco, BOC, BlueScope Steel, EFIC, Enterprise Connect, ICN, IFM Efector, Sick and SMC.
Click here to read coverage of the all winners of the 2012 Manufacturers' Monthly Endeavour Awards and their stories about achieving "manufacturing excellence".
Image: Homart's Stanley Hong and Lynn Yeh with Manufacturers' Monthly's Alan Johnson (right).