The future looks bright for Australian manufacturing. But there’s one catch: industry insiders believe that local manufacturing needs to make a fleet-footed move away from heavy industrial and into high end, high tech products.
A leaner, meaner industry
The automotive industry, for so long the backbone of Australian manufacturing, is now consigned to a proud place in our history. Ditto anything even vaguely resembling a large manufacturing plant employing thousands of unskilled workers. While such operations had their time in the grand old days of Australian manufacturing, they can no longer compete with low cost economies and highly automated competitors far closer to the heart of the global action. Take away the international demand and our domestic economy simply isn’t big enough to sustain large scale heavy industrial manufacturers.
So where to from here?
Two words: innovation and technology. Australia has a justifiable reputation for researching and developing innovative products and that is where the future of local industry lies. Smaller, leaner, meaner manufacturing plants with skilled workers and innovative development strategies can help Australia gain a global stranglehold on niche markets. With unique, high end, added value products and a nimble approach to research and development, local manufacturers can fill markets that large, low cost, yet cumbersome operations can’t.
Robots to drive our manufacturing forward
Allied to this, automation is integral to the success of Australian manufacturing. Quite simply, robots can work faster, harder and more accurately than people can. They can drive a pallet truck all day long.
They’re happy to work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with no lunch breaks and they have no interest in such trivialities as wages, holidays and sick leave. To compete in an ever-evolving eCommerce market, speed is of the essence and robots provide that speed with carbon copy precision.
Good news for skilled workers
The rise of robots in the manufacturing success equation is great news for skilled workers, not so great for those with basic skills. Robots will fill most of the repetitive roles previously done by unskilled workers, an unfortunate, but inevitable side effect of progress. On the positive side, people have to run and maintain all this new automation; people with technical skills. Manufacturing will need an influx of graduates with engineering, mechanical, mathematical and computer skills to drive the new technology and keep it one step ahead of the competition. It’s an Australian-made solution and with the right attitude and application it might just work.