Igniting a resurgence in manufacturing
Australian Industry Group
Regional manufacturing has been struggling for the past two years as a result of cutbacks in new mining developments and reduced maintenance demand by coal companies. With up to 80% of companies having a larger or lesser footprint in supplying to mining, the effects have been significant.
In response, three business organisations - Australian Industry Group, Hunter Business Chamber and Hunternet - came together to stage the “Future for Manufacturing and Engineering Summit” in Newcastle on 29 and 31 July. It brought together the best national and regional speakers to provide their observations and insights about how we might develop a regional strategy. The presentations can be viewed at www.aigroup/contact/
hunter. We were partnered by Hunter Research Foundation (who were undertaking an important research project on Advanced Manufacturing), NSW Trade and Investment and RDA Hunter. Industry sponsors included Hedweld Engineering, Forgacs Engineering and Custom Fluid Power. Over 100 people attended.
The themes which emerged from Ai Group’s 2013 study tour to German Manufacturing were reinforced such as
• greater investment in research and development,
• greater engagement with university researchers,
• the need to develop exports and
• to engage with global supply chains.
• there was also the realisation that if Hunter manufacturing was to be successful in its transformation into new products and markets, the University had to be deeply involved.
Four action themes from the Summit were identified as the need to:
• Develop a Hunter brand and marketing strategy, including to overseas markets;
• Attract finance and investment funds on reasonable terms, to fund R&D and expansion etc;
• Develop and extend industry collaboration with other stakeholders, including the University of Newcastle and Hunter Institute of TAFE;
• Increase industry efficiency through Lean Manufacturing, energy efficiency and local initiatives.
The three business organisations have since agreed to form a regional brand “Hunter Advanced Manufacturing” as a banner for collective action in marketing and lobbying. They are close to signing a Memorandum of Understanding for on-going collaboration and agreeing to a vision statement and key result areas for the next 3-5 years.
Subsequently, the following significant initiatives are unfolding:
• The realisation that we have a significant social capital investment in our industry skills and education, both in the present and into the future;
• Possibly 2 trade missions to Germany and the USA to connect with our existing industries and to develop new industries;
• Closer industry collaboration with the University of Newcastle especially in relation to linking researchers with manufacturers and exploring connections to international manufacturing centres;
• Planned showcasing by the University of their research and skill capabilities to industry.
Many participants from the Summit went away with a renewed sense of optimism that longer term prosperity for regional manufacturing and engineering is indeed possible if we take a big picture view and pursue it. For regional manufacturing the future is “Onwards and Upwards.”