Monthly Archives: August 2019

Australian manufacturing – alive, and thriving!

Last week on a beautiful sunny Melbourne winter morning our Technical & Operations team hosted the latest in our series of boardroom briefings. Over breakfast, David Chuter, CEO of Innovative Manufacturing CRC (IMCRC), led the discussion around challenges for leaders in the sector, Industry 4.0 and its transformation imperative.

Attendees included a diverse range of senior manufacturing executives; Ruby Heard, recently awarded the Victorian Young Professional Engineer for 2019 by Engineers Australia, was an active contributor, especially from a younger person’s perspective.

With the demise of the Australian automotive manufacturing sector, we are constantly reminded that the manufacturing sector is in decline. It was refreshing to hear David refuting the state of manufacturing in Australia, providing examples of many of the exciting innovations that are being developed locally that are at the cutting-edge internationally. David is passionate about innovative manufacturing and the role that it will play over the next decade. He firmly believes transformation will be achieved through “collaboration by inspired leadership”.

Speaking about transforming Australia’s manufacturing industry, automation and AI (Augmented Intelligence, rather than Artificial intelligence, in David’s view) the concept of Industry 4.0 is not particularly new. Such technology, including robotics, has already been in use for many years, especially in automotive production. The group observed that what has changed, is that the barrier for entry has dropped significantly, meaning manufacturing technology is no longer limited to well resourced multi-national operations.

While Industry 4.0 is not limited to a specific sector, one of the challenges in Australia is our proliferation of small businesses: 90% of manufacturers employ less than 20 people and only 15% of manufacturers turn over more than $2M per annum. With so many SMEs invested in manufacturing, collaboration between companies can be difficult too. IMCRC estimates less than 40% of manufacturers have an appropriate business strategy to meet current and future requirements.

One of the positive initiatives David has taken with IMCRC is to bring industry, educators (universities) the CSIRO and other resources together to support SMEs in manufacturing and help foster collaboration. CSIRO’s recently released Australian National Outlook showed a massive and unprecedented opportunity for the future growth and prosperity of manufacturing. It predicts manufacturing’s contribution to GDP growth will be more than two and half times that of any other sector.

When looking for transformative projects that will create commercial outcomes for local manufacturers to take Australian products and service to the world, we also need to seek out opportunities to develop the project management, technical and leadership skills that cannot be simply solved through education. Governments have a role to play in supporting manufacturing with investment – for example, here in Victoria our trains are built with 60% local content and some trade-based TAFE courses are government funded. Industry also needs to lead by providing opportunities for technical specialists and professionals to further and diversify their experience, which will upskill its workforce.

Overall, we need to be braver and bolder, if we wish to become a world leader in advanced manufacturing. We need to change the perception that we are limited by market size or geographical distance, and focus on establishing smart tech hubs with a global focus, where the emphasis is less on production, and more on invention, design and value.

I’m looking forward to seeing what the next generation of manufacturing in Australia looks like.

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Posted in Technical & Operations, The world @work

How HR won in the West

Why head out west to talk about HR?

Slade Group recently facilitated our first Western Hub HR Discussion Group, hosted by Kubota at their Australian office in Truganina in Melbourne’s west. Presenting at the event were Christina Tsakiris, Senior Associate and Annabelle Uebergang, Employment Lawyer from Macpherson Kelley’s Employment, Safety and Migration team.

This forum was planned and brought to life by Slade Group’s Practice Manager – Business Support & Shared Services, Shaunagh McEvoy, who recognised the number of sizable organisations that operate in the West and who are often unable to travel into the CBD for events.

Macpherson Kelley shared important updates about recent developments in employment law, and senior HR Managers shared battle scars and victories and other professional insights based on their workplace experiences. A flurry of business card swapping was a sure sign of value at the end of the luncheon.

Significant debate focused on Casual Conversion – particularly as these changes have been applied to 85 different Modern Awards. It was also interesting to hear how different participants have managed this with their organisations, and the legal viewpoint from our experts on myriad grey areas. For example, did you know that Casual Conversions are now enforceable by law? Employers are obliged to offer it as an option to casuals who have been on regular and systematic rosters for 12 months or longer. You wouldn’t be alone if you weren’t aware of these changes, which is why it’s so important to conduct regular HR Health Checks to make sure nothing has slipped through the gaps.

Our HR Discussion Groups provide an ideal forum for like-minded HR professionals to speak freely and swap stories in a safe and confidential environment. We are proud and excited by the success of our newly established Western Hub Group and would like to extend our thanks to all who attended for sharing their experiences. Thank you to our presenters Christina and Annabelle from Macpherson Kelley, as well as Liz Cameron, Human Resources Manager Kubota Australia and NZ for opening up the Kubota boardroom to accommodate our group. A special shout out to Candice Lewis, our Temporary & Contract Talent team Manager at the Interchange Bench, for helping us out on the day.

We hope you saw the value in our vision to create an extended network for HR professionals. If you would you like to join our group and receive more information about future events, please contact me via the details below.

How do professionals in your industry network?

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Posted in Business Support, The world @work

Our time in the sun: Dynamic infrastructure development

Last week Slade Group hosted Mark Bartoli – Founding Director, ATEC Solutions along with other Civil Infrastructure Construction & Engineering Leaders for a boardroom lunch.  Up for discussion were the next wave of mega projects, renewables and energy security, skill shortages and innovation.  There was great conversation and perspectives around the table with leaders from rail, road, water and energy, all contributing.

We started with the Treasury’s budget allocation; 84% of it on an “Infrastructure Blitz”, with only six percent and seven percent allocated to Healthcare and Education respectively. 

  • Has the government weighted that correctly?  
  • Is enough of this investment being spent on regional development to encourage a decentralised CBD approach?  
  • The $100 billion to be invested in Australia’s infrastructure over the next 10 years is excellent news for Construction and Engineering sector, HOWEVER,
  • Wage growth and consumer spending have confoundingly continued to stagnate. 

The conversation moved on to Renewable Energy.  Consensus is that this should be championed by Australia, as our vast land mass relative to population size provides the opportunity to make excess energy to sell to foreign countries.  With 21% of electricity being generated by renewables last year in Australia, there were questions including:

  • Has there been a big enough shift in general sentiment towards renewable energy?
  • Should Australia be looking to create huge off-shore wind farms? 

One problem with wind and solar is that the power system in Victoria was not designed for non-synchronous generation.  In layman’s terms, as the power produced by wind and solar is irregular, this can weaken the strength of the local area and have knock-on effects for the whole power system.  One way of stabilising this is through Pumped Hydro and with work commenced on Snowy 2.0, and the Australian government identifying other areas for Hydro Generators, it looks as though this sector will show strong growth over the coming years.

A huge topic of conversation for anyone in the infrastructure sector at the moment is skill shortages.  With massive infrastructure projects in play across Australia means we simply don’t have enough engineers for all the projects.  Questions raised:

  • Can Australia attract engineers from overseas?
  • Are there enough visas for overseas engineers to move here?
  • How can we assist them in adapting to new cultures and working environments? 
  • Should the governments, both federal and state, take more responsibility for forward planning of these infrastructure investments to avoid the current skills shortages being experienced?

Many are seeing an increase in a contingent workforce, but the drive is actually from Generation X’ers, who can now contract themselves out to various companies not only bringing financial reward but allowing them to work on a multitude of projects without being tied down to a single employer.

The overarching theme throughout all the different topics was policy.  Too much policy seems either outdated, absent or having limited meaning, resulting in hindered investment in innovation and talented engineers becoming frustrated with unreasonable constraints.  Policy needs to be changed to encourage the current and next generation of engineers to improve quality of life, enhance the efficiency of infrastructure and create new industries.

If you’d like to hear more, please give me a call or, continue the conversation by posting a comment on this blog or feel free to send through a question for me to refer on to Mark Bartoli.

If you would like to be a facilitator at one of our Slade Group quarterly boardroom lunches please contact me directly, details below.

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