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How Grey Innovation is helping all of us to breathe easier during COVID-19

When the coronavirus pandemic hit our shores, federal and state governments in Australia were being bombarded with offers of help from industry, all well-meaning. Everyone from significant corporate entities to the enthusiastic amateur who could turn their business to assist the health crisis response, which has seen everything from distilleries producing hand sanitiser to community groups sewing face masks.

Dr Peter Meikle, a mechanical engineer and CEO of Grey Innovation, coordinates a group of Australian businesses that has quickly formed under his organisation’s leadership to produce ventilators in record time. “We approached the ventilator problem informed by our panel of clinicians and knew collaboration would be the key to success,” Dr Meikle says. “Our business model is based on the strategic commercialisation of technologies in areas including environmental, homeland security and medical devices. This is familiar territory for us, but not in such a compressed time frame.”

The consortium, seeded with $500,000 from the Victorian Government, matching funds from the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre, and subsequently founded to the tune of $31.1 million from the Australian Federal Government, includes businesses such as Bosch, ANCA, Braemac, Hosico, Marand, Knee 360 and many more. Branded as NOTUS Vivere (Notus, after the Greek God of Southern Wind and vivere, meaning ‘to live’), its goal is to produce up to 4000 emergency invasive ventilators, but the real challenge for the consortium is to produce this life-saving device in a compressed timeframe.

Meikle is keen to highlight that engineering has been central to the project’s success. “The importance of adhering to process is something engineers naturally recognise. When you can prove you are doing things that are meaningful and measurable, it means you cut through when you’re making an approach to government, or anybody else,” he says.

Grey Innovation engaged Bill Haggerty from Slade Group to recruit key personnel to resource the federally and Victorian State Government supported NOTUS project. Naomi Buckland, Human Resources, Grey Innovation, recognised the demanding nature of this project meant hiring key staff who would be required to commence work immediately. She says, “Bill was able to quickly translate our resourcing requirements into candidates who had the skills and fit into our culture. He was able to source three exceptional candidates who presented for an interview and were immediately engaged by Grey Innovation.” 

As the COVID-19 lockdown started, Louisa de Vries found herself looking for new career opportunities. When she contacted Bill Haggerty from Slade, he mentioned a role at Grey Innovation on the Emergency Invasive Ventilator Program, which matched her previous experience. Now the Engineering Supply Manager at Grey Innovation, de Vries says she is very much enjoying working for a forward thinking and agile company – one that has used this project to reinvigorate our very capable local manufacturing industry. “I feel very fortunate to be involved in this project, which is a great opportunity to be part of a team delivering a product that is particularly essential at this time.”

Grey Innovation, with the support of its consortium partners, has been able to scale up manufacturing and build a new product within weeks of project launch. That the challenges of tight timing and technical complexity have been met is a credit to the highly talented team, observes Matthew Malatt, Manager Supply Chain Engineering. “It has demonstrated the strong industrial skills that remain in Australia,” he says.  “Beyond meeting the immediate need for ventilators, it is widely anticipated that this project will create impetus for the rejuvenation of a local manufacturing industry. It is a privilege to be part of the team working on the NOTUS Vivere emergency ventilator project, to deliver this life saving technology in support of Australia’s fight against COVID-19.”

What examples of innovation in Australian industry have you seen in the current times?

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Posted in Technical & Operations, The world @work

Why is it even a contest? Roads and Rail vs Tech and Digital.

It makes us feel we’re a nation on the move seeing the worker bees in High Vis vests bringing impressive infrastructure spending to life. Cities and populations are growing and we need improved roads and rail services. Great. But what happens at the end of the line?

Building roads and rail doesn’t, in and of itself, add to our GDP. It creates jobs for now, on the tax payer’s dime, filtered through major construction companies. It’s a centuries old model that makes sense and is understood by the electorate as a necessary and valuable addition to our cities and regional centres.

But all this visible ‘concrete’ activity means we risk a drift into the ‘also-rans’ of world economies if our Federal and State Governments don’t get more critical workforce planning sorted. We’re far from being known as global leaders in technology and digital. Consider the following recent observations:

  • John Durie in The Australian wrote that Israel’s ‘start-up nation’ success is built in part on a model of generous government incentives.
  • What should an accountant say to a successful early stage start-up who asks the question, “Why don’t we move to Singapore, where the tax incentives are very attractive?”
  • At the Rampersand Investor briefing on November 11th, two of the growing tech businesses lamented the lack of government grants and incentives, in spite of the fact that they are the future big employers governments need to realise their ‘jobs jobs jobs’ rhetoric.  
  • In the next three years alone the Robotic Data Automation Services sector is forecast to grow by $2B globally (HFS Research, 2018).  Where is Australia in this growth?
  • Ginnie Rometty, IBM’s CEO says we need to change our approach to hiring, as 100% of jobs will change in the future and AI is coming at us fast.
  • How will Australia attract more global tech players to our shores if our tech and digital talent has to go abroad to build their own stellar careers?

The cry of Jobs jobs jobs has become a hollow call out if we don’t Work work work on being future ready. Industry can’t do it alone, universities can’t do it alone. This requires high level resolve at a government level to create an environment to supercharge the virtual traffic routes of tomorrow. And if that means employer and employee incentives and grants, the short-term costs will be Australia’s gain in the longer term.

Am I the only Jo Public who is alarmed by our collective Federal and State Governments’ lack of vision?

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Posted in Slade Executive, Technical & Operations, The world @work

More than a lucky break: How Maitham and others have achieved a better life through the power of a professional career.

Over the past two years I have had the privilege of pairing with a number of participants in the CareerSeekers program. This is a non-profit organisation supporting Australia’s refugees and migrants fleeing war-torn countries, and support them with language, interview and CV skills to assist them to settle into Melbourne.

Last year I met Maitham Abonassrya, an intern in the CareerSeekers program who completed his undergraduate Engineering degree in Iraq. Through CareerSeekers Maitham secured an internship in January this year, and after three months, was offered a 12-month contract.

Maitham received in-depth support as one of many refugees or asylum seekers who have so much to offer and to contribute back to Australia life through their working career. Some are currently studying at university or are looking to restart their professional career in Australia.

CareerSeekers partners with leading organisations to create paid internships, which provide valuable local experience and networks not readily available to new arrivals, which allow participants to build their careers and to settle faster and better in Australia.

What has always impressed me is how grateful participants are to be in Australia, and the passion they exhibit in wanting to contribute to our country and embrace the opportunity they have been given.

Maitham’s success and others like him are wonderful examples of how CareerSeekers has changed the life of people who have come to Australia seeking a better life.

To hear the stories of other CareerSeekers and to find out more about how you can participate in the program as an employer, go to careerseekers.org.au.

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Posted in Technical & Operations, The world @work

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

The rewards of a good hire are amplified for SMEs

I have a hypothesis: mid-sized and smaller companies (remember, SMEs comprise the majority of Australian businesses) can benefit most from professional recruitment services. While smaller companies have less experience and fewer available internal resources to identify and attract top flight talent, a great senior level hire will generally have a measurable impact on the growth and success of a smaller company. And rather than relying on informal networks, job boards, and other indirect methods, I would argue a senior appointment in an SME is best served by an experienced Executive Search and Selection provider.  

Of course, senior level hires are made less frequently than more junior roles so naturally many companies are ill-prepared when they arise. Internal HR departments (or individuals) may be very good at handling the company’s ongoing recruitment needs, but these internal resources are usually not experienced in managing the recruitment of senior level or one-of-a-kind positions.

Unfortunately, there is a perception in the business community that the executive search process is only relevant for large companies. Most related articles involve the appointments or searches for executives for well-known ASX 200 companies, or of key government departments and authorities, where the emphasis is on the remuneration attached to the role, rather than the level of difficulty involved in placing a suitable candidate.

We know the cost of hiring the wrong person goes well beyond the time and effort involved in recruitment. Negative results, including loss in profit, reduced income, the impact on customer goodwill and company morale, can be a significant blow.

Deciding to engage a consulting firm, then finding the appropriate consultant to partner with, can be similarly overwhelming, so make sure you choose a professional who understands your needs. As an executive specialist in engineering, I am always interested in getting to know as much about the company’s culture, workflow, plans for growth and vision for the future. It’s part of my due diligence before commencing any assignment, and knowing your business before you set out to attract others to work for you is something everyone can afford — whatever your size.

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Posted in Technical & Operations, The world @work

How Technical & Operations professionals in the Property & Construction industry are influencing the Australian economy.

Continuing our series of boardroom luncheon events with influential people in Technical & Operations, Slade Group recently hosted Kate Bailey, Associate Director – Head of Logistics and Retail Research at CBRE.

Focusing the conversation on how the Australian economy will perform in 2019 and beyond, we discussed the impact of e-commerce on the industrial property market, looked at how increasing vacancies and slowing retail sales impact the retail sector, and considered infrastructure challenges in the face of fast delivery.

Kate had some interesting statistics about how our online shopping habits have contributed to land fill. For example, I didn’t know that 30% of all goods sold online are returned, with a staggering 2billion kg in the US going to landfill waste annually. While many retailers no longer build their businesses with bricks and mortar, the space required for warehousing goods bought online is having a significant impact on urban planning. With parcel delivery now their major activity, services like Australia Post have had to completely change their business model. Yet it’s still often cheaper to purchase a book from Amazon, which is shipped from the other side of the world, than to buy the same item from local bookshop. Kate says 30% of customers will pay more just for faster delivery.

Kate highlighted that omni-channel shoppers, those who buy online as well as in physical retail stores, typically spend up to 30% more than traditional shoppers. Sneakerboy in Melbourne is an example of how an innovative business has successfully integrated the concept of omni-channel retail. Its Flinders Lane store has 96% floor space for maximum storefront efficiency – they only stock a single pair of shoes in each size. Customers try on the shoes then purchase via an iPad in store. The shoes are shipped directly to the customer from Hong Kong.

Convenience is becoming more and more a part of the building design of both commercial and residential buildings. We’re starting to see features like hot food vending machines for time poor (couldn’t-be-bothered-cooking) professionals on the go. Driverless cars, soon to be a reality, are further evidence of convenience led product development, but what will happen to the existing infrastructure?

We had a great chat around the table, with everyone from retail, construction, land development, engineering, architecture, interior design and those of us involved in the recruitment of these industry professionals, contributing to the discussion.

Continue the conversation by posting a comment on this blog or feel free to send through a question for me to refer on to Kate. If you would like to be a facilitator at one of our quarterly boardroom lunches please contact me directly, details below.

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Posted in Technical & Operations, The world @work

6 savvy Employee Retention strategies

The world of construction and engineering in Melbourne is booming, which means skilled professionals are in high demand. And in turn, they’re always being tapped on the shoulder by people like me telling them there’s a better opportunity elsewhere. The truth is, there usually is. 

With companies desperate to employ good people, they often over pay and price out the person’s current employer. Other factors play into why people move, but if you were offered a 25%+ pay increase, I’m sure you would find it hard (as I would) not to take it.

I think people entering the workforce now look at employment as a lifestyle rather than a job. It’s not enough to be financially rewarded for their work, they want to learn new skills, make new friends, have fun and experience fulfillment whilst being environmentally sustainable! So that’s what employers have to give them, if they want the person to stay at the company for many years.

So how can employers retain talent?

  1. Obviously remunerating the employee in line with the current market, which usually means a pay increase. Ask yourself what you’d be prepared to pay to replace your best employees and then give that amount to them before they look elsewhere. 
  2. Develop a years of service/rewards program that motivates your workforce to stay on with the company. 
  3. Provide your employees with challenges and make sure they experience different opportunities at work to prevent them seeing their work as ‘just a job’. 
  4. Offer flexible working arrangements. Numerous studies have shown employees are more productive and engaged when able to balance work with other aspects of their lives.
  5. The best thing you could do for the person and your company is to train them. Give them access to different learning courses. Reward them for achieving a new certificate or qualification. Not only will it benefit them personally, but your business will gain from the added knowledge. 
  6. Talk to your employees. Ask them what they want to do, what they want to achieve. Ask them if they’re happy in their current role. And if they’re not, discuss the possibility of a change in role and see if your business can provide a new career pathway.

Your people are your biggest asset (not your clients or your projects), they’ll spend more time working for you than doing anything else.

What’s working for you in your world @work?

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Posted in Technical & Operations, The world @work

Money can’t buy you happiness, but flexible working can.

Flexibility now ranks top amongst what’s important to employees (even more than pay), but what does it mean in practice?

Flexible working arrangements can come in many forms. For some people being flexible will mean compressing a five day week into four days; for others it will just be having a long lunch break to fit in a gym session. For many it is just being trusted to get the job done in the timeframe required, no matter where or when you do so. Trust people to do their job and more often than not, they will repay by putting in greater effort whilst working.

For employers, the tangible benefits of workplace flexibility include: reduction in absenteeism, increase in employee morale, higher engagement, greater commitment and improved retention. In fact over 55% of millennials are expected to stay more than five years when given more flexibility at work [Deloitte Millennials Survey]. However there are downsides to promoting some aspects of flexibility, such as working from home. When people are not present in the office it can impact the social aspect of working face-to-face in a team. Despite our connected business world, working remotely online can lead to disconnection or even loneliness. Roles that require regular open and collaborative communication can also be frustrated by flexible working.  A lot of managers report finding it hard to adapt to managing people who they can’t see, which means we still need to work on addressing those concerns.

On the upside, allowing employees to work flexibly can have a massive impact on people’s health. Stress is well-known to be one of the biggest causes of illness, leading to a number of other physical health related problems. For those of us who never seem to have personal time, flexible working hours reduce the stress caused by other pressures in life, allowing us to adapt our schedules to accommodate commitments such as family, sports activities, other hobbies and interests or just get a few chores done. It further relieves pressure on transport infrastructure, saving commuting time, which has environmental and health benefits for those travelling as well.

A major downside to flexible working is that it doesn’t suit everyone, nor every job. Flexible working doesn’t work for people who can’t motivate themselves; some people need supervision to get on with the job. With flexibility comes responsibility, so while there’s no harm in putting on a load of washing while you work, other distractions (your phone, social media, online shopping, what’s going on outside…) are still present. Some managers are still beholden to presenteeism, so if you’re not seen, you may be overlooked to contribute on interesting projects or miss out on career development opportunities.

I understand that flexible working isn’t for everyone and some jobs just aren’t that flexible. But I do think that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages and more people should be given flexible working opportunities. Would anyone begrudge that spending a few more hours each week with their families and friends, enjoying hobbies, reading, exercising and travelling wouldn’t have a positive impact on their professional life? To varying degrees it’s already happening in some industries. It’s up to us to make it work.

 

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Posted in Technical & Operations, The world @work