It is easy to be pessimistic about the future of Australian manufacturing.

The popular opinion is that Australian manufacturing is an industry whose time has passed; no more bailouts and handouts at the expense of the taxpayer. So, is Australia facing a losing battle?

No – but we better realise soon that we are caught up in a revolution, a new Industrial Revolution. This calls for bold changes, not tinkering at the edges by just cutting costs or making small improvements to products and processes.

Australian manufacturers must ride this wave of change by action on two fronts:

  • reinventing and expanding the industries that their business serves, and
  •  deepening the connections to better anticipate and meet the needs of current and future customers.

Government support for manufacturers should be directed to these two transformative changes, not just propping up outmoded business models.

The South Australian Government’s Manufacturing Works strategy shows this approach in action. It includes initiatives like industry and technology roadmaps to help manufacturers match their abilities to identified opportunities in industries with greater growth prospects. It also partners with industry in offering intensive workshops to manufacturing executives and managers on various options for high-performance manufacturing, eg through design, business model innovation, combining services with products.

The future of Australian manufacturing depends on smart manufacturers staring down fierce and growing global competition by relentlessly seeking and securing new high growth business niches suited to their capabilities, and by providing exceptional service and value for money in the eyes of customers.

This is the pathway that will allow Australian manufacturers to take advantage of this new Industrial Revolution.

Manufacturing Works: A strategy for driving high-value manufacturing in South Australia, DMITRE, October 2012