The Tasmanian government defines advanced manufacturing as:
“Those manufacturing businesses that utilise continuous improvement, enhanced skills, new technologies, and design and systems integration in order to drive innovation and growth throughout the value chain. Advanced manufacturers ensure that customers receive the best quality, cost and delivery (QCD) in products and services. Small to medium advanced manufacturers aim to deliver high value, niche and customised premium products and services in low to medium volume supply chains.”
Competing in the global marketplace
Australian manufacturers have been pursuing a transition to advanced manufacturing in order to remain competitive in the global market. Tasmanian manufacturers have experienced the downturn in manufacturing earlier and with greater impact than their mainland counterparts and, with the support of the Tasmanian Department of State Growth, are responding quickly and effectively to the challenge.
Historically, manufacturing in Australia has focused on cost-based, low volume, low technology products and processes. This was largely due to a small domestic market, limited import of competitor product, and an economy based largely upon the export of commodity products, such as wool and wheat. As developing countries became more industrialised and the global market opened up, Australian companies have had to specialise in high quality, niche market products and technologies, or create new products and processes through research and innovation, to remain viable.
Workforce development for increased competitiveness
Specialisation and innovation-based manufacturing require a skilled and motivated workforce. Continuous (and continual) improvement and development of new systems, products and processes cannot be achieved at the level required to compete in the global market without highly engaged and competent employees.
The workforce capabilities required are not limited to the technical and operational aspects of an individual’s job but also encompass ‘soft’ skills such as communication, teamwork, leadership and problem solving. The action learning process provides opportunities for employees to practice or develop these skills in a structured program, while enacting change within the organisation to increase its competitiveness.