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Manufacturing must reinvent itself, add value: TAFE NSW

By: Peter Field
26 May, 2011

Despite a tough decade, manufacturing in Australia still has a promising future if it focuses on getting closer to the customer and improving the value proposition, says Kathy Rankin of TAFE NSW.

Manufacturing has a future in Australia but only if it reinvents itself, Kathy Rankin, General Manager of Training and Education Support, TAFE NSW, has claimed.

"Every company must change and become a ‘value machine’ by improving customer responsiveness," she said.

"This can be done by making the most of every asset, including the staff, that can add value to the end product."

Rankin explained that vocational training is an important factor in reinvention because it leads to employee added value by allowing them to directly support a company’s continuous improvement programme.

Speaking at the recent Western Sydney Manufacturing Leaders Forum, held at the Sydney Olympic Centre, Rankin noted that while the last decade had been particularly tough for manufacturing, it was still a major employer.

"But significant employee numbers alone are no guarantee that the industry has a long term future," she told the audience of manufacturing executives.

Rankin cited numbers from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which stated 1,014,080 people were employed in manufacturing in June 2006 (the last time the once-every-five-years census was conducted). Of that total, around 294,000 worked in NSW. 

Rankin conceded that the next census, due to be conducted this year, would likely show a further reduction in manufacturing employee numbers due to the high Australian dollar dampening exports, and relatively high interest rates subduing indigenous consumer demand.

Nonetheless, she claimed, the future needn’t be bleak.

"Advances in the information economy, the introduction of advanced production techniques, skilled immigrants and a programme of continuous improvement will help the industry survive then thrive," Rankin explained.

"But the critical element is management; it must be innovative and skilled in the use of technology."

Rankin closed by claiming that her own organisation, TAFE NSW, was already a "value machine".

"We are playing a critical role in revitalising the industry by getting to know our customers’ businesses and then offering customised training," she said.

"‘One-size-fits-all’ no longer works so we are developing sustainable and productive relationships by partnering with our clients.

"But our biggest challenge is ensuring that young people stick with the training course until the end."

The Western Sydney Manufacturing Leaders Forum is an event that supports National Manufacturing Week (NMW). NMW will take place in Melbourne at the end of May and is organised by Reed Exhibitions.

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