Using technology to secure a competitive manufacturing future

One of the icons of manufacturing in South Australia, Frank Seeley, often relates his view on the future direction for manufacturing as ‘innovate and automate’, and more recently adds ‘accelerate the pace of these’.

Technology is a powerful enabler of business innovation and when combined with the right business model(s) has the potential to create and capture new value for existing manufacturers.

A 2013 report from the McKinsey Global Institute, Disruptive technologies: Advances that will transform life, business, and the global economy, identified 12 technologies that could truly disrupt the status quo in coming years. These include mobile internet, automation of knowledge and work, the internet of things, cloud technology, advanced robotics, autonomous vehicles, next-generation genomics, energy storage, 3D printing, advanced materials, advanced oil and gas exploration and recovery, and renewable energy.

The pace of change for these technologies is increasing rapidly and with it the cost is decreasing; therefore the accessibility to medium-sized manufacturing is increasing.

Technologies once the domain of large (often multinational) companies due to the prohibitive cost, are now within the ambit of medium-sized companies. Technology is changing the dynamics of industry competitiveness and is bringing manufacturing back to developed economies such as the United States.

Of course technology that is new to a firm requires investment (in equipment and people) and hence risk, but in the longer term this risk needs to be balanced against the significant benefits of adopting new technology that may grow market share at the same time.

The Department for Manufacturing, Innovation, Trade, Resources and Energy (DMITRE) has a legitimate role to play here to help manufacturers reduce their risk, by looking over the horizon, raising awareness and connecting manufacturers to existing and emerging technologies.

For small and medium-sized companies, DMITRE’s Innovation Voucher Program provides an incentive to collaborate with universities on problem solving related to the application of new technologies. Other programs including the Photonics Catalyst Program, Medical Technologies Program and NanoConnect help manufacturers by raising awareness and understanding of new technologies, providing opportunities to experiment, and encouraging the scale-up, application and commercialisation of new products and services.

The message for companies, particularly small and medium, is to build your awareness, collect information and see how these technologies are being applied elsewhere. Engage in networks and common interest groups, and build scenarios about how and where technology can be applied in your business using a business model that captures the value created by the new technology.

DMITRE is exploring several new initiatives to accelerate the uptake of new manufacturing technologies, including factory visits, overseas study tours, and information and awareness raising forums. Further information on the Manufacturing website.

Len Piro is Group Executive Director, Manufacturing and Innovation, with DMITRE.

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Posted in Advanced Manufacturing

Culture of innovation the secret of Seeley’s success

Frank Seeley AM FAICD is the Executive Chairman and founder of Seeley International

Innovate and automate. These are the two key principles by which we at Seeley International run our business.

In South Australia, our manufacturing industry can achieve anything we want if we just follow these two non-negotiables.

Innovation is the lifeblood of any manufacturing business. As soon as you stop innovating, you die.

I’ve been preaching this for the past few years and it’s why at Seeley International we are innovating like there’s no tomorrow – and will continue to do so.

Automation is of equal importance. There’s a misinformed view within society that automation leads to job cuts – but that’s simply not true. By automating, you can make things quicker, better and more cheaply. If done right, this leads to greater sales and expansion of the business, which in turn creates more and more jobs.

As a global manufacturer, we are competing on the world market and therefore we have got to find ways to remain more competitive by developing products that are either different, better or cheaper.

Our company and our subsequent growth were born out of this approach.

As a former evaporative cooler salesman, in the early 1970s I decided to start manufacturing coolers myself – but to build them better.

The biggest problem with the industry at the time was the issue of corroding metal components, so we decided to build the world’s first all-plastic cooler. People told me it couldn’t be done, but we persisted. In the first year we sold 1,000 coolers. By year 10 we were selling 150,000, and the business has continued to grow since.

The all-plastic air conditioners were responsible for growing the rooftop cooling market in Australia from 12,000 units each year to around 70,000 units a year. The plastic air conditioners became industry standard – and still are today.

Forty years on, we’ve had a lot of evolutions, new plastics, increased strength and integrity, and even better performance and appearance.

We employ a large team of engineers and have developed relationships with leading research and development agencies, including the CSIRO, to ensure our products are continually evolving to stay ahead of the game and deliver that ‘point of difference’ from our competitors.

And we will continue to lead the market from right here in South Australia, because we believe there’s no better place to live and do business than here.

Just remember that innovation is not a destination – it’s an ongoing journey.

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Posted in Advanced Manufacturing

Nominations open for Premier’s mining and energy awards

The Premier’s Community Excellence Awards in Mining and Energy are now open for nominations to recognise resources companies that go the extra mile to deliver social benefits South Australian communities.

Nominations close on Friday 14 March 2014. Guidelines and nomination forms can be found online at

Here we showcase one of last year’s winners, Flinders Logistics:

In an Australian first, South Australian company Flinders Logistics developed an innovative system to address a critical environmental issue – dust.

The services company, working across containerised storage, transport and vessel loading of bulk minerals in Australia, created a two-part system which reduced dust to near zero levels through a ‘pit to port’ transport process that has the potential for world-wide application.

Firstly, bulk minerals are loaded into specially-designed containers at the mine site and remain in the same containers during transportation until loading directly into the ship’s hold. This contrasts with the traditional method which transfers and disturbs the mineral product several times, producing dust which can enter the environment.

The second part of the process occurs when the minerals are loaded on to the ship at the port. Inside the ship’s hold the specially-developed DF-Misting technology creates a fine mist matching the size of the mineral dust particles. This creates a natural barrier across the ship’s hold and prevents dust escaping.

Flinders Logistics was awarded the South Australian Premier’s Award for Excellence in Environmental Management in April last year for its clever approach to the issue and engagement with the community in finding a solution.

Flinders Logistics was praised for its approach to community engagement, emphasising that the company’s technological advancement brings together environmental, economic and social goals for the benefit of the wider community.

Flinders Logistics General Manager Andrew Pellizzari said that while the company’s focus was on providing a highly effective dust management system for its mining customers, being recognised for it was a special honour.

From the project’s outset, community consultation was a critical element to success.

This resulted in extra efforts to minimise dust during ship loading to further reduce the potential impact of dust on local residents and port recreational users.

Container of mineral bulk being loaded onto a ship.

Container of mineral bulk being loaded using tippler. Photo courtesy of Flinders Logistics.

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Posted in Mining

Manufacturing Works magazine tackles the future of SA’s manufacturing industry

The latest edition of DMITRE’s Manufacturing Works magazine is OUT NOW!

Read about the State Government’s response to news of Holden’s closure, find out what the secret to Seeley International’s success is, hear how Precise Advanced Manufacturing Group is using a government grant to diversify its business…. and much more!

You can view the magazine on our website.

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Posted in Advanced Manufacturing

Roadmaps lead to great SA destinations

Geoff Knight, Chief Executive, DMITRE

Toyota’s decision to cease its manufacturing operations in Australia was a body blow to workers and the supply chain – both require assistance in transition.

With Holden’s announcement still ringing in our ears, the combined impact will be felt throughout the state.

Diversification, innovation and up-skilling workers will be critical to our future economy, but we also need to play up to our existing strengths. We need to capitalise on our expertise in resource development, defence, agriculture, advanced manufacturing and medical research.

Last week, I took part in two timely industry forums where we discussed these very issues – a consensus was clear.

While the challenges we face must be tackled front-on by industry and community – government has an important role to play in setting the frameworks for future development and policy setting.

I was pleased to report we are already on this path.

Our Roadmap for Unconventional Gas Projects is a case in point. We were the first state to create a comprehensive plan that highlighted to explorers that we were well-organised and open for business.

We currently have five joint ventures competing to develop unconventional gas including large international companies and downstream players experienced in managing gas sales price risks.

The Roadmap provided a clear outline to the community and explorers where we want to take the petroleum industry – and we are only just beginning to scratch the surface of our state’s oil and gas potential.

Our Mining Industry Participation office has just returned from hosting a supplier tour to Houston, Texas introducing local companies to the unconventional gas market in the USA.

Our aim is to identify ways in which local service providers can take advantage of opportunities presented by the resources sector.

We’ve done a similar thing in the south east where we have been working with VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland on a roadmap to drive the transformation of our forestry industry. This is a significant piece of work based on cellulose fibre to help create new, high-value timber products.

We’ve also been developing an ICT Roadmap for minerals and energy resources to improve productivity and explore how technology can add value in the decades to come. This Roadmap identifies approaches that can significantly decrease costs and improve productivity.

And then there is the state’s manufacturing strategy – Manufacturing Works.

This is not a publication gathering dust; it’s a catalyst for change and a blueprint for transitioning the sector.

Some recent activity has seen local manufacturers tour the Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing at Adelaide University, led by Professor Tanya Monro. This direct industry engagement with our talented research community has resulted in a number of leads on potential project ideas in emerging laser and sensor technologies.

We’ve also been working with industry to create an advanced manufacturing hub at Tonsley; we welcomed Basetec Services, Signostics Limited, ZEN Energy Systems and MAN Diesel and Turbo Australia to the site last week.

The four companies manufacture composite pipe products, medical devices and solar and hybrid energy products and join global giant Siemens, TAFE SA, Flinders University and ICT company, Tier 5 in committing and investing in the project.

So I believe the consensus is correct – when government works in direct partnership with industry and community the opportunities are considerable – no matter how big the challenge.

Find out more about our industry roadmaps.

As published in The Advertiser Business Journal on 18 March 2014.

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Posted in Advanced Manufacturing, Mining

Creating a sustainable future for industry in South Australia

Jürgen Schneider is Head of Corporate Development Siemens One – Pacific Juergen Schneider

I firmly believe that now’s the time for Australian industry to be working together more than ever to take advantage of technology developments, a strong Australian economy, incredible Australian business ingenuity and knowhow and a country blessed with amazing natural assets.

However, the key ingredient needed to bring all of this together is collaboration. I can’t think of a better place than South Australia to be showing leadership in collaboration.

In fact, Siemens signed an MOU with the SA Government to be a development partner of Tonsley because we firmly believe that technology precincts are a great way to bring complementary businesses together.

I’m pleased that we recently cemented our commitment to Tonsley by announcing our new energy maintenance and repair facility which will initially employ around 35 people with hopes to double this as the business grows – including investing more than $5 million in the development – not including Siemens’ equipment at the site.

With a footprint of 2,500 square metres, the facility will be able to overhaul larger equipment for the energy and oil and gas industries that previously would have been sent offshore – providing greater responsiveness for critical local industries.

For me Tonsley is a very practical way to encourage industry collaboration. Although I live in Victoria, I have a very close relationship with and love of South Australia and it’s not just because they have some of the world’s best chocolates and wine. It’s more to do with the way businesses tend to punch above their weight.

If I look at companies such as Coopers, which is the oldest independent brewery in Australia and makes great beers, what really impresses me is that it continually improves its business by investing in technology to give it an edge. It’s a great example of a family business that’s been part of the SA fabric for 150 years.

The question is: “How can other SA businesses learn from the Coopers approach and develop their own sustainable business models?” Technology precincts are one practical way to bring people together to encourage collaborative behaviour and strengthen their own business models and learn from each other.

There’s no doubt that manufacturing in this country is doing it tough at present but I believe Australia can and should be one of the world’s industrial powerhouses.

In Germany where the euro is high and labour rates are similar to those here, manufacturing remains very strong. The right mix of innovation, technology and collaboration between government and industry has ensured the country’s global competitiveness.

Tonsley is designed to create the right mix to help prepare the next generation of South Australian scientists, researchers, designers and manufacturers. I look forward to seeing Tonsley help transform South Australia’s manufacturing sector by building world-class industry capabilities. It’s a great way we can take this experience and this cohesive approach and apply it within Australia.

Australian businesses tend to have a fierce independence which can be an admirable trait. However, we need to temper this with a fierce competitiveness – which can only be achieved on a global scale when we work with other Australian businesses.

People talk about the problems and challenges we face but too few offer their opinions on how to address those challenges or what exactly we should be doing to create a sustainable future for Australian industry.

I see Tonsley as a terrific and very practical example that will lead to improved collaboration opportunities and growth in South Australia.

Birdseye view of Tonsley

Birdseye view of Tonsley

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Posted in Advanced Manufacturing

South Australian community benefits from mining

South Australia is fortunate to have a significant endowment of mineral and energy resources. We have an abundance of copper, gold, iron ore and uranium, and vast resources of oil and gas.

The economic benefits for the state are clear.

What is not always obvious are the other ways that the minerals and energy sectors benefit all South Australians.

Mining companies are dependent on a wide range of associated products and services to run their operations, and their needs present significant business opportunities for local companies.

Products and services include mining equipment, transportation, temporary accommodation, laboratory analysis – just to name a few.

The State Government is working with South Australian businesses to help them take advantage of these opportunities and expand the local mining services sector in South Australia.

Regional towns and businesses are also benefiting from mining. Mining activity brings life to regional areas with historically low or dwindling populations when mine workers and their families live close to the mines.

Mining companies are sourcing many of their requirements locally as well as providing residents long-term employment. Living locally means those working in mining enjoy minimal disruption to family life.

Mining companies realise the central role these communities play in the long-term viability of their operations. These companies actively support local infrastructure development, cultural and recreational activities as well as educational and training facilities to ensure these towns have a thriving community.

When challenges present, mining-related companies have shown great innovation in developing solutions. South Australia has been home to many innovations involving productivity, safety and environmental solutions.

We’ve been talking to South Australians about what they think about the benefits of mining and overwhelmingly people identify job opportunities as one of the key advantages.

Many South Australians can benefit from the job opportunities created by mining, whether directly or through the many businesses that supply goods and services to the resource companies.

Companies operating in South Australia’s resources sector are planning for an additional 35,000 jobs during the next 16 years, based on research carried out by the Resources and Engineering Skills Alliance.
These jobs are in addition to the 15,000 people who are already employed in the resources sector in South Australia.

With increased mining activity in South Australia comes expanded education and training opportunities and an enhanced reputation as a national hub for mining and engineering-related education and skills training.

Our resources sector continues to grow steadily, with several long-term projects in the pipeline for future growth. The State Government is committed to ensuring that jobs stay in South Australia and that economic, community and business benefits all contribute to our state.

The collaboration between the government, resources companies and the community, is set to see the benefits of our mining activity felt right across the state – both now and well into the future.

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Manufacturing Works Year One Scorecard

DMITRE has released a scorecard which shows the Manufacturing Works strategy we introduced one year ago is already having an impact for our local manufacturing companies.

During the past 12 months industry, business, research and education institutions, government, and the people within these sectors, have united to address a challenge, and in unity have created real and lasting change.

Our combined efforts are focused on four strategic pillars which form the building blocks of this strategy.

  1. Enhance the capacity of manufacturers to innovate
  2. Upgrade the leadership, knowledge and skills of the South Australian workforce
  3. Capture future markets and opportunities
  4. Address infrastructure and policy gaps.

See the Manufacturing Works scorecard outlining how we’ve performed against the strategy so far, and the milestones we’ve achieved.

Much has been done – yet there is still much to do. One of the exciting new programs we have launched for year two of the strategy is Grant Assist – a portal which connects South Australian businesses to the range of funding and support services on offer from both the state and federal governments across all industry sectors.

Minister for Manufacturing, Innovation and Trade Tom Kenyon commended the industry sectors and businesses that have recognised the significance of Manufacturing Works by contributing to the development of the strategy and now supporting its implementation.

The achievements to date have been possible only because we have all recognised the necessity of change and we have all been willing to adopt new approaches and work together to design, test and implement change.

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The state’s manufacturing expertise on show in the Mall

We have world-class manufacturing capabilities in this state – from food and wine production and environmental technologies to automotive and mining products and services.

South Australian-made products, from mine detectors to medical lasers and Robern Menz Fruchocs will be showcased in Rundle Mall over the next two days to help promote the state’s manufacturing expertise.

The event will be held under the Gawler Place Canopy from 12pm-9pm today and 10am-5pm tomorrow.

The event gives DMITRE and its partners, Brand South Australia and Food SA, an opportunity to connect with the community about the importance of manufacturing and highlight future jobs and skills required in the sector.

Manufacturing is in more places than people may think – and when you think about it, technology is moving so fast, some future jobs may not exist yet, so the event is an opportunity to talk to experts about what the future may hold.

DMITRE wants to know what you think about manufacturing.  Have your say on what manufacturing means to you by answering some of the questions below.

How important is manufacturing in South Australia to you?

What future do you envisage for the manufacturing industry in South Australia?

What are some of the South Australian-made products you value?

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Realising the benefits of the mining boom for all South Australians magazine

Realising the benefits of the mining boom for all South Australians magazine

DMITRE has just released a new edition of its Realising the benefits of the mining boom for all South Australians magazine.

The magazine contains a great collection of stories uncovering the many and varied ways in which mining in our state can create flow-on benefits.

View the magazine on our website to find out what ice-cream, mountain bikes and aboriginal artefacts have to do with mining.

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