Reflections on the AMTIL Conference 2018

There are times today when one feels that Australian Manufacturing does not get the support it needs, so it was good as a Vernier Society member to attend Australia’s leading Manufacturing organisation, AMTIL, at their National Conference held on the 22nd of August in Hawthorn.

From my experience, there are two main ingredients to a successful conference; the first is organisation and Kim Banks and her team at AMTIL certainly delivered with a professional and well managed event.  The second is to produce a set of speakers who maintain both the theme and the enthusiasm throughout the event and again after a slow start, AMTIL delivered, with an exceptional afternoon program.

The role of the keynote speaker is a daunting task at the best of times and Michael Grogan of AMGC (Australian Manufacturing Growth Centre) task was not eased when he was asked at the last minute to fill in for his sick boss.  The conference theme was ‘Resilience’ and Michael outlined the 3 major messages of AMGC’s recent report on ‘Resilience; ‘Superiority – Diversity – Flexibility’.  AMGC’s message of what companies need to do was clear (and well spelled out in their full report) but I am always left with a feeling that organisations like AMGC do not go far enough in assisting the delivery of the ‘how’.   Victorian manufacturing seems to be focused on the ‘S’ in SME’s (it would be interesting to know AMTIL’s member profile in this regard) with owners more comfortable on the shop floor than in the board room; while the appointees to these government sponsored organisations seem to have the reverse comfort.

Another element of a successful conference recipe is that one can take away from each speaker a lasting taste, a little nugget of knowledge or even a new technique that one can use or repeat in their business and so here are my message picks from some of the other speakers.

Rick Shalders of IDU Raytheon outlined the opportunities for Australian companies in the American and global defence market.  It is a very tough but lucrative market to crack and Rick showed one chart of the differences in competitive and acceptance entry levels between companies that compete on niche technologies and companies that want to compete on what he called “Build to Print”.  Both routes require exhaustive processes to success but the ‘BP’ route is much more competitive and requires very high standards of continuous improvement.

Gary Birtwistle is a motivational speaker who left the audience with a vast number of messages about dreaming, thinking and delivering future success.  One phrase that stuck was “will it make the boat go faster”.  Whatever ideas one has, this question should be asked – will it really improve what we are trying to do?  The other thing he highlighted were the many motivational books and authors worth reading but one is “Legacy” – the story of the All Blacks success by James Kerr.  I can also recommend this fabulous book about the culture and spirit of the All Blacks and very pertinent to both their recent retention of the Bledisloe Cup but also one of their key characteristics is ‘humility’, something that the recent appalling, political intrigues showed was clearly missing.

Claire Madden is an author and social researcher who shared her insights on Generation Z (born after 1999) and how they appear to think and act so different to other generations and especially mine (baby boomer).  It was a well-researched and insightful presentation highlighting issues such as use of technology and new language, attention spans and career ambitions but to myself and other colleagues it created a disturbing picture of how this generation will integrate into today’s business practices.  Which will have to change and how will compromise be reached?

The final speaker was a remarkable woman.  Deanna Blegg is a world class athlete who has overcome HIV and cancer to still compete in endurance competitions that most people would never even contemplate.  There were no messages to be taken away – only astonishment and admiration!

It was a successful conference offering strong networking around breaks enjoyed by the 150 plus attendees who took the day out to attend.  It is though a disappointing fact that many of the people in Victoria’s manufacturing community seem to be so entrenched in their businesses today that attendances at such events (including Vernier) is diminishing.  Too many business people (and others) seem to feel the need to be in constant touch ‘in’ the business that they do not appreciate the value of attending such external events.  The conference message was resilience but it was also about just taking time out to think insightfully ‘on’ the future business.

Where have all the engineers gone??

The rise of the bureaucrats was as deliberate as it is disastrous

By Philip Breen

When the Chifley Government, in 1948, decided to implement a scheme to harness the waters of the Snowy Mountains and direct them into turbines to generate electricity, they first set up an authority to design and implement the scheme. They did not appoint a high-flying CEO to lead this venture as would happen today. They sought applicants for the position of Chairman and apparently when the responsible minister, Nelson Lemmon, reported to cabinet concerning a short list of  three, he sent a note to the PM that read, ‘Hudson, Hudson, Hudson’.

And so, New Zealand-born William Hudson, then an employee at Sydney Water Board, became the first Chairman of the Snowy Mountains Hydro Electric Authority, a position he was to hold until near completion of the scheme below budget and on time. He first assembled an engineering design team to create an overall concept, engineers for the detailed designs, engineers to direct the construction and lastly a workforce sometimes numbering over 7,000. He was a Civil Engineer with vision who was able to lead and inspire those who worked under him. The rest is history. Today a Snowy Chairman and CEO are managerial, needing no engineering design or construction experience. A William Hudson Chairman and his Civil Engineer CEO would not have been waiting for the PM to call them about Snowy 2.0. If that scheme does stack up, such an Authority run by engineers would have already investigated and optimised it and put it to the politicians long before now.

In an earlier period, John Bradfield, born in bayside Sandgate, Brisbane, educated at the State Primary and then the Grammar School in Ipswich, went on to study for a Bachelor of Engineering degree at the University of Sydney. Graduating in 1889, his name was to become synonymous with the arguments for and the promotion of various designs for a bridge over Sydney Harbour and the associated roads and suburban electric railways. His plans were described by Sir John Monash as ‘works of exceptional magnitude’. NSW Premier Jack Lang wrote: ‘Bradfield was always thinking of the future, probably the first man to plan for Sydney as a city of two million people’. He lived before the rise of government and corporate bureaucracies that today shut out the innovative and creative, to secure their own positions, in a tiered managerial structure with infinite possibilities for expansion. There is no scope now for the rise of the visionary.

The process of rooting out engineers and forward thinkers from positions of influence, particularly in government bureaucracies at all levels of government, has been gradual but insidious. It did not happen by accident but by design. The forward-thinking, forward-planning, innovative mind is likely to be noticed by superiors, especially by those in a position to have their leadership challenged and they are therefore a threat. Best to sideline and silence  people like that. That has been the task of a born-to-rule, self-serving managerial class for a long time. They are the graduates in arts, law, government, economics, history, philosophy, the social sciences and the like. This is not to downplay the worth of these callings, but as a class they see themselves as an intellectual elite born to reign supreme in the bureaucracies. They are dismissive of the creative and inquiring minds that constitute the derisively-labelled STEM callings whom they have subdued and lord over to effectively silence them. STEMs are banished into small groups handy to be consulted by superiors in an emergency, as one would the plumber for a leaking tap.  Well, you may say ‘this is too much, this fellow is completely over the top’. Not so, let me illustrate, with the tragic case of the rapid dismantling of the superbly efficient Queensland Public Service.

Queensland only became a self-governing colony in 1857, yet its governments led the nation in many spheres. Public servants’ super was fully funded from the start. Debt-free public hospitals provided free means-tested care long before Medicare. From its earliest days Queensland put engineers in charge of a majority of state departments in a lean and efficient public service nurtured by Labor, from 1915 to 1957 (apart for 3 years) and passed on to the National/Liberals who left it unchanged in governance till 1987.

That year Wayne Goss became Premier allowing Kevin Rudd BA and his friend Peter Coaldrake BA, lecturer at QIT, both political ex-staffers, to set about dismantling the public service. That service built up caringly over more than 100 years had just seen Queensland, the only state to come through the 1987 stock market crash with flying colours. Till then engineers occupied the leadership roles in all the infrastructure departments, including Coordinator-General of Public Works, Main Roads, Railways, Irrigation and Water Supply, Electric Power, Mines, Harbours and Marine and Local Government engineering. Soon they were all gone, replaced by federal look-alike and greatly expanded departments, said by Coaldrake to be a required cultural (wow!) reform, but judged by astute observers to be a text book driven frolic. Goss in retirement apologised for this wanton vandalism. The new managerial class, now entrenched, knows nothing of the skills required for pre-planning within government to achieve efficient infrastructure, delivered at economic cost or of planning for operation, maintenance and future upgrading. Everything is ad hoc. The results have been disastrous. I rest my case.

Now governments’ work goes to Australian engineering consultancies, admittedly offering services of the highest order of skill and competence, but they do not provide long-term planning which is the job of government. Margaret Thatcher visiting Japan to witness their economic miracle post-war, noted that engineers were in charge at all levels of government and industry. No doubt that is largely true of powerhouses like Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and China today. Those who like to categorise engineers as unlettered nerds, unsuited to lead a bureaucracy, might dwell on the words of René Descartes, the 17th century philosopher: ‘Mathematics is a more powerful instrument of knowledge than any other bequeathed to us by human agency.’

Australia’s current malaise (especially the energy fiasco) could be remedied if we had leaders of the class of Ben Chifley and his minister Nelson Lemmon, in the Commonwealth and the states, to seek applicants to transform the public services into far-sighted and constructive organisations. They would wisely choose engineers experienced in design and construction to do that job.

Read the original article :

https://www.spectator.co.uk/2018/07/where-have-all-the-engineers-gone/

 

Verner in the AMTIL magazine

The Victorian Vernier Society is showcased in the latest magazine

Click here or on the image to read the article

 

Newest Member Company : Exquisine

Exquisine is the latest company to join the Vernier Society

The Vernier Society is pleased that Exquisine  have joined the Society as “Silver Members”.

Exquisine produces premium quality dairy desserts for restaurants, supermarkets and retailers throughout Australia and for export. Managing Director David Rose is interested in broadening his knowledge of other industries and the challenges they face. Through contact with members of Vernier he hopes to be exposed to different ways of thinking and problem solving. He welcomes the opportunity to spend more time working ‘on’ the business rather than ‘in’ the business and sees great benefit for Exquisine in the monthly speaker program and the opportunity to create new networks within different areas of manufacturing.

Read more about Exquisine on their website www.exquisine.com.au .

May’s Briefing

Our presentation from the May meeting. Click on the image to open up the PDF of the talk.

Grattan Report – Budget Policy and Institutional Reform

Protest politics is on the rise in Australia, and the main cause is collapsing trust in politicians and the major parties, according to Grattan Institute’s latest report, A crisis of trust: The rise of protest politics in Australia. At the 2016 federal election, votes for minor parties hit their highest level since 1949. More than one-in-four Australians voted for someone other than the LNP, ALP or Greens in the Senate, and more than one-in-eight did likewise in the House of Representatives.

If the major parties and politicians want to rebuild trust with voters, they’ll need to change the way they do politics, explain Budget Policy and Institutional Reform Program Director Danielle Wood and Associate Carmela Chivers in this podcast discussion.

It will be a slow process, write Danielle Wood, Carmela Chivers and Grattan CEO John Daley in The Conversation. Reforming political donation laws and tightening regulation of lobbying and political entitlements could help reduce the incidence of trust-sapping scandals and reassure the public that the system is working for them. Politicians should also seek to dampen rather than inflame cultural differences, by stressing the common ground between city and country and between communities with different backgrounds.

Federal Labor has announced it will abolish cash refunds when investors, such as retirees, who pay little or no tax get dividends from companies that have paid company tax. It’s not first-best comprehensive tax reform, write Danielle Wood, John Daley and Grattan Fellow Brendan Coates in The Conversation. But in the absence of that holy grail, it is a piecemeal move towards a more equitable tax system that collects enough revenue given current spending commitments.

Scott Morrison says the policy will mainly hurt low-income earners. He says that 54 per cent of people affected by Labor’s policy have taxable incomes of less than $18,200, and that 86 per cent of the value of all franking credits refunded are received by those with taxable incomes of less than $87,000 a year. But these claims are deeply misleading, write Danielle Wood and Brendan Coates in Inside Story, because taxable income ignores the largest source of income for many wealthier retirees: tax-free superannuation.

The reporting of the Labor policy and earlier policy debates around negative gearing shows how easy it is to mislead Australians about who loses from tax changes. The full range of tricks used by vested interests and political combatants to scare and confuse was on display, write Danielle Wood and Brendan Coates in The Canberra Times.

 

 

Read the Full article here

Grattan Report – Housing Affordability

Re-imagining the Australian Dream

Building an extra 50,000 homes a year for a decade could leave Australian house prices 5 to 20 per cent lower than they would be otherwise, and stem rising public anxiety about housing affordability, according to a new Grattan Institute report, Housing affordability: re-imagining the Australian dream.

Within living memory, Australia was a place where housing costs were manageable, and people of all ages and incomes had a reasonable chance to own a home with good access to jobs. But home ownership rates are falling among all Australians younger than 65, especially those with lower incomes. Owning a home increasingly depends on who your parents are, a big change from 35 years ago when home ownership rates were high for all levels of income. Those on low incomes – increasingly renters – are spending more of their income on housing.

It’s been a perfect storm of rising incomes and falling interest rates, rapid migration, tax and welfare settings feeding demand, and planning rules restricting supply. As a result, house prices have more than doubled in real terms over the past 20 years. The strains are most acute in Sydney and Melbourne. Since 2012, house prices have risen 50 per cent in Melbourne, and 70 per cent in Sydney.

Development in middle suburbs has increased in recent years, especially in Sydney. But today’s record level of housing construction is the bare minimum needed to meet record levels of population growth driven by rapid migration. Meanwhile a decade of accumulated shortages are forcing younger people to set up their own homes later in life.

To build more homes, State governments should fix planning rules to allow more homes to be built in inner and middle-ring suburbs of our largest cities. More small-scale urban infill projects should be allowed without council planning approval.

State governments should also allow denser development ‘as of right’ along key transport corridors. They should swap stamp duties for general property taxes. And state land taxes on investment property should be flat rate with no tax-free threshold, to encourage more institutional investors likely to provide longer-term tenancies.

The Commonwealth government can improve housing affordability somewhat – and immediately – by reducing demand. It should reduce the capital gains tax discount to 25 per cent; abolish negative gearing; and include owner-occupied housing in the Age Pension assets test. And unless the states are prepared to reform their planning systems, the Commonwealth should consider tapping the brakes on Australia’s migrant intake.

It took neglectful governments two decades to create the current housing affordability mess. They preferred the easy choices that merely appear to address the problem. The politics of reform are fraught because most voters own a home or an investment property, and mistrust any change that might dent the price of their assets. But if governments keep pretending there are easy answers, housing affordability will just get worse. Older people will not be able to downsize in the suburb where they live, and our children won’t be able to buy their own home.

Read the full report here

Barker Trailers latest company to join the Vernier Society

The Vernier Society are pleased that Barker Trailers have joined the Society as “Gold Members”.

Barker Trailers Logo

Another long established Melbourne family firm with Acting MD Scott Barker, sees the benefit of the Society for networking, a great monthly speaker program and the opportunity to spend more time working ‘on’ the business, rather than ‘in’ the business and sharing collaborative knowledge with other members and friends of Vernier.

Read more about Barker Trailers here

barkertrailerspic

November 2015 Newsletter

That was the month that was….

News both local and international that you have missed

  • China and Australia’s Manufacturing figures
  • Digital Workforce in Australia
  • Put more women on boards
  • No economies of scale for cars or defence equipment
  • ABB has launched its YuMi collaborative robot in Australia
  • Shambolic Training has to go
  • USA Study – Companies drive wage inequality
  • Luxury car maker Ferrari valued at $13.5bnAus in US float
  • Electric car maker Tesla posts loss
  • Banking – Credit Suisse to cut 2000 jobs
  • Kraft Heinz to axe 2600 in rationalisation
  • Science – the brightest light in the universe

Read All About November’s News Here

September 2015 Newsletter

That was the month that was….

News both local and international that you have missed

  • Toyota looks to bring artificial intelligence to driverless cars
  • Reports confirm Vernier’s 2014 findings
  • Global Innovation Index for 2014
  • Wastech adds Tieman Tail Lifts to acquisition
  • Ronson’s new machine gives greater capability for global aerospace
  • New organisation to help car component makers
  • 99 Melbourne shipbuilding workers lose their jobs
  • Technical skills not enough
  • Import duties hold back high-tech companies
  • Boral sues CFMEU over black ban
  • Small business confidence on the rise
  • Appen at forefront of machine intelligence
  • VC’s aim for the stars with ‘Frontier Tech’

Read All About September’s News Here

The AME and Professor Samson identify innovation as the “Ultimate competitive Advantage”

The Vernier Society was represented last night at a dinner hosted by the ‘Association of Manufacturing Excellence (AME) Australia’; an organisation, albeit somewhat larger, with the same passion for the sustained future of Australian manufacturing as the Vernier Society.

ame

The excellent evening was held in Port Melbourne where the guest speaker was Professor Danny Samson of Melbourne University who gave an insightful speech into his current research on Innovation across Australia.  Professor Samson’s (“just call me Danny”) research has covered 2000 companies who completed a 150 question survey to determine how the companies approach innovation; not just in the traditional product development function but across the whole organisation.  Danny and his team are now analysing the mass of data collected and he gave the AME a snap shot of the first results, demonstrating that when innovation is successfully applied across the whole organisation, it can result in up to 30% improvement in bottom line performance.

Danny’s work identified a matrix of 9 areas of performance that benefit from a more innovative approach:

dannysamson

  • Strategy and Leadership
  • Human Resources and Training
  • Culture and Communications
  • Customer focus
  • Embracing risk and change
  • Sustainability focus
  • Management of innovation and processes
  • Knowledge and Technology (IP)
  • Operations and Partnerships

By analysing the data into the top 25% of companies who lead in innovation against the bottom 25% of respondents who lag in innovation, Danny articulated to the audience through a series of graphs how this volume of data can be mined to identify gems of learning that justify the shibboleth of “Innovation as the Ultimate Competitive Advantage”.  The presentation and the Q&A session that followed clearly demonstrated that there is a lot to be understood and learned from Danny’s work and so it was not surprising that most of the guests left their business cards to get a copy of the initial report, which is sure to be a tempter to a whole series of learning reports.

The evening was concluded with an informal networking session and left the guests appreciating the work of the Victorian Chapter of the AME in setting up this fine evening at the equally fine Mardos Restaurant, but most importantly the need to continue the fight for manufacturing leadership in this country and the important role that the AME, the Vernier Society and Innovation must play in this mission.

Engineering & Manufacturing Influence News – Issue 14 August 2013

 

vernier-logo-taglineEditorial

Thank Goodness it is over with; no more of those tedious and destructive adverts for political parties in a campaign that must be looked back upon in time as the lowest point in Australian politics. Read more