Shay Chalmers takes a look at community perceptions of manufacturing. Often seen as dirty and unattractive, Shay believes the sector’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic is changing the face of manufacturing – and offering a way forward for Australian Made.
The challenge is real.
Manufacturing tends to conjure up some unfortunate mental images for people, but together though, we can change this.
Manufacturing is seen as difficult dirty manual labour; tedious outdated inhuman processes, insecure in its future, and that it is not a well-paid career.
These misconceptions impact our ability to grow and develop as we are struggling to attract talent into manufacturing.
The frustrating thing about these perceptions are that these are all categorically – untrue. This version of manufacturing is in our past. These generalisations discredit the reality of the industry of today.
It does not adequately describe the new age of high tech manufacturing.
Modern manufacturing consists mostly of highly-skilled jobs that are at the heart of our future economies, and these will underpin some of the most creative and inspirational innovations of the future.
A huge gap exists between how manufacturing is perceived, and what it actually has to offer for those looking to make a mark on the world.
Changing these misconceptions
The challenge that I have seen with the ‘manufacturing brand’ and managing misconceptions, is that the onus is put on the industry itself to actively change those perceptions.
That’s really hard to do, though, in an industry with tight margins that are focused primarily on one of two things – getting orders in the door and getting manufactured products out the door!
Unlike big tech, which is dominated by a handful of giants that can afford to try and fail at anything, manufacturing is highly competitive across a broad landscape of players, most of which are small to medium enterprises.
The majority of these lack sufficient resources to tackle the problem of public relations at a significant scale. Marketing dollars – increasingly scarce in manufacturing – are almost exclusively directed toward attracting customers rather than talent. This tends to compound this issue.
The positive side of this though, is that I think the perception of this is changing here in Australia.
The industry’s response to manufacturing to support the country through the pandemic has really helped this.
As a nation, we watched our manufacturing community band together to produce critical medical supplies. They pivoted at lightning speed and supported the nation. It has been phenomenal to watch the general public’s support of Australian Made products over the past 12 months.
The growth that has resulted in many of our manufacturing sectors from community support makes me optimistic that people are starting to see manufacturing, for what it is.
It is a supportive, innovative, agile sector that is here to support the Australian community in our time of need. This is really exciting.
In Australia, we have a globally competitive, globally recognised brand – Australian Made is recognised as a high quality, trusted product.
This is something I believe we need to leverage and presents a strong value proposition for us as an export nation. We are such a small market internally, we really need to be outwardly orientated as a manufacturing industry.
Shay Chalmers is owner of Strategic Engineering Australia, a company that works with organisations to help achieve their strategic goals through strategic planning and development services, process re-engineering and project and program management.
Picture: Shay Chalmers
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