Officially launched on July 1, the Manufacturing & Engineering Institute of Australia aims to be a bridge between established, larger industry associations and small metal manufacturers.
Attention has been given here and elsewhere to numerous groups set up to aid with the challenges facing Australia’s manufacturers. 2013
alone has seen the establishment of groups like META, Manufacturing Industry Innovation CRC and the Australian Advanced Manufacturing Council.
However, a gap in the market exists as far as small metal forming manufacturers, according to David Armston, who has a broad-ranging background as a consultant and an executive of companies including OneSteel and BHP, and working with various Associations and Institutes in construction and manufacturing.
“They’re all basically focussed on the big companies, which is fine, because they’ve got clout and knowledge,” he told Manufacturers’
Monthly of some of the established industry bodies.
“And we want to work with them.
“The fact is the funnel up and down and the transfer of knowledge and process improvement is really important, so we’re basically saying - the people
that came to me were a steering committee of metal manufacturers and they said ‘we need a national organisation that can funnel information up to the big lobbyists that can actually provide a network for them, for the industry’, and also provide a forum for the small and medium sized metal forming manufacturers to improve their business operations and technologies.”
Armston, the Secretary of the newly-formed Manufacturing & Engineering Institute of Australia, is specifically interested in “How to Survive and
Prosper”, with processes covered including stamping, fabricating, tool and die, and laser cutting, and trades ranging from machining to fitting to profile cutting. (For more – and there’s much more included – click here.)
Associate members include suppliers to the industry, as well as training and safety bodies, universities and research organisations.
The organisation is focussing on NSW at the moment, and will hold its first public event on August 29 at Miller TAFE in south-western Sydney.
“It’s a national organisation,” explained Armston. “We have the NSW segment set up now. We’ll be having an open forum in Victoria by the end of September and be starting the Victorian end of this.
“We’ve said next year is when we’ll be doing the Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth segments. Because, the reality is when you look at manufacturing employment, it’s ⅓ NSW, ⅓ Victoria and ⅓ in the rest... You can only do so much so fast.”
The August 29th event will be the first of what are planned to be quarterly, day-long events by MEIA. It incorporates a regional World Skills competition for apprentices and a manufacturing and engineering suppliers EXPO and Seminars.
“People will be encouraged to bring not only themselves but their boss and their key people. So that’s the model and it’s worked well in a lot of industry associations and institutes I’ve worked with. There are good models and ways to do this,” said Armston.
“We’ve got to provide value, we’ve got to provide forums, we’ve got to provide knowledge and information - so they get knowledge transfer, business improvement, basically, and they also get an industry social life. If they’re interested in the first two, the third comes automatically.”
Investing part of a day is worth doing, especially for little companies with five to 30 people, Armston said, with an opportunity to learn more about where the industry’s heading and what its successful members are doing.
So what are the businesses surviving and prospering in the industry doing, and what can be learned from them?
On the whole, Armston has noticed that the trend is towards being smaller and more responsive and flexible. Smartness and leanness are not new, and neither is spending on skills and equipment to drive a company’s productivity.
“They’re still investing to keep their unit costs competitive,” said Armston.
“It’s really hard. Life’s tough and prices are low, but you still have to try and differentiate, and add value to maintain your market share and make enough profit to reinvest.”
For more, visit meia.org.au
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