10 Vital Lessons from National Manufacturing Week 18

NMW18 in Sydney featured: CNC machining, 3D printing, discussion forums, water jet cutting, robotics, virtual reality and more. Photos by Challenge Engineering.

As promised, Challenge Engineering visited the NMW18 Conference in Sydney this month. Here are the top 10 lessons we want to share with you.

1. Check Your Cybersecurity

No.1 is cybersecurity. Check and double-check your cybersecurity. Without a secure system your business is at severe risk of hacking and commercial destruction. Someone on the other side of the world can steal your data and wipe your systems in the blink of an eye.

2. Start Investing in Industry 4.0

Start investing in Industry 4.0 technology which allows computers and automation to come together in an entirely new way, with robotics connected remotely to computer systems. Develop an Enterprise Resourcing Planning (ERP) system. There are many options out there and they vary wildly in price so choose the right system for your business. See our blog 5 Benefits of ERP Systems for Manufacturing-Co.

3. Focus on Customer Service

Empower your frontline staff with the tools and knowledge to offer the best customer service ie Field Engineers. Give them information at their fingertips via tablets and smartphones. Organise your internal information systems in a user-friendly way. Make it easy for the frontline to help customers quickly.

4. Improve Manufacturing Processes

There is a lot of talk about additive manufacturing. It is not new technology and currently it is being used for one off prototypes and plastic items. Great for the mining, aerospace and medical equipment industries where there are requirements for one-off parts or tools. Metal 3D printing for volume runs is still not commercially viable; too slow and the quality of the finished product is poor. CNC Machining of parts is still the best method...for now. However, we are always watching developing and disruptive technologies and so should you.

5. Manage the Skills Shortage

To combat the skill shortage so companies are establishing their own in-house industry based training programs to attract and retain skilled staff. Employers are also stepping up their game when it comes to competitive employment terms and conditions. It is a sellers market for talent. A combination of 'grow your own' and hiring externally is the best strategy. The lack of talent will severely curtail the growth of your business.

6. Get SMART

Start investing in SMART machines such as sensors, virtual reality, and simulators. You will need a SMART factory, SMART machines and a niche product to prosper. Soon cyber-physical systems will monitor the physical processes of a factory and make decentralised decisions. The Internet of Things (IoT) will join all devices – from simple sensors, robots, smartphones, ERP, wearable devices – together. Anything with an on/off switch will be connected via the internet. See our blog Time to Smarten Up:The Why and How of Smart Factories.

7. Innovate

Your business must prioritise innovation ie continually improve, discover better ways to manufacture, distribute and manage. You must also choose a niche market and understand customer needs. Go an inch wide but a mile deep. Be the expert; the authority. Then you can grow via exporting which is crucial for survival in countries such as Australia.

8. Undertake Strategic Business Planning

Take stock of where your business is now and create a business plan for the next 5 to 10 years. Then break the first couple of years into 12 month operational plans. What are your priorities? What investments are going to make the biggest difference? When will you purchase new machinery? What will be the trigger to make such capital investments? What is your marketing strategy? How are you going to attract, develop and keep talented people? Review financial figures and forecast budgets and turnover.

9. Measure and Analyse

Measure, collect data, forecast, use predictive analytics to streamline processes and increase efficiencies. Use the Internet of Things to collect data and alert you to issues. Look to automate as much as possible. Report regularly on your most critical KPIs. You can't manage what you don't measure.

10. Experiment with Automation and Robotics

Automation isn’t a new trend, robots have been used on production lines for decades now. However, robotic automation is becoming more advanced with the use of smart technology such as sensors and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Firstly, identify the major risks in your business and any log jams. Then adopt the right type of technology.

So the outlook is bright for Australian manufacturing as long as we keep adopting and adapting technology to achieve ongoing efficiency gains. Make sure you stay informed, think creatively and be prepared to fail; plan, do, check, act. For more see our recent blog post 5 Hottest Manufacturing Trends: Dont Get Left Behind.

There is financial and expertise available to the SME sector via groups such as the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre (AMGC). The AMGC is an industry-led, not-for-profit organisation which supports the development of a world-leading advanced manufacturing sector in Australia.

Also, lastly, but not least, engage specialist consultants when required. Check their past successes and write a clear scope of works. See our blog Engage Specialist Expertise and Leapfrog Over Your Competition.

At Challenge Engineering, Sydney Australia, we machine custom metal and plastic parts for various industries, and pride ourselves on great customer service. Please Contact Us and find out how we can assist your business. Do also sign up to Challenge Engineering’s blog, send through a Request A Quote form, email us or phone (02) 9632 0010.

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