Friday, July 13, 2012

Powering up the manufacturing engine room

In my spectacularly unsuccessful rugby days, I had the dubious privilege of playing 'Hooker'. This must conjure up some colourful images for my US friends, but I assure you the hooker position is an important and respectable one. In Rugby, as opposed to Rugby League, the hooker is charged with the task of winning scrums (by hooking the ball), throwing the ball for line-outs and should be fit enough (not me) to be present when contesting the ball in all rucks or mauls. The Hooker is one of three players in the front row of a scrum, which my coach used to call the 'engine room' of the game.

This is apt because those of us in the engine room were not particular known for our good looks or flamboyance, but were the essential cogs in the team's machinery that provided the force and power to enable the other team members to score the points. Post-game there are always half-serious jibes between the forwards (the workhorses) and the backs (the glamour boys).

I recently heard the engine room analogy used to describe manufacturing and it is an apt one. Manufacturing provides the process - the grunt work - for industry such as mining, resources, construction and infrastructure - enabling them to deliver value and boost the ceonomy as a result. Value, in this case, is more than product. It is delivering value in its broadest sense in terms of product and service (maintenance), but also in terms of R&D, innovation, process improvement and job multiplier effects.

Like any engine room, manufacturing needs to have the muscle and intelligence behind it to move forward. Our muscle and intelligence can be built if we address the following (as mentioned in a previous post):
  • the business case for manufacturing
  • the elements impeding the career path
  • sector prioritisation
If we get these things right, the engine room will continue to move us forward. If the engine room slows down, so does everything else.

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