As we move more and more into election mode, I thought it would be a good time to speak positively about the manufacturing industry and the great news stories that exist.

It’s frustrating to me that many people still reference manufacturing as having an image problem and the mainstream headlines still proclaim the death of manufacturing because our passenger vehicle production is leaving our shores over the next year or two. It’s frustrating because I see great companies, great people and great opportunities every day and I wish the people who write negatively about the manufacturing sector had the same chance as I do to witness these stories.

I see companies that are leveraging the latest thinking in technology and design. I see companies transforming their business through innovation and leadership. I see young people that have chosen career paths for themselves in manufacturing and are going from strength to strength. I see major projects being announced that have great potential for Australian content. I see effort being put into local supply chain management. I look ahead and see revolutions like Industry 4.0 and additive technologies and wonder what positive impact they will have on our future.

I recently attended the Smart Manufacturing Symposium that was held in Dandenong Victoria and it encompassed just about everything I have mentioned above. So I thought it was a good idea to share with you some of what I saw.

I spoke to Jason Petch, the inventor of Skynanny, who has spent four years developing a GPS tracking device the size of a credit card and mobile application that allows parents to maintain accurate and regular positional updates of a child’s location. A great example of where technology and design have created a product with great commercial prospects.

I heard from Jan Vydra, Managing Director of Australian Fresh Leaf, and his story of bringing technology and innovation into the agricultural production of fresh herbs. By incorporating hydroponic methods, vertical production and innovative computer programming he can cultivate up to 30 times more produce than using traditional methods.

I met Loulou Hammad. She worked for Telstra for many years before deciding to move into a career in the manufacturing sector. She is now the Communications and Marketing Lead at Bombardier Australia, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of planes and trains. She told a great story of perseverance and love for her job. I also met Danielle Kazi-Shedden. What an inspirational young woman. Unsure of what she wanted to do after VCE, she finally found a passion in life and, in an industry dominated by males, she recently won the Master Builders’ Association Apprentice of the Year award. Her positive attitude and work ethic, I’m sure, will see her through life as a successful shopfitter and one day business owner.

One of the symposium sessions focused on projects in the Defence industry and had panel members from Thales Australia, Northrop Grumman Australia and BAE Systems as well as Dr Mark Hodge from the Defence Materials Technology Centre. The session gave a thorough understanding of existing major projects, what opportunities exist for the supply chain, how the procurement process works and what the key requirements to supply to defence primes are.

I attended a session presented by CSIRO and heard Chad Henry give us an overview of the exciting additive technologies available for use within CSIRO’s Lab22. Their focus on bridging the gap between R&D and industry and utilizing 3D printing of titanium and metallic manufacturing technology is going to result in successful outcomes in the future. It was interesting to see companies like Jayco, one might call a traditional manufacturer of caravans, investing research dollars into how additive manufacturing can have a positive impact on their production processes.

Finally I caught up with a good industry colleague, Jennifer Conley, from the Australian Advanced Manufacturing Council. They have just released a YouTube video that aims to tackle some of the misconceptions around our manufacturing sector and highlight that advanced manufacturing will indeed create exciting opportunities and growth across all industrial sectors in the future.

If I can meet all these terrific people and hear all of these great stories about companies going places in just a few hours in the outer suburbs of Melbourne, then surely we have to be positive about what lies ahead.