Grant Anderson is the Executive Director of Industry Capability Network (ICN) Victoria. He spoke to William Poole.

AMT: Tell us about the Industry Capability Network and what its role is.

Grant Anderson: ICN Victoria is a not-for-profit organisation that has been around since 1984 and our mission is to maximise opportunities for local industry. We play a key role in liaising with government agencies and bidders ensuring that local suppliers have an opportunity to register interest in upcoming government projects.

Another huge part of our role is to administer the Local Jobs First policy on behalf of the Victorian Government and that includes assessing projects for potential local content. Local Jobs First is about creating local jobs and opportunities for Victorian businesses and workers, whilst achieving value for money.

We also have two main product offerings – ICN Gateway and ICN Analytics.

AMT: And for an ordinary manufacturing business seeking to win work on a project through the ICN, what sort of pathway would that take?

GA: Local businesses, including principal contractors and local suppliers of goods and services can use the ICN Gateway to register their business capability, access project opportunities and search for suppliers. We also run many events every year that facilitate an opportunity for businesses to connect with project owners.

Our Industry Advisers all bring with them many years of experience in multiple sectoral areas and similar to myself, aim to give back to industry by helping SMEs get major project work. From working with bidders to identify local suppliers to post-award support and Enhanced Services, our Industry Advisers are out and about in the marketplace every day working directly with SMEs.

AMT: Tell us a bit more about Analytics.

GA: ICN Analytics is a secure online platform that provides for the collection and analysis of local content and jobs data over the life of a project.

A couple of years ago it became evident that there was an opportunity to improve data collection and project reporting systems and processes. We designed and developed ICN Analytics to be deployed throughout the supply chain.

At the top level, a project manager can nominate their first-level key suppliers then the next level does the same, and so on and so on, throughout the supply chain. Once nominated in the system, it is up to those suppliers to regularly update their data within the system. The data is then aggregated and gives the project manager a dashboard of the key KPIs that they’re expected to achieve on that particular project.

ICN Analytics is required to be used on all government projects worth $20m or more, including all projects deemed Strategic Projects. Projects that have a lower value can opt in to use the system at no additional cost.

Departments, principal contractors and local suppliers can use ICN Analytics to enter data on local content, employment numbers and hours, and to track performance against commitments made under Local Jobs First.

AMT: What do you think are the biggest challenges for manufacturing businesses trying to secure work in these areas, both in Victoria, and across Australia more generally?

GA: There seem to be several issues within the Government space in particular. There have been a large number of projects sourced by the Victorian government in the last couple of years that greatly vary in length – some might last for up to five years in some cases. And that means it’s generating a lot of work in the marketplace, particularly in steel and concrete and those sorts of areas in construction. There’s a huge amount of work going on, and what’s now being exposed is a lack a capacity in some areas. The challenge is to try and find alternate sources for the future – particularly around fabrication of structural steel structures for instance – and where else they can be found within the state. We have five regional advisers in Victoria who are now seeking out opportunities within each of the regions, and as projects in areas such as rail, road or renewable energy are sourced around the regions, we’re looking to engage local suppliers in that supply chain process.

In the broader manufacturing segment, I guess now that the automotive industry has disappeared, I think we’ve seen the scale disappear in manufacturing in a large way. However, it’s really encouraging when you get out there and have a look at some of the manufacturers who’ve got new technologies in new areas, but who are at the early commercialisation stage of getting those launched. Once they get embedded, they can eventually grow through export, but they need a lot of help and support. What we’re seeing is in some sectors is that those smaller businesses are not business-ready to support major government projects or major export projects for instance.

AMT: So where do you see the opportunities really lying for manufacturing at the moment?

GA: There are so many that it’s quite incredible. The cross section of the supply chain that we deal with in ICN is huge. It covers almost every industry sector that you can think about, and I think there’s opportunities if people want to go after it. But they have to show a will. Now, government projects do require additional paperwork. That’s part of the process. If you’re prepared to deal with that, then there are opportunities for businesses to grow. But in some of these early commercialisation projects, you have to get the first significant customers to get you off and running. And that’s often the hardest part – to get somebody to take the risk to run with you on something new.


AMT: And that’s where ICN comes in and helps.

GA: Well that’s where we try and help: to engage, introduce and support. We run a significant number of events each year, our flagship so to speak is the Victorian Manufacturing Showcase, we also do four or five Regional Opportunities Showcases, industry events at Avalon Airshow and the Australian Grand Prix, and many project briefings.

AMT: And you’ll be again holding the Victorian Manufacturing Showcase, in Wantirna this October. What can we expect to see this year?

GA: The Victorian Manufacturing Showcase 2019 is an annual event celebrating its sixth year. We have tried to do something a little different this year by branding the event VMS19.

VMS19 is hosted by a partnership of the ICN, Victorian Government and six local councils in the eastern suburbs. The objective of this event is to provide opportunities for Victorian manufacturers to gain invaluable insights into successful Victorian businesses while networking with other manufacturers and Victorian industry.

This year’s theme is Engage. Innovate. Create. And it will take place on Tuesday 22 October at the State Basketball Centre in Wantirna South. Following on from the successful Victorian Manufacturing Showcase 2018 at the GMHBA Stadium in Geelong, the 2019 edition will be even bigger and better. We have sponsorship and exhibition opportunities available – if your readers would like to know more they can check out our event website (

AMT: Where do you see the industry in Victoria and in Australia in 10 or 20 years time? What would you like to see it look like?

GA: I think it will look like an industry where you have specific regions around specific technologies. We’re already starting to see some examples of that: around the Carbon Precinct down in Geelong for instance, around defence sectors, around electrification sectors. And I think there are businesses which are specialising in those. 3D printing is another area of specialisation. So there’ll be a number of segments, which will evolve in the near term.

The world is changing and Australia has to change with it, and fast. And that brings with it a lot of opportunities. Electrification of motor vehicles, for instance, brings with it a lot of new technologies, a lot of new equipment investment, a lot of new people that need to become upskilled to deal with those issues. With AI and robotics, there’s a huge opportunity to automate a lot of things that we have done manually in the past. As you’re introducing new equipment and new people and new systems, it’s the ideal time to think about those methodologies to build productivity and efficiency into the future of manufacturing in Australia.

AMT: Tell us about your background and the path that brought you to ICN today.

GA: Well I’ve followed quite a tortuous path to get here. I started my life in South Australia; I was an apprentice at Chrysler; I joined a family company; and I went through various management roles including engineering, sales, marketing, supply chain management, manufacturing management, and eventually Managing Director of that business in South Australia. That business was taken over by various public companies and then returned to private; it was originally Rainsfords Metal Products in South Australia, which became Britax Rainsfords, which then became Schefenacker, and today is run as SMR, which is owned by an Indian company, so it’s seen lots of different owners. That was a great experience because we took that from quite a small business of $16.5m, to looking at a regional size of around $330m, exporting 90-odd percent of our output and operating plants across the region. In Australia we had three plants; in South Korea we had two; in India we had a joint venture; in Thailand we had a licensee; and so on.

I then left there, came to Victoria and ran PBR Automotive, the international brake company, and then in my most recent role prior to ICN, I ran the ANCA Group for eight years. That was a great success story, taking it up to the next level of expertise and quadrupling the turnover of the business.

AMT: And how long have you been at ICN now?

GA: I’m just coming up to a year at ICN. I retired from ANCA at the end of June last year and decided I was going to take a bit of a holiday and then got approached to take this role of Executive Director for ICN Victoria. I have also recently joined the board of Sutton Tools. My goal in life now is to try and help companies evolve to be the best they can be in a global marketplace.

AMT: So when you say you’ve retired, you’re not exactly taking it easy. So, the retirement didn’t last long?

GA: No, I haven’t gone sailing full-time just yet. As I mentioned, the new goal is now to try and help companies evolve and I feel that I am achieving at ICN.


AMT: Well one day maybe! And what’s the most satisfying part of the job with ICN?

GA: We are the interface with connecting business to government projects and there are some challenges with the Local Jobs First policy that was legislated last August and the additional work coming from that, however there is a real comradery at ICN Victoria and it’s great to be a part of. I am also very pleased with the new software and product development, we don’t rest on our laurels that’s for sure.

AMT: Sounds like you’re keeping nice and busy.

GA: Absolutely.