2022 Thought Leaders: Rosanne Jessop
What opportunities do you predict for the growth of your industry in 2022?
Our most significant area of growth is predicted to be our services business. Pilz is renowned for being the gold standard in safe automation products, but we also provide supporting services such as training and safety consulting to help our industrial customers produce, procure, install, operate and maintain machinery safely. Industry standards are evolving rapidly, as is legislation. Establishing industrial manslaughter as a separate offence under safety legislation ensures that prosecutions can now extend to the highest levels of a corporation. It is an important reminder to senior management to instil a positive health and safety culture in their workplace.
We are seeing a rapid growth in needing these services in intralogistics, for example. We have just launched a new service specifically for making sure people are safe around AGVs. The 2020 publication of the ISO 3691-4 standard for automated guided vehicle systems (AGVs) and autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) was a reaction to the rapid development of new technologies in the field of automated vehicles. The ISO standard was long overdue, as its predecessor (EN 1525:1997) had been published 23 years previously.
The shoring up of our supply chains (ie, making more local) will also have a positive impact on our growth next year, with new production lines coming online with a number of our major customers. With every new production line comes investment in our products (automation and sensors) as well as our services (throughout the full safety lifecycle of the machinery).
What are the three biggest challenges or threats facing your industry in 2022?
Global component shortages are deeply affecting the industry and are expected to last until 2023. We are receiving weekly reports from our factories in Europe and Asia, so that we can work closely and proactively with our customers to plan demand well ahead of when they need our products. We have never experienced this level of disruption in supply before. The component shortage is also driving up the cost to manufacture our products, and is compounded by the cost of freight also escalating tremendously. The sea freight index is above 600% and air freight index above 300% of pre-pandemic levels. The impact on our bottom line could be significant.
Ongoing border closures due to COVID-19 will continue to be a threat to our consulting business, as our consultants are based in Sydney and Melbourne. Whilst we can do some limited consulting virtually (desktop risk assessments), both ours and our customers’ preference is to be onsite to perform safety assessments. We have not been able to get to our customers in other states for 18 months, and access next year remains uncertain, especially during the winter months.
The tight labour market is our other big challenge. There is a definite skills shortage in our industry. Combined with a predicted mass resignation wave, this makes talent retention a top priority for us in 2022.
What impacts have the pandemic had on your industry, and how does this affect your business strategies for 2022?
The pandemic has certainly accelerated our own digital transformation journey. Finding new (digital) ways to keep in touch with our customers has been a priority. We have subsequently moved our full training portfolio online to provide resilience to border or office closures. The spin-off benefit of online training for our customers is great, as it enables a broader reach across a large geography such as Australia at lower cost to the trainees (ie, no flights and accommodation needed).
The pandemic has also forced us to acknowledge that to operate nationally we need a strong national presence. Our strategy for 2022 is to ensure we have a geographical spread of industrial safety expertise. We are working with our Systems Partners to upskill their staff so that they can confidently and competently represent us in locations where Pilz does not have an office.
How is your industry preparing for artificial intelligence (AI) developments and advanced manufacturing?
Pilz managing partner Susanne Kunschert helped invent the name ‘Industry 4.0’, so advanced manufacturing is integral to Pilz’ mission and value proposition. I also started my career, in the 1990s, using neural networks to build artificially intelligent control systems. Together we are helping many customers on their advanced manufacturing journey, from safely automating insulated lifting trucks to digitalising safety workflows in manufacturing. In order to support this, we are constantly looking to bring new skills into our engineering team. We will be hiring our first Digital Apprentice in 2022, a new qualification for school leavers that has us very excited. We believe we need to grow our own talent, especially in the current climate of rising labour costs and the significant skills shortage here in Australia.
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