Are we embracing disruption?

Balluff Pty Ltd

By Jim Wallace
Thursday, 13 August, 2020



Are we embracing disruption?

Whilst the COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for the economy it has also demanded a review of our priorities within the manufacturing and supply chain. Currently we hear lots of rhetoric from politicians and business leaders about bringing manufacturing back to Australia and enforcing local supply chains to nullify the effects of external catastrophic events such as COVID-19. My question is: are we embracing a disruptive influence to drive permanent change, or is the rhetoric an example of the ‘groupthink’ phenomenon?

According to Psychology Today: “To recognize groupthink, it’s useful to identify the situations in which it’s most likely to occur. When groups feel threatened…they may develop a strong “us versus them” mentality. This can prompt members to accept group perspectives, even when those perspectives don’t necessarily align with their personal views.”

When we come through this pandemic, when the economy starts to recover, when the dust settles and behaviours return to normality, will we still be of this united opinion as a nation or will supply chains start to revert to the lowest cost product?

In my opinion this is potentially a real turning point for Australian manufacturing; however, we have a collective responsibility to ensure that the thought process is a rational long-term strategy rather than a groupthink short-term reaction. We have an opportunity to adopt new techniques to unlock commercial value and ultimately advance Australia’s economy through smart manufacturing.

As a country we need to adapt our manufacturing processes so that we can compete internationally, offering the highest value proposition and in turn grow the manufacturing economy within the country. Gains in manufacturing efficiencies can be achieved from factors that include operational requirements, such as identifying reasons for (and reducing) lost production time, and building more flexible production lines and processes with the ability to adapt to different products with a minimum of set-up time. In addition, tracking and traceability is playing a strong role in ensuring that the correct manufacturing process has been followed and implemented and that the product is delivered in its original condition. In this age data is key — not only creating and harvesting the data but using this to make informed decisions both dynamically in real time and retrospectively for process improvements.

While the above examples relate to the core competencies of our business at Balluff, I believe that as suppliers we must work together to develop high-level relationships, to collaborate and educate Australian manufacturing to understand and embrace the challenge of new technologies. With support from government and industry organisations we should help manufacturing overcome real and perceived barriers to investing in new techniques. An example of a collaborative approach for the ‘greater good’ is the Open IIoT consortium of companies incorporating Balluff, SMC, Beckhoff Automation, Zi-Argus and Nord Drivesystems, whose mission is to demystify Industry 4.0, IIoT and other related topics — and to break down the jargon to address topics of real business value, security, data ownership and IT integration. With a collaborative effort we can offer a wider base of knowledge and expertise to help manufacturers understand and identify key areas of concern and take realistic steps to implement new techniques to gain competitiveness.

Will we embrace the opportunity presented by COVID-19? I think we all have a collective responsibility to ensure that we do.

Jim Wallace is National Sales Manager for Balluff Pty Ltd. Having worked in the UK, Europe and Australia, Jim has over 20 years’ experience in helping customers to automate with innovative sensing, networking and RFID solutions.

Image: ©stock.adobe.com/au/narong

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