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Australia’s manufacturing sector occupies a precarious position right now. There are strong headwinds to contend with, from continuing supply chain uncertainty to growing recessionary fears. But there are also bright spots on the horizon, most apparent in the projections suggesting that Australian manufacturing will grow more than 1% annually through the middle of the decade and soon exceed $421 billion in yearly output.

The question facing each manufacturer is how to navigate the inevitable challenges in the coming months and years while capitalising on the growth opportunities taking shape. It will take a concerted effort. Most importantly, manufacturers must be willing and able to adapt, replacing the status quo with a strategy tailored to the peaks and valleys that lie ahead.

Of course, making the wrong changes can be even more disruptive than doing nothing at all. Manufacturers must be cautious not to undermine their operations or diminish their value in the pursuit of doing things differently. Likewise, companies must align their transformation efforts with their market, strategy, and means. A one-size-fits-all approach will not work. However, neither will one that’s overly customised.

We hope to find some middle ground between either extreme. In certain areas, all manufacturers, especially those involved with field service, will need to focus their attention to remain competitive. There are also certain operational and strategic solutions that can elevate any manufacturer’s inner workings. The companies that don’t just survive the next decade but become bigger and stronger in the process will follow a similar success strategy. We suggest it looks something like this:

 

1. Becoming a Data-Driven Business

After years of implementing technology to improve individual parts of production or administration, it’s time to adopt technology that integrates disparate data sources and combines multiple capabilities. Manufacturers that unify data, features, and solutions under one umbrella see significant increases in efficiency, intelligence, agility, and marked gains in innovation. No surprise, then, that digital manufacturers have an advantage over their competition, especially those less tech-mature, and that advantage grows every year. The winners and losers in Australian manufacturing are shifting. Those who come out on top will gain that lead with digital technology more than anything else.

With that mandate in mind, choose technology that centralises as many pieces as possible onto a single platform to share data and synchronise capabilities. The alternative is integrating solutions through APIs, but that link isn’t as robust, flexible, or secure. Successful digital manufacturers will work with more technology and data but fewer vendors overall.

NetSuite ERP is pivotal for manufacturing businesses embracing data-driven operations, specifically focusing on IoT inputs and asset management. In a competitive landscape, data reigns supreme. NetSuite excels at aggregating data, from crucial IoT inputs to asset management details, and extending beyond machine-generated data to encompass human insights, easily captured in real-time from any device at any location. This practical data, encompassed by equipment, machinery, operational records, and customer interactions, offers a comprehensive view of business processes. The insights from this data enable real-time monitoring of production efficiency, inventory optimisation, and asset utilisation. NetSuite centralises this information, streamlining operations, reducing inefficiencies, and facilitating data-driven decision-making.

2. Address Labour Issues

Australian manufacturing has long struggled to find all the skilled (or even unskilled) workers it requires, and the Covid-19 pandemic only exacerbated that shortage. Public and private sector entities have both made efforts to expand the manufacturing talent pipeline. Still, shortages look likely for years to come and may get worse in many instances. When the demand for skilled workers exceeds the supply, manufacturers must retain their talent, boost their workforce’s productivity, and attract available talent away from the competition.

The right tech tools can help on all fronts. Today’s workers, whether current or prospective employees, want to use technology to make their workday more effective, efficient, and intuitive, and they will gravitate to employers that offer it. When technology optimises the workday, people are more productive (drastically so), leading to smaller staffing needs. Technology can solve the people problem in manufacturing, with the important caveat that to ensure adoption, workers must like using the tool and get meaningful benefits from having it.

NetSuite ERP can be highly advantageous for managing manufacturing businesses’ workforce. This integrated system offers several management benefits, including streamlining employee training, optimising operations, and creating a safer and more efficient work environment. Centralised data plays a critical role in enhancing accountability, enabling precise tracking of actions and decisions while facilitating cross-team collaboration. By implementing NetSuite, manufacturers can substantially improve workforce skills, operational efficiency, safety standards, and data-driven decision-making. These benefits can lead to a competitive edge and more enjoyable working environments.

3. Build Supply Chain Strength

The pandemic highlighted how shocks to the supply chain can have long-lasting and far-ranging consequences. Rising geopolitical uncertainty, particularly regarding China, suggests that Australian manufacturers will face further supply chain struggles. In response, 84% of manufacturers surveyed are near-shoring or on-shoring operations. More people manufacturing in Australia is good for the industry overall. Still, it puts new pressure on supply chains, too, and compels the domestic manufacturing base to become more resilient to the benefit (or detriment) of all.

Supply chains are hard to predict and even harder to control. Manufacturers have limited means to avoid stock issues and shipment delays, so they must make smarter use of their inventory by minimising shrinkage, carefully tracking consumption, and ordering strategically. Inventory tracking tools are the solution as long as they’re flexible enough to travel everywhere that parts get consumed and integrated sufficiently with the rest of the business to accurately forecast needs and order supply.

NetSuite MES, powered by Oracle’s robust AI algorithms, revolutionises demand planning for manufacturers aspiring to become data-driven, empowering businesses to make informed decisions. By centralising data, the platform provides a comprehensive view of the entire operation, ensuring that management can model accurate forecasts. NetSuite’s precise forecasting is enabled by centralising sales, production, and inventory data. This data-driven approach allows manufacturers to optimise production schedules, reduce excess inventory, and meet customer demand more effectively.

4. Drive Customer Engagement

In Australia and elsewhere, the arrival of new manufacturing startups while larger players have consolidated their power has created a highly competitive landscape. Almost everyone must fight to hold their market share, which increasingly depends on keeping customers engaged through flexible, convenient, and consistent services. No one can rest on their reputation any longer. Everyone will be judged not just on their products and services but on the overall quality of the experience. And if that experience is lacking, a competitor is closing in to claim the business.

Technology that records every customer interaction makes the data widely accessible and helps with tracking and notifications, leading to long-lasting customer relationships. Fewer dates and details get missed with a centralised system to sync everyone and everything, and manufacturers can go above and beyond once they can digitise customer relationships. What’s clear is this: manufacturers providing the best service and support are not doing it on paper.

As a consolidated CRM, NetSuite centralises all customer data, spanning sales opportunities, project insights, order management, financial records, documents, compliance documentation, service history, and even forecasts. The real value lies in the benefits derived from this data centralisation, automating repetitive tasks and processes frees up valuable time for the workforce to concentrate on customer service, upselling opportunities, and nurturing personal and human relationships. The system’s proactive alerts and workflow automation enhance the customer-centric experience, ensuring no crucial interactions or follow-ups are missed. This seamless automation boosts productivity and allows for a more personalised and human engagement with customers.

Conclusion

Opportunities abound for Australian manufacturers to grow their revenue, customer base, and market share. At the same time, though, many forces could complicate, restrict, or derail a company on an upward trajectory. Technology is the difference-maker, as the list above makes clear. But the key takeaway, and the real centrepiece of any success strategy, is the importance of selecting the right technology over many similar-looking alternatives. With that vital piece in place, the sky’s the limit.

 

About Klugo

NetSuite + Next Service

Klugo’s vision is to unlock the full operating potential of our customers to maximise the value of their business. We do this by helping them achieve operating excellence using NetSuite + Next Service, the world-leading cloud ERP and FSM business platform for small-to-medium-sized businesses.

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