Manufacturing News

Webinar insights: Innovation through tech in the manufacturing and building sectors


Jessica Lee, principal at Fender Katsalidis; Gary Smith, CEO at BioPak and Sally McPherson, CEO at Constructiv Technologies. Source: Supplied.

As industries that create the environments we live in and the products we use every day, the manufacturing and building sectors must constantly think about tomorrow’s users. Innovation is essential to not only survive in these industries but thrive, so just how are companies enacting change internally to produce positive outcomes externally?

In our latest webinar, Innovation in industry: Real approaches to change and transformation, David Adams sat down with three industry experts to discuss how the manufacturing and building industries are approaching and implementing innovation. Here are their key takeaways.

Facing significant industry challenges head-on

In recent months, the construction industry has made regular headlines due to supply-chain problems and, particularly here in Australia, the collapse of several building companies. It’s a sector facing an onslaught of issues with no foreseeable respite, but that’s why the ability to innovate and be agile is so essential right now.

“It’s a very challenging time in construction at the moment, and the most pertinent issue is definitely the supply chain,” says Sally McPherson, CEO at Constructiv Technologies. “I was born into construction and mining, oil and gas, so I know that it always goes up and down. But right now, we are dealing with a really unique confluence of situations. The supply chain is the biggest worry for everyone, and that is a global issue. There are lots of reasons why it is the way it is, but it’s already causing massive reverberations up the supply chain, and now what we’re going to see is contractor collapses.”

While McPherson sees this as a “mid-term issue” that will ultimately wash through the system, she affirms that it’s a major worry for most operators. “We’re all trying to come together to find solutions, to keep businesses running and to make them operate faster,” she says.

“The bigger issue that we are dealing with — and we have been dealing with it now for over 11 years — is how slow the digitisation of construction has been. COVID definitively gave it a push along, and now I think the supply-chain issues are giving it another kick as well. But digitalising an industry as integrated as construction is a big job — and it’s very, very complex.”

You can watch the full webinar, Innovation in industry: Real approaches to change and transformation, on demand for even more insights.

Lateral thinking provides solutions to modern problems

If the pandemic has brought about any positive shift, it’s the awareness that digitisation across all industries has to happen now. Those who fail to adapt will find themselves floundering, while those who adopt technological innovations will benefit from the unrivalled freedoms of hyper-connectivity. Leaders in the manufacturing and building sectors are already using these tools to overcome problems of the past — such as sourcing top talent.

“Thanks to digitisation, we’re no longer limited by geographical locations when we are looking for people,” says Jessica Lee, principal at Fender Katsalidis. “That’s one good thing that’s come from this whole pandemic: our national resourcing capabilities.”

With practices across Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, the architecture firm is now able to streamline projects across states through the power of the cloud.

“I no longer have to work within those boundaries,” Lee says. “I’m Melbourne based, so let’s say I have 80 architects here in Melbourne but I need an extra 10 for a project that’s suddenly come up. Now I can call Sydney to help because we all work in the cloud. That’s the wonderful thing about technology — we are all able to work together despite being in different locations because our company is set up to work on a unified platform. And now that we are no longer being limited by location, we are more open to getting the best people for the job at hand.”

Bringing technology experts in-house for greater innovation

Innovation and change never stop, which means companies cannot afford to remain static in a constantly evolving industry. For Gary Smith, CEO at BioPak, he is constantly harnessing the most effective technologies to improve processes, shorten production lifecycles and innovate within the business.

“Technology has been a differentiator for many years,” Smith says. “We put in cloud-based systems in 2011 and have operated a remote workforce for many years. So COVID was not a huge culture shock to our business. But look at how the adoption of technology and innovation has affected production and supply-chain processes. Every time people come to me for different problems in our business, [the first thought is to] throw people at it — but that’s an immense cost and you can’t always find the right amount of people.

“Instead, we always challenge them to find a technology solution. Everything in our business we’ve had to bring in-house, because innovation and technology are tightly related. It’s very hard to outsource, because every time you bring in an external consultant, you have to re-explain the whole lifecycle of the solution you’re trying to provide. We’ve found it easier to implement in-house systems and solutions, which means we have many developers in our business. It is core to the business’s success, and also core to finding solutions without error.”

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