Making it against all odds

There are three very significant and interrelated factors that make Australia different to almost every developed nation with which it competes in order to sell its products. They are: one of the lowest population densities in the world; geographic isolation from its international markets; and the distances between domestic population centres.

And if these distinguish Australia from developed countries, then salary levels and standards of living are factors that currently distinguish Australia from the majority of its other less developed competitors. Many so called developing countries have now become a focal point for labour intensive manufacturing others, like Singapore, have become high technology, high value added exporters. For some years now, Australia has therefore recognised that it cannot sustain its current standard of living unless it can outperform its international competitors with services and manufactured goods that are highly innovative, high in quality and value for money.

These factors are part of what is commonly referred to as a "sustainable competitive advantage". Other parts of the sustainable competitive advantage come from the quality of consumer service and manufacturing response time and flexibility.

Against all odds, Australia is beginning to gain its sustainable competitive advantage by the development and application of cost efficient high technology manufacturing systems and processes. The country's innovative products and technologies, are enabling Australian companies to manufacture value added goods in keeping with the world's best practices.

Today, highly specialised and technically complex products have been developed to change the way industry works, the way they manufacture things, and the speed with which they respond to client needs. From the time that a modern manufacturer senses the need for a new product, to the time that those products leave the factory gate, the degree of automation and computerisation determines a company's sustainable competitive advantage.

In an advanced manufacturing technology (AMT) company, product design is carried out on a computer aided design (CAD) system that can analyse the many engineering and aesthetic attributes of a product so that it will be built correctly the first time. Computer controlled "stereo lithography" machines can make accurate plastic prototypes of products from a pool of liquid plastic to enable manufacturers to assess intangible 3 dimensional qualities that cannot be appreciated or felt on a computer screen. Computer aided process planning systems, manufacturing resources planning systems and production, and inventory control systems enable manufacturers to optimise their production processes and minimise expensive inventory. Flexible manufacturing systems, composed of computer numerically controlled (CNC) machines that can cut to micron tolerances, robots, robotic assembly, painting and welding cells and automated guided vehicles (AGVs) allow producers to respond more quickly and economically to changes in client demands. Intelligent processors and power electronics drive almost every precision servo motor in every robot and machine in a modern manufacturing system.

And finally, at the end of the production line, computer controlled laser, infra red and vision inspection systems provide a high level of quality inspection to identify and weed out manufacturing faults.

Almost every facet of the modern manufacturing environment is now linked through communications facilities from interpersonal voice, vision and facsimile services through to data communications between every major computer controller in the plant, and of course, wide area communications between factories around the world. This is all part of what is idealistically referred to as computer integrated manufacture or the CIM concept.

Most developed countries find it difficult to compete in the manufacture of labour intensive, low value added products. For this reason, many of Australia's innovative companies are involved in specialist products and processes that enable the country's manufacturers and service providers to gain and retain their sustainable competitive advantage over the world's best rivals.

Australia's technologies can manifest themselves in the form of the world's most advanced CNC machines, or intelligent, networkable, servo motor drive systems, or perhaps plastics moulding CAD software produced by specialist companies. They can come in the form of manufacturing resources planning software systems, or CNC laser cutting machines, or client database software packages. There are a myriad of complex examples of Australia's technical prowess in these vital fields of engineering.

In the following pages, we review a selection of internationally significant 'world first' and 'world best' products and technologies currently available from Australia, for the manufacturing industries of the world.

World first products and technologies in manufacturing

Public Notice: Due to an unresolved dispute with the Australian Trade Commission (Austrade), who copied and adopted as their own certain material from Tomorrow's World, the Australian Initiative, and published the material in their Australia Open for Business website, without remorse or recompense, access by Australian Government servers to this online edition has been blocked indefinitely.

Print Edition: ISBN 0646252119 - Paperback - 224 pages - 350 illustrations - $55.00 incl. GST.

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