Man­u­fac­tur­ing un­der­go­ing change; step­ping up to the world stage

DEMM Engineering & Manufacturing - - NEWS -

New Zealand's man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­try is on the rise qual­ity-wise, with busi­nesses look­ing to­wards highly de­vel­oped ex­am­ples in other parts of the world and work­ing to im­ple­ment best prac­tice stan­dards, says in­ter­na­tional re­cruit­ment agency, Michael Page.

The driver for this change cen­tres around de­mand for our prod­ucts over­seas, thanks in large part to the enor­mous suc­cess of the long-run­ning ‘100% Pure New Zealand’ cam­paign ce­ment­ing our rep­u­ta­tion as a clean, green pro­ducer.

The com­pany posits that higher de­mand for New Zealand’s prod­ucts means ex­port is no longer the sole do­main of the multi­na­tion­als, with smaller pro­duc­ers see­ing more op­por­tu­ni­ties to en­ter over­seas mar­kets. To com­pete on a global scale, how­ever, busi­nesses must en­sure their pro­duc­tion pro­cesses meet or ex­ceed in­ter­na­tional stan­dards.

THE BIG MAN­U­FAC­TUR­ING SEC­TORS

Re­cent trea­sury fig­ures show man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor out­put ac­counts for around 10 per cent of New Zealand’s GDP, with to­tal op­er­at­ing in­comes of close to 100 billion dol­lars a year. Of this, al­most 30 per­cent flows from the meat and dairy in­dus­tries, keep­ing them firmly at the top of the fig­ures. A fur­ther 15 per­cent comes from other ar­eas of the food in­dus­try, and 39 per­cent from broader pri­mary prod­ucts such as metal, wood and pa­per prod­ucts, coal and chem­i­cals.

Matt Walker is the Man­ager of Pro­cure­ment and Sup­ply Chain re­cruit­ment at Michael Page in Auck­land. He says across man­u­fac­tur­ing in gen­eral, busi­nesses are be­com­ing in­ter­ested in process im­prove­ment, so they can com­pete and of­fer their prod­ucts in­ter­na­tion­ally.

“Pre­dom­i­nant trends at the mo­ment show busi­nesses in New Zealand have grown from be­ing small, pri­vately owned com­pa­nies,” says Walker. “All of a sud­den these busi­nesses are on the cusp of try­ing to com­pete with the big boys glob­ally, try­ing to sell into China, Aus­tralia and other ar­eas.”

MOVES TO­WARDS PRE­VEN­TA­TIVE MAIN­TE­NANCE, COM­PLI­ANCE AND TRACE­ABIL­ITY

Walker says con­ver­sa­tions around top­ics like lean man­u­fac­tur­ing and con­tin­u­ous im­prove­ment are fairly new to many busi­nesses in New Zealand.

He names world class man­u­fac­tur­ing ( WCM) and to­tal pro­duc­tive main­te­nance ( TPM) method­olo­gies as key re­cent in­tro­duc­tions which al­low for proac­tive and on­go­ing pre­ven­ta­tive main­te­nance, higher ef­fi­ciency and stan­dard­ised sys­tems of pro­duc­tion.

“The big change I’ve seen in the past year and a half is that teams are look­ing for peo­ple not just to do re­ac­tive main­te­nance, but to put in place to­tal pre­ven­ta­tive main­te­nance. TPM is be­com­ing a big thing. Along with that comes a lot of upskilling and staff train­ing, where you’re train­ing peo­ple up to par­tic­u­lar stan­dards. Ob­vi­ously as you go into ex­port, you need to have a cer­tain level of trace­abil­ity for the re­tail­ers or the end user, and most qual­ity man­age­ment jobs I re­cruit, that’s what they’re do­ing. It’s about put­ting in place a sys­tem where they can get to the root cause of prob­lems and pro­vide trace­abil­ity for cus­tomers.”

IN-DE­MAND MAN­U­FAC­TUR­ING SKILLS

There are three main skill sets Walker lists as be­ing cur­rently in de­mand when it comes to man­u­fac­tur­ing staff.

“One is around en­gage­ment, so em­pow­er­ing the work­force, en­gag­ing them to make changes, upskilling op­er­a­tors to be­come team lead­ers, that kind of thing.”

Walker says in this area, peo­ple may be ex­pected to bring things like con­tin­u­ous im­prove­ment skills, Six Sigma cer­ti­fi­ca­tion and a back­ground in lean man­u­fac­tur­ing.

“The sec­ond area we re­cruit a lot is qual­ity man­age­ment – ISO ac­cred­i­ta­tions, sys­tems im­ple­men­ta­tion and trace­abil­ity for cus­tomers,” he says.

“That’s pre­dom­i­nantly be­cause a com­pany has re­alised they’ve turned over twenty times as much as they were do­ing 10 years ago and now want to sell into Wool­worths or sim­i­lar. The big buy­ers ex­pect to be able to know who touched what, and when, and how long it sat for.”

The other in-de­mand role Walker is of­ten asked to seek staff for is en­gi­neer­ing man­agers.

“That’s not re­ac­tive main­te­nance stuff, it’s more proper sys­tems im­ple­men­ta­tion, pre­ven­ta­tive main­te­nance schemes, re­ally what the rest of the world will view as best class.”

WHERE ARE STAFF COM­ING FROM?

Although most em­ploy­ers would be thrilled to take on only lo­cal work­ers, says Walker, in­creas­ingly they’re be­com­ing more open to sourc­ing staff from else­where. The newer fo­cus on global best prac­tice man­u­fac­tur­ing con­cepts means there aren’t al­ways lo­cals avail­able with the right skills.

“In­creas­ingly through last year, we brought peo­ple in es­pe­cially from Aus­tralia, but a big trend is re­turn­ing Ki­wis, guys who’ve gone and worked abroad, who are com­ing back home and try­ing to find a com­pany that’s got the right level of as­pi­ra­tion com­pared to where they’ve been.”

Walker says the in­dus­try has a fairly can­di­date-driven mar­ket, so while em­ploy­ers may be very keen on an ex­act match when they bring some­one in, flex­i­bil­ity might be needed in terms of the type of em­ploy­ment pack­age that’s of­fered.

“Com­pa­nies know they don’t re­ally have a lot of choice, so if some­one comes along and they might want to have a de­gree funded, or do an MBA, then em­ploy­ers are more will­ing to do that now.”

SOFT FIT IM­POR­TANT ON BOTH SIDES

One of the big sell­ing points many com­pa­nies are us­ing when it comes to seek­ing the right staff is op­por­tu­nity for de­vel­op­ment and au­tonomous con­di­tions, ac­cord­ing to Walker.

He says, “[Em­ploy­ers] are say­ing, ‘over here, you can make change’. I think many com­pa­nies are giv­ing peo­ple more au­ton­omy than, say, the C-suite types, and at the same time, they’re will­ing to pay pretty good salaries to at­tract peo­ple.”

Walker sees in­creas­ingly that smaller com­pa­nies are try­ing to at­tract peo­ple from multi­na­tional man­u­fac­tur­ing gi­ants, and staff are of­ten happy to make that move.

“They say, ‘I’d rather go and work for a smaller player, at a place where I can have a bit more flex­i­bil­ity, a bit more au­ton­omy’.”

Both em­ploy­ers and can­di­dates have a strong fo­cus on whether some­one’s a good softer fit for a com­pany, says Walker. “Can­di­dates do re­ally have to prove they’re a good fit in terms of cul­ture. Half of an in­ter­view might be around ex­pe­ri­ence and skills, but the rest is very much around val­ues, ethics, and what does a per­son value in terms of his or her ap­proach.”

THE NEXT FEW YEARS IN MAN­U­FAC­TUR­ING

The cur­rent adop­tion of more lean man­u­fac­tur­ing prin­ci­ples and best prac­tice is set to con­tinue, says Walker, with a pos­si­ble de­cline in de­mand for hand­son qual­ity in­spec­tion roles.

“Peo­ple are start­ing to look at qual­ity as be­ing en­twined in pro­duc­tion now. It used to be an af­ter­thought, where a team of peo­ple were do­ing man­ual in­spec­tion of prod­ucts or parts at the end of the process. Now they’re re­ly­ing more on the front end, where pro­duc­tion is about you as an op­er­a­tor need­ing to check for qual­ity.”

Au­to­ma­tion is likely to be­come an in­creas­ing fac­tor in man­u­fac­tur­ing, too. The idea of a com­pany be­ing able to ex­pand pro­duc­tion and ef­fi­ciency by in­vest­ing in the lat­est ma­chine tech­nol­ogy is very at­trac­tive, Walker says.

He adds that with more au­to­ma­tion, “Com­pa­nies will have more need for peo­ple such as project en­gi­neers and CAPEX ex­perts, and less need for process peo­ple.”

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