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Reshoring Australia and New Zealand’s manufacturing sector

One of the many learnings over the past few months is that of self-sufficiency. In the past, Australia and New Zealand, like many other countries, gradually outsourced a large part of its supply chain internationally to reduce costs.

Covid-19 saw the best and worst of supply chain management – some companies came to a grinding halt while others couldn’t keep up with manufacturing demand. SMC itself has managed to deliver consistently throughout the pandemic because of their local stocking policy and commitment to local manufacturing.

Manufacturing in Australia has fallen over the last two decades from 13 per cent of gross domestic product to 6 per cent with jobs within the sector falling a staggering 24 per cent between 2011 and 2016; the impact of which certainly came to light during the coronavirus crisis. William Lebihan, head of field sales for SMC Corporation Australia and New Zealand says the past few months have helped strengthen the belief in local manufacturing; to create more jobs, increase local revenues and to safeguard the economy.  “Businesses that relied on importing where caught in a supply chain drought and I sincerely hope that as we all emerge from C-19 that these examples are still front of mind in order to help drive a change in attitude towards Australian manufacturing. Unfortunately, it’s not a simple matter of just switching it all back on again and hoping for the best, government has massive role to play here to help support a ‘reshoring’ of Australian manufacturing; and time is of the essence – I think.”

Committed to local manufacturing
As an established player in the market, Lebihan notes that SMC Corporation has noticed a trend towards more flexible manufacturing and a big drive among local companies to look at how they can improve their local manufacturing facilities; the company remains ever committed to its local customers.

“SMC has resources, people, skills and products to support our customers across both Australia and New Zealand. Whether you’re investing in IOT technologies to enable more flexible manufacturing or whether you are ramping up your automation to cope with demand, or diversifying your current product lines, SMC is a partner in the automation process. We offer a practical approach and want to assist our customers by making the resources we have at our disposal available to customers in our effort to support local manufacturing.”

Founded in Japan in 1959, SMC Corporation opened its first subsidiary company in Australia 1967 with New Zealand opening in 1984. “While we have access to a wealth of global resources from our head office, we have invested heavily in the local market with offices and manufacturing facilities across Australia and New Zealand. I am pleased to say that, as it stands, we have $25 million worth of local stock on-hand; in fact, our logistics and production teams never missed a beat during the worst of C-19, working a split shift to accommodate for social distancing requirements and to help support our customers.”

Virtual support – every step of the way
In a new move, the company has moved towards offering hands-on remote support to customers. The company’s wide range of available products are backed by its virtual support strategy. “We are helping customers futureproof their businesses remotely. For the first time our customers have access directly to our applications engineering team and can set up and conduct remote meetings, consultations, assessment of current systems and technical advice with no strings!”

This translates into hands-on assistance should the customer need it at the conceptual, installation or programming phase. “The team, comprising of 88 sales people and 12 application engineers, is on standby to assist with product selections, quotes, placing orders, enabling remote access to set up components, delivering product training, technical advice and more,” said Lebihan.

In terms of lead times, Lebihan notes that popular products are available locally within a day or two while special products on request from its head office in Japan can be imported in as little as five days. The local engineering team is also able to design and engineer solutions which may not yet be a standard product. “Nothing has changed in terms of our delivery and customer offering – we still offer high quality products at low cost with rapid delivery. This is part of our commitment to reaccelerating and invigorating the local manufacturing sector. We want customers to feel safe knowing that no matter where they are in their journey, we are there every step of the way”.

Steps to Smart Flexibility
Lebihan notes that keeping costs down remains critical. “Rather than upgrading entire systems, there are smart and affordable decisions that can be made. We offer a practical approach for new and existing customers to sharpen up their digitalisation, without the hefty upfront investment costs – even if the project is a basic concept only – drop us a line, we have application engineers and specialists happy to assist

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