Episode #1 – Introduction

Graeme Fitzgerald

Welcome to Manufacturing Mastery with Graeme Fitzgerald, the podcast. My name is Graeme Fitzgerald. And for over 30 years I’ve led some of Australia’s largest manufacturing organizations riding the highs and lows, the occasional failure, and the plentiful successes that inevitably come with being in business.

Show Notes/Transcript

Welcome to manufacturing mastery with Graeme Fitzgerald, the podcast. My name is Graeme Fitzgerald. And for over 30 years I’ve led some of Australia’s largest manufacturing organizations riding the highs and lows, the occasional failure, and the plentiful successes that inevitably come with being in business. This podcast is aimed helping you progressive Australian manufacturer with practical, real world advice on navigating your pathway to sustainable success in manufacturing.

Myself and my special guests will cover everything from how to embed a planning framework into your business, new approaches to innovation, the importance of culture and how to lead change, and navigating the new normal as an Australian manufacturer. So manufacturers let’s master it. Welcome to manufacturing mastery.

My name is Graeme Fitzgerald, a manufacturing growth specialist. With over 30 years experience in the industry. This podcast is helping you to be more profitable, more sustainable, and have a more enjoyable future. Now we are in the 2020s. And there’s no denying that the Australian manufacturing landscape is changing. If you’re a progressive manufacturer looking to learn and grow, to be stretched in your ideas, and you want to hear from other like minded manufacturers across the country, this is a podcast for you.

My 30 plus years of experience has set me up to support manufacturers in creating a robust, competitive and vibrant manufacturing sector. throughout this series, we will share conversation with people involved in business and manufacturing across the country. Let’s create some momentum and resurgent manufacturing sector stronger together.

Welcome to manufacturing mastery. Now you might be wondering about my background. I was a metallurgist by education being one of the last from the School of metallurgy at the University of Newcastle. I have an MBA, and I’m a graduate of the Australian Institute of company directors. And for over 25 years, I had the good fortune to work in and learn about manufacturing and Business Excellence in some of the world’s best organizations, including bhp and Nippon steel, and a number of others. That learning happened through the opportunities that I was given in different roles, and the promotions that followed getting things done. leading many major manufacturing facilities, including the Newcastle rod mill, the oil and gas pipe facility will and gone. And later, as General Manager of four manufacturing locations across Australia, one of the great things about that time was a chance to put my knowledge and experience into practice, sometimes making mistakes. Those were the providers and the big greatest learnings and also achieving great outcomes in those businesses with dramatic improvements that directly resulted in financial success, as well as changing the culture of those organizations for the better. Now our mindset is to improve and grow, as Mark bouras might say, have a growth outlook. And even as young graduate I’ve been, I was driven to improve and grow both personally and in business. Now in 2010, with the Australian steel industry in decline, I left manufacturing search of new experiences and opportunities to grow. Over the following 10 years I’ve worked in several smaller organizations, then develop my consulting business working across a wide range of organizations, applying the lessons that I’ve learned. Increasingly, my focus has been drawn back to manufacturing to the point where I started thinking, there must be a way I can help create success more broadly. And so develop the kernel of the idea for manufacturing mastery.

When I first created the concept, it was with a clear vision in mind. Our vision is to create a place where progressive manufacturers can come to learn, be stretched and supported, where they can share with like minded people the challenges and opportunities they face with a view to helping them build a more profitable, sustainable and enjoyable future. In recent years, there’s been an almost continuous focus on what’s required to turn around Australia manufacturing. There’s always been an obsession with studies on what is the right framework, what governments should support should be in place. Where are the winners who are the losers, you name it, there’s been a study about it. Now in mid 2024, or five months on thrum the dramatic changes in Australia because of COVID-19. The implications of the decline in manufacturing in Australia in the last 40 years is very apparent. I look back and I see that I was fortunate to experience life in the steel industry from the early 80s. I experienced the lows of the steel industry restructures and the recessions that regularly confronted the industry, the appearance of local and international competition, the introduction of new technologies and automation and the challenges and enjoyment of leading people to create world class performance. Now’s the time to apply that knowledge, the experience and the lessons learned through sharing with today’s manufacturers to help them in building great businesses that will change Australia’s relationship in the world. So why Now you might ask? Well, this opportunity for the manufacturing sector has only become available now because of the perfect storm created by the combination of the decline in the manufacturing sector over the last 30 to 40 years. The shifting sands and global politics and the the drift away from globalization to a more nationalistic perspective. And also layered on top of those, the impact of the covid 19 pandemic. Now, there’s a number of forces that are at play here, the economic forces. Now during the initial phase of the covid 19 pandemic here in Australia, the dependence of significant parts of the economy on either the supply chain from China, or from the direct supply of finished parts was immediately obvious. products were delayed shortages were created, and supply chains broke down. The consequences of this dramatic shortages of some elements crucial to the safety and protection of Australians, and a significant shift in the prices being charged for those goods that were available. The economic fallout of the disruption cost to the economy to protect people from the pandemic will result in a dramatic shift in the focus to rebuild our economy is an opportunity with this in within this environment for ambitious and competitive manufacturers to build a legitimate place in the Australian economy, replacing supply previously sourced offshore.

Over recent years, there’s been a shift in sentiment away from developments known as globalization. Increasingly, people have started to highlight more than negatives in focusing only on the benefits. The shift in this area highlights the increasing desire for Australians to be less dependent on others. Coupled this with the economic downturn now caring, there’s a groundswell starting for Australians to be able to buy Australian made. There’s only a few days ago that I heard that adaption of the well known slogan, make Australia make again. Now the second area would be in social forces. over recent years, the buying habits of Australians are increasingly willing to purchase preferentially from locally produced goods,
where there’s not a significant price penalty and to be paid or the quality or on the quality.

So whilst there is an opportunity for local manufacturers to grow their share, will not be at the disadvantage of the Australian Consumer. So local suppliers need to be competitive. There’s also a shift in the attitude to the climate. Australians are generally supportive of protecting the climate to avoid impacts from climate change. Increasingly, there’s been a connection with the impact of emissions from transport and moving goods around the world. Through the burning of fossil fuels, the footprint of where products and manufactured and the climate cost is starting to have an impact within the within the consumers. The development of further links to the impact of climate change will only accentuate the issue in many consumers eyes. And finally, an attitude to employment after almost 30 years of economic growth. The current downturn and associated loss of jobs has for many Australians brought to the front of their mind a problem many had never experienced. With unemployment now significantly up and trending, the trend being for more uncertainty. There’s the beginnings of support for those businesses where employment is being created. And what’s the glory days of manufacturers as la-z large employees as long past where businesses can be grown as input replacements, or new product supplies, now’s the time for those to step forward. And finally, technology forces in 2020, automation and artificial intelligence to dramatically impacting aspects of our new world. In automation, technology developments over the last 25 years have continued in an ever increasing pace. The benefits being that in many situations, there is now equipment that allows many of the manufacturing process to be automated. Well, this is not necessarily great for creating jobs. What it does is allow organizations to invest in capital equipment, then improves the productivity of the people in the business. Now, given that Australians are generally a higher paid workforce, and I believe we should continue to maintain that, the disadvantages of high labor costs and now all that being removed, modern processes and equipment are being able to be used. Automation will continue to support the generation of high skilled jobs as manufacturers seek to maintain competitiveness and achieve world class performance from their equipment through the continued development and improvement. Artificial Intelligence is generally an extension of automation. In many cases that technology exists to take the development of those prices to the next level of performance by applying artificial learning processes to be able to fine tune the equipment And then again continue to lower the cost of produce and manufacture here in Australia. So what’s the backstory behind manufacturing mastery and has it come to the fore? I think it was in March 1982 when I first experienced something that has been constant in my experience in manufacturing, that is redundancies from downside sizing. I still remember as a new trainee, I was wondering what I’d done choosing a career in steel was in late 2010, after almost 30 years in steel manufacturing, working across all facets from frontline leadership, to executive management, from production areas to technology, innovation and marketing. The decline of the Australian steel industry finally caught up with me, I left the steel industry with a redundancy. This wasn’t an easy time after so long my work it almost become my identity. Like so many people have gone through that experience. I started to learn about myself and who I really am. What makes me get up in the morning. What do I enjoy doing? What ticks me off? What makes me laugh? What creates satisfaction, what gives me fulfillment? And what makes me happy. And I found those things as usual through experience. My first step was to return to manufacturing this time, in lm minium. Well, I quickly recognized that this is probably a mistake. Firstly, because of the role I stepped into was not right. And secondly, the organization that I joined, clearly had too many losses. Recognizing the inevitable, I left before the my frustration grew.

After my manufacturing experiences, I went looking for something new. At the time, the resources boom was in full swing with expansion happening everywhere. Found a role with a small engineering business as the general manager operations. The outlook was positive, a JV partner with a major engineering company. This is the opportunity to get into a growth sector. Well, the first 12 months was fantastic, grew in size by almost 100%. With responsibility for delivering the financial results and steering the business It was great, because he that I realized the lessons from working a large corporate world are equally applicable in an SME with the only difference being how quickly cash could become a problem in business. Then in mid 2012, the wheels started to fall off the resources boom. With projects being shelved Later that year, I got the chance to utilize those shrinking skills I learned in steel during the next 12 months. With the organization much smaller, I had the opportunity to really really assess what would be my future. And at this time in mid 2013, I really started my new journey that is taking a step out of my comfort zone and started my own consulting business. Well, my time in engineering had done was to show that the lessons experience and knowledge gained in the corporate world is now less relevant in smaller businesses. When I really understood that what I enjoyed most of my career was when I was working with people who wanted to create something much better to achieve their potential. The decision I made was that I would work with business owners and managers who are committed to doing something to improve the profits and value of their businesses and get their time back through the period from 2010 to now, my main contact with friends and associates in the steel sector. And from the period 2010 to 2016 was the many stories mostly bad about what life is like is shrinking and competitive business. Unfortunately, the experiences from the resources crash of the 2013 to 2016 also ended up catching up with many of those in the steel sector, and the importance of cash. Obviously, so important and small businesses finally caught up with the big manufacturers in one steel going into administration.

This time I built up a start of a successful consulting business, and then helping business owners avoid some of the mistakes that I’ve made and learn from along with connecting dots for them in areas where applying knowledge about leadership, strategy development from our past, help take into another place. After three years building my consulting business and starting the season positive results. A chance meeting with a former colleague at the head of Research Foundation event made me aware of all the studies are being done, the efforts being made to turn around the decline of the manufacturing sector in Australia. Since that time, I’ve increasingly taken note taking notice of the research, the government frameworks and the white papers related to manufacturing. A feature in all these is the need for a supportive approach from government, a willingness for manufacturers to do what it takes to be able to compete, and a workforce willing to adapt and innovate, to do what’s required. Events early 2020 in the COVID, nodding pandemic, the lockdown of the world and the problems with security of supply identified in Australia, I believe has created a special time where if we really go at it, we’ll be able to make the changes required and turn around the long slow decline of manufacturing in this country. Manufacturing mastery is my way of doing what I can to help create a forum where we can educate and support manufacturers sharing the knowledge, experiences and lessons learned in a format that is in snack sized bites in a busy world. When I was asked a few weeks back, why do you want to do this? What I came to me was, all my experiences, my training my education, have ideally set me up to be able to help create a robust, competitive and vibrant manufacturing sector in Australia. Manufacturing mastery podcasts will be developed in themes, with my goal to share with you conversations with people involved in business and manufacturing across Australia, where we explore their thoughts experiences, their knowledge, the challenges they see in the possible solutions. The podcast is for those busy owners, leaders and managers who are not satisfied with the performance of their business, who were looking to improve the profits and value of their businesses compete for their place in the market, and do it in a manner where they do not have to work 80 plus hours a week to achieve it. My podcast offers a unique opportunity to hear firsthand from practitioners, what’s happening in all other areas of business in manufacturing, hear about new ideas that may be applicable to their business, emerging technologies and developments. And all these from an Australian perspective. Now there’s a real possibility that some of the people who I speak to, you’ll not agree with, or will challenge your current story about how the world works. I know that throughout my career in business, I do the same things from a different perspective. And that might be a problem for you. But then again, the podcast is about challenging the status quo, and providing information sharing ideas and opportunities. So if you do decide to participate, we can help create the momentum for a resurgent Australian manufacturing sector that stronger together. The target is for each podcast to be about 20 to 25 minutes. Understand that leaders nor businesses, especially manufacturing, a busy people and they are already time poor. Unlike other podcasts in the manufacturing area. My approach is based on a practical application of the ideas, the lessons and providing you the listener with something you can take away and implement, or at least know who you can make contact with to talk about a specific problem or application. So I’d like to welcome you to what is for me an exciting new opportunity to connect with people who share my passion for building successful manufacturing businesses in Australia. A Podcast Series is anticipated to be to weekly and initially run for eight to 10 episodes. podcasts will be available on all your favorite podcast channels are accessed through my Graham Fitzgerald website. See you soon.

Thank you for being part of this week’s episode. It was great to have you. I’m always keen to hear your thoughts, questions, ideas and suggestions for future topics for the podcast. So please get in touch to my Facebook page. Graham Fitzgerald, manufacturing growth specialist, my LinkedIn page or via my website, Graham fitzgerald.com.au. That’s gra ama Fitzgerald Comdata you if you’re enjoying what I’m putting out here, please rate review or subscribe to the podcast so more manufacturers can find out about it. And we can build our community masterminds manufacturing in this great nation. Talk to you soon.

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