ASCI members enjoy lessons in surviving and thriving in Australia’s manufacturing industry

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Site Visit Report by Geoff Palm
When Sten Campbell, Director, designtech, and his wife bought the business 25 years ago they had no idea about making furniture. Thanks to the help from a mentor and competitor in Sydney, they began the journey to where they are today; one of the leading manufacturers of MTS and MTO furniture manufacturers in Australia.
They have both local and national customers and compete effectively with imported products. One of designtec’s advantage is in quality, with a 10 year guarantee on all their products. They have not had a single claim against their product since this warranty was put in place. Another advantage is their speed to market; being able to deliver orders within 2 weeks. In fact, they recently helped out a Fitout company that was in trouble due to a delayed overseas shipment and late completion penalties approaching.
designtec has invested in state of the art German machinery, which is in part, one of the reasons they are so competitive. We watched one machine in action that cut, trimmed and edged a tabletop in minutes. This used to take 2 tradespeople up to 3 hours each to complete in the past. It was fascinating watching the journey of the product from raw material to finished product; created by a combination of people and machine. Staff skill levels range from tradespeople to semi-skilled; with a strong focus on cross-training. This ensures that most people in the business can operate a range of equipment; allowing for flexibility when demand dictates.
Safety is another important factor in designtec’s success; with no LTIs in the last 5 years.
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Most of there employees are now long term; with some coming up to 20 years. This was not the case during the mining boom when Western Australia struggled to find qualified people and it was the same with designtec; growing at 30% a year. That all changed in 2008 with the GFC and then the end of the mining boom, which saw demand for their product diminish rapidly. It is to the owners credit that not only did they survive, met the challenge they faced and have prospered since the downturn.
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The visit was hosted by Sten and Hannah Witherick, General Manager, on the afternoon of July 24, ASCI and associates learned the commercial, technical, industry and logistics issues around the designtec business.
ASCI WA thanks designtec, Sten Campbell, Hannah Witherick and other staff for hosting this visit and openly sharing their stories with our members. We must also not forget the office dog, who shared her love with all in a quiet and dignified manner. – end
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Why good leaders make you feel safe

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What makes a great leader? Management theorist Simon Sinek suggests, it’s someone who makes their employees feel secure, who draws staffers into a circle of trust.

But creating trust and safety — especially in an uneven economy — means taking on big responsibility. We’ve discussed this all important topic for ASCI members in a recent blog The Seven Tests of True Mastery. As supply change practitioners, we are accurately aware that our industries are certainly not immune to change, making our teams feel vulnerable and stressed. How do we support them?

ASCI members took the opportunity this week to attend the ASCI Networking evening which was live streamed on our closed Facebook page, ASCI Members, to hear what they needed to know about redundancy, redeployment and career transition and how they could make their teams feel safe and secure amidst a domain of disruption and change.

Expecting to hear the doom and gloom of unemployment, members were pleasantly surprised to hear that the top organisations in Australia are offering the very best outplacement services for employees experiencing redundancy or redeployment.

Four Fast facts

  1. Most employees will experience seven workplace changes
  2. Most employees will experience an estimated three redundancies
  3. Four out of five medium to large organisations globally utilise outplacement
  4. It is estimated 44% of jobs in Australia will be at risk due to developing technology.

According to Brendan O’Keeffe, Nova Partners, career transition is inevitable for all of us and supply chain managers will benefit from learning as much as they can about outplacement services and best practice during a restructure.

Brendan shared the Automotive industry as a best practice case in point, clearly one which is close to ASCI Members’ hearts. In particular, Toyota was presented as an example of a company which has excelled in communicating with employees about the restructure changes in the organisation from the very top of the organisation chart – giving employees full transparency to opportunities on offer, managers who they’d report to and locations in which to relocate.

Career transition consultation was made available to those choosing to move on – some to the most unlikely careers such as professional golfing and entrepreneurial ventures.

Information sharing and advice on roles and responsibilities was sought after employees by management, making employees feel like their tenure made a significant impact to the organisation.

The two year outplacement transition has made all employees at Toyota feel valued and motivated by the changes to the organisation, regardless of the outcomes for the individuals. This is a brand dream for most organisations.

However, Brendan O’Keeffe says many SME companies say outplacement services are a luxury they cannot afford, leaving employees without the support they require during restructures. In leui of this service, supply chain managers are forced to upskill and learn best practice ways to look after their teams during transition.

For more information about outplacement services and career transition, please contact ASCI Corporate Member, Brendan O’Keeffe at Nova Partners: bokeeffe@novapartners.com.au.