What’s in it for us? How the NSW Government’s COVID-19 Recovery Plan can benefit Manufacturers

The NSW Government has set out its COVID-19 Recovery Plan (‘The Plan’) with an underlying objective – for us to ‘remain resilient’.  The main features of the Plan highlight several key areas which provide manufacturers and those in their supply chain, with some focus points moving forward. The Plan seeks to harness what we have learned from this pandemic because it is an indisputable fact that we have all been changed by what has occurred but success will lie in what we make of these learnings and how we factor that into our future.

Key features of the NSW Government’s COVID-19 Recovery Plan

  1. Advanced Manufacturing and Local Supply Chains

COVID-19 has taught us that we need to become more self sufficient in shoring up our supply chains. The Plan highlights that 1,950 businesses offered to ‘retool’ to provide supplies of goods needed during the pandemic.[1]  We have shown resilience by increasing manufacturing operation capabilities or extending such operations to the manufacture of products outside of the usual business scope to reflect demand. Now we need to think in terms of how we add value to the manufacturing process.

You may have heard of the ‘Smile Curve’ as part of business management theory. Using this, we know that the three critical phases of manufacturing are pre-production, production and post-production. Production itself will sit at the base of the curve but research and development and digitalisation, as part of pre-production, and marketing, logistics and after product service, as part of post-production, will each sit at the opposite high side of the curve. To think in terms of growth and taking the manufacturing process to the next level the pre and post-production aspects of manufacture are critical to ensure that value is delivered.   How much time and money are spent on the pre and post-production aspects of manufacturing in your business?

  1. Development of Precincts

We know of the exciting plans for The Western Sydney Aerotropolis, a multi-million dollar development to support the building of the Western Sydney airport at Badgerys Creek. The Western Sydney International Airport is expected to be operational by 2026 but it’s the opportunities arising from the development of the Aerotropolis that is most exciting for manufacturing. The NSW Government has already flagged that businesses such as Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Hitachi are setting up in that area but it also opens up opportunities for manufacturers to think in terms of establishing some presence in this precinct, which the NSW Government says is being set up to become ‘the national capital for advanced manufacturing’.[2]

The Plan highlights the development of other precincts to incorporate in a range of industries. We see talk of a Sydney Tech precinct to foster innovation and a commitment of $1 billion dollars to precincts in regional areas including Parkes, Wagga Wagga, Moree, Williamtown and the Snowy Mountains.[3] We know that in Western Sydney we have the medical research hub around the Westmead, so logically manufacturers in that area or the surrounds are well placed to capitalise on such locations as part of their forward planning.

  1. Digitalisation

Whether we liked it or not, COVID-19 brought us all well and truly into the age of digitalisation. Technology has become the hallmark of a lot of our communications but also a key feature of us finding ways to streamline and increase the efficiency of what we do.  We have seen the NSW Government embrace this in, among other projects, its Telehealth Services, and in investment of $1.6 billion to its Digital Restart Fund to improve its digital services.[4] So, remember the ‘Smile Curve’, this would fall into an important part of the pre-production phase in how manufacturers can look at improving their manufacturing process to offer lower cost, higher output in processes. Would an investment in, for example, artificial intelligence, provide an opportunity to streamline and create efficiencies?

  1. Education and Skills

The Plan has a focus on education and skills. At school level a review of curriculum is important. However, at a more immediate level, a common complaint among manufacturers is the difficulty in finding and retaining staff with requisite skills. The NSW Government has expressed a commitment to looking at TAFE and vocational education with a view to updating training courses with industry input.[5] If followed through, the benefit of having courses designed with a view to real life industry needs will assist fill what is already an important skills set shortage for manufacturers in certain industries.

The Ups and Downs of COVID-19

There’s nothing like a crisis to:

  • highlight deficiencies;
  • focus the mind;
  • create momentum.

COVID-19 has certainly done all three. As we pull out our business plans for the last year and seek to re-evaluate and change them, some of the key features of The Plan should resonate with us in fashioning a business plan that is focussed on building that resilience and aimed at future growth. We live in hope of ‘going back to normal’ but manufacturers should ask themselves is ‘normal,’ good enough? What happens in the next crisis, or the next one? Have we built resilience to withstand what may come by using the lessons of COVID-19 and can we capitalise on the projects that are happening around us?

 

[1] NSW Government’s COVID-19 Recovery Plan, page 4.

[2] Ibid, page 5.

[3] NSW Government’s COVID-19 Recovery Plan, page 2.

[4] NSW Government’s COVID-19 Recovery Plan, page 4.

[5] Ibid, page 3.