A half-dozen things to watch in 2022

Australian manufacturing matters, these days more than ever. @AuManufacturing listed a handful of issues that they predict will impact Australia's manufacturing industry in 2022.

Optimism, with a Covid caveat

Manufacturing ended last year with a lot of very encouraging news and sentiment. According to the quarterly ACCI-Westpac Survey of Industrial Trends out on December 14, manufacturers displayed “a very positive outlook,” with optimism at its highest since 1994, and anticipated “a strong and accelerated recovery in 2022.” Material and labour constraints were troubling, but things were overall in solid shape.

Manufacturers and others were hiring, too. With record job vacancies in the three months to November 30 – nearly 400,000 of them – and 29,500 roles in manufacturing open.

Manufacturing matters – and we’ll continue hearing about it

According to research published by the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre last year, more and more Australians are valuing the industry, and 72 per cent of Australians see it as important or very important, up 7 per cent between 2019 and 2021.

As supply chain disruptions did in 2020, the current ones are a reminder of how desirable it would be if we could make and use certain things for ourselves (for example rapid antigen tests.) We predict manufacturing and its role in sovereignty will be a 2022 election issue, with the investment in the industry by the federal government and the effectiveness of this and other industry policies certain to be debated.

On the media front (and this is anecdote-based) there also appears to have been a shift in coverage in the last two years. As one example, early this month the ABC reported on the growth at some companies over that period and the hopes of a post-Covid boom in manufacturing. A comment from that story by Sevaan Group co-founder Jim Tzakos is reproduced below:

“Covid’s been a blessing for manufacturing in Australia, ‘cause it’s opened people’s minds, and suddenly… supply chains that couldn’t get product from overseas are now having product made in Australia. Some of them have seen that there’s not that much of a cost difference.”

The fact that Australian companies can and do manufacture competitively, and that they should be supported, is an important message and one that needs to be spread.

Policies and programs

Pre-Christmas, there was news the Growth Centres would be given another $19 million to help them transition into self-sustaining operations.

But after that, what will be the major federal programs promoting transformative industry-research collaborations and commercialise new products, processes and services?

The results of a CRC round are scheduled to be released in May, with candidates including bids from a CRC for Intelligent Manufacturing (CRC4IM), Sovereign Manufacturing Automation for Composites (SoMAC) CRC and Plastic Waste CRC. These could answer the question.

The Growth Centres, which Labor wanted to abolish at the 2019 election, have been repositioned by the opposition as “a successful program where the decisions get made by industry” and something the government wants to kill off to regain control of grant distribution.

Differences over these plans and Labor’s – which include a $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund loan scheme compared to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation – will feature in the run-up to the election, which must be held on May 21 or sooner, and must feature a campaign of at least five weeks’ length.

Read the full article here.

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