The Fall and Rise of Australian Manufacturing

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Some commentators would have us believe the Australian manufacturing industry is dying a slow and predictable death. It’s true, manufacturing’s share of total employment has experienced a steady drop since its peak in the 1970’s, and many of the countries traditional manufacturing industries have experienced a significant decline. Such iconic Aussie clothing brands like Billabong, Bonds and Quiksilver have outsourced their inventory manufacturing for years.

The once robust automotive industry is disappearing with Holden and Toyota set to close their Australian operations only 12 months after Ford closed their factory doors. It’s little wonder the forecast for manufacturing appears to be all doom and gloom.

Yes, on the surface, the Australian manufacturing industry appears to have hit the ropes, but it certainly isn’t out for the count. In fact, manufacturing jobs have risen substantially in the past year and the industry has not only stabilised, but is experiencing international sales growth.


Manufacturing has lost much of its substantial share of total employment in the Australian economy. However, the earlier decline can in part, be attributed to an increased adoption of automated processes in operations, not a decline in manufacturing. It’s hard to disagree that automation is responsible for eliminating many repetitive manual tasks, and therefore jobs, within the manufacturing industry. Developments in automation and robotic technology have nonetheless been central to the recent rebound of the industry, helping to improve manufacturing processes, efficiency and sustainability. That very same automation has also increased the need for a more skilled workforce, offering employees the opportunity to upskill and take on more rewarding and creative roles within organisations.

Diversity and innovation

The manufacturing landscape in Australia is changing, as manufacturers invest in creating well-engineered parts and components for a range of industries. Even automotive is not quite done, with the successful design, manufacture and assembly of electric buses happening in Australia.

Diversity and innovation in technology-based applications is nothing new to Australian manufacturing. Professor Gibson from Deakin University’s School of Engineering, is a leading expert, with 25 years of experience, in additive manufacturing, an area that is experiencing substantial growth.

Technological developments have also allowed the creation of manufacturing inventory solutions. With new composite parts manufacturing now providing modules and parts to the aerospace and defence industries.

Manufacturers such as the Rope and Plastic Group, have taken an innovative and collaborative approach to saving their operations. Following the decline in business from the automotive industry, the company developed the Ecodry clothesline for the disability and aged-care sectors. The company also collaborates with the state government, employing prison workers to assemble manufacturing inventory modules.

Digital Transformation and Manufacturing Inventory

The future of manufacturing is now an industry of digitally integrated businesses, ones that operate seamlessly across all channels, including manufacturing, inventory, marketing, sales and distribution.

With consumers now exhibiting a preference toward socially responsible companies, digital technology is providing an opportunity to support manufacturers in establishing good sustainable practices.

Investment in technology and smart analytics is expected to double in the next few years, particularly in the areas of real-time tracking systems, predictive analytics and manufacturing inventory software.

Disruptive innovation in the form or robotics and cobotics will continue to change the face of manufacturing operations both in Australia and globally. So, to that purpose the Australian manufacturing industry is not dying, it just looks different!

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Melanie - Unleashed Software

Article by Melanie Chan in collaboration with our team of Unleashed Software inventory and business specialists. Melanie has been writing about inventory management for the past three years. When not writing about inventory management, you can find her eating her way through Auckland.

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