Ballarat manufacturers band together to fight tough times

BALLARAT manufacturing companies are banding together to share their stories and collaborate in the wake of an industry enduring hardship. 

The FMP Group is one of 15 companies participating in the Ballarat Industry Innovation Network program, a co-operative program between the City of Ballarat and the Australian Industry Group. 

FMP integrated supply chain manager David Doyle said one of the main reasons they joined the program was to network with other companies and learn from their experiences. 

“Cross collaboration is the only way to survive,” Mr Doyle said. 

“Even though we’re all quite different manufacturers, we can learn a lot from what each other is doing.

“They might be doing something that we’ve never thought of that might suit as well.” 

Program facilitator Frank Paton said a component of the program was sharing personal experiences, both good and bad.

“We want to help business create an innovation pipeline, for them to renew themselves, their product and their market place.”

Many jobs have been lost in the manufacturing industry in the region and around the nation over the past few years. 

From 2010 to 2013, manufacturing jobs in the Ballarat region halved. 

Mr Paton said the companies that were still going strong and had signed up to the program had worked diligently to be in their position. 

He said a range of businesses were participating, including food manufacturers, automotive and paint to name a few. 

“Everything needs to be adapted, each company needs a different plan but they can still learn things from each other.”

He said the program concentrated on product innovation and technology strategy, product portfolio management, launch processes and working in the right climate and leadership. 

Mr Doyle said they were always looking to improve processes and were interested in networking with other companies. 

“We’re always looking to develop new markets, improve use of technology, be producing quality products, reduce costs and improve the skill of our employees,” Mr Doyle said. 

“If we’ve got a well placed quality product that meets customers’ demands and they keep buying, that keeps us in business. 

“But if we’re not moving forward and meeting our customers’ needs, then we’re out of business. 

“If customers don’t think we’re giving them their best value for money, they’re going to go elsewhere.”

He said their business needed to be very mindful of the future with the looming departure of Holden, Ford and Toyota from Australian manufacturing. 

“We need to be doing new things to ensure our business in the future.”

Mr Doyle said the company had adopted a program many years ago where they looked at continuous improvement, productivity and customer service.

“We’re now revisiting all those things and going back down that path.

He said the management team was passionate about staying in Ballarat. 

“We’ve been here since 1955 and have a lot of history. We want to be around for a long time,” Mr Doyle said. 

City of Ballarat manager of economic development Sean Cameron said the program was driven by industry needs.

“There’s a need in Ballarat, as there is a need everywhere else, to jump on the front foot when it comes to the manufacturing industry,” Mr Cameron said.

nicole.cairns@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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