Cambridge University brainpower from the UK has been shunted in to help revive the fortunes of the Australian rail sector.Opportunities and priorities for the next 30 years have been identified in a report prepared by The Australian National University, supported by the Institute for Manufacturing’s dissemination arm, IfM Education and Consultancy Services Ltd (IfM ECS).
Working in collaboration, IfM ECS has provided support throughout the programme – developing the methodology and facilitating a key workshop.
It says it will take a change of culture, not just technology, to get the Oz rail sector back on track. As well as a chequered past, the industry is having to battle global volatility and pressure from low-cost, high volume manufacturing powerhouse, China.
The report, ‘On Track to 2040’, identifies opportunities for growth and improvement across the sector’s supply chain with the aim of supporting the development of a strong, innovative and globally competitive industry.
The project used the IfM’s well established roadmapping techniques to gather input for the 10-month project from more than 110 organisations, supported by targeted interviews and research.
The ‘On Track to 2040’ project has been commissioned by the Rail Supplier Advocate and funded by state and federal governments in partnership with industry.
The report defines an industry vision and identifies priority opportunities among promising applications of local capability and technology. The roadmap presents strategic recommendations that will support the industry in achieving its goals and help it to respond to national and global trends and drivers including increasing competition, growling levels of urban congestion, higher fuels costs and skills shortages.
IfM says it will take more than technology development, to realise future opportunities and fulfil the industry vision. The Australian rail industry has a chequered past of diverse standards and requirements, divided between state, market segment and customer boundaries, it says.
IfM adds that Australia’s rail manufacturing companies are currently experiencing extreme volatility due to trends in the global economy. Globalisation and the dominant position of China, are now recognised facts of business and contribute to the increase and demand for competitively priced, locally produced goods.
It’s this volatility and historical slow rate of innovation in the sector, that demonstrate the need for action to ensure the rail supply industry is best equipped to meet future demands, challenges and opportunities for growth, says IfM.
By adopting and implementing the industry vision described in the report, and embracing change, rail suppliers will be able to position themselves, to benefit from numerous growth opportunities. There is increasing demand for urban and regional services due to demographic changes and future projects in the passenger sector, such as high-speed rail operations to link Eastern capitals.
Dominic Oughton, principal industrial Fellow at IfM ECS explains: “The Australian rail sector is a very important part of the economy, but this is the first real opportunity for a cohesive strategy across the whole sector.
“One of the key benefits of IfM’s highly-inclusive workshop and roadmapping process has been the engagement of all the players across the whole industry. This has been key in delivering the vision for the sector, to be innovative and cohesive, having developed a strong sense of industry.
“This united industry will be capable of embracing change, enabling it to respond to international trends and achieve profitable growth on a local and global scale.”
The IfM is a global centre of excellence in strategic roadmapping, a graphical technique used to address a wide range of issues from national research and development strategies to the identification of company-level opportunities and threats.