Did you know that according to the Economic Complexity Index, Australia only ranks 93rd out of 133 surveyed countries in terms of global manufacturing output?

A couple of weeks ago, I attended the Connect Rail conference in Melbourne where one of the hot topics was the subject of manufacturing in Australia, which was repeatedly mentioned as a key focus for future rail projects across the nation.

The topic seems to represent something of a sore point for the Australian Government, but from what I gathered from the presentations there is already some movement from the top to address the problem, with the recent establishment of the Office of National Rail Industry Coordination (ONRIC).

This office is spearheading this initiative and is currently developing a strategy to support the Australian rail manufacturing industry. I would encourage anyone interested to keep an eye on what they are doing and check out their website – https://www.industry.gov.au/manufacturing/office-national-rail-industry-coordination.

Fortunately, it seems that the Government is sensible enough not to put all its eggs in the one basket. Victoria’s “Local First Policy” is another positive step towards bolstering local industries and improving Australia’s manufacturing capability, and I am sure the other states are pushing similar policies.

Personally, I think that there should be a drive for more standardisation of assets such as rolling stock across Australia as this would make the internal market for assets larger and more flexible.

I realise there are barriers such as gauging and signalling variations between states; however, by working as a collective and harnessing the vast knowledge and expertise in the industry across the country, effective resolutions can be found to accommodate these differences.

This would allow for a more flexible and adaptable distributed network of manufacturing facilities across Australia. It would also raise Australia’s manufacturing capability, increase skillsets in Australia, and reduce dependency on other countries.

One of the key elements to realising this progression is that all the states need to be more proactive in working and communicating together, sharing capabilities to manufacture more parts in Australia as a whole and then have localised assembly of the assets within states for logistical advantage.

So, here are a few questions to consider – are we doing enough to increase manufacturing in Australia? If not, what else should be we doing?

On the flip side of the coin, is it actually worth increasing local manufacturing at all? After all, if we can achieve the same result for less money by importing trains and rollingstock, is it worth the investment when outsourcing might represent better value for the taxpayer?

What are your thoughts?


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