A month has passed since Australian fruit and vegetable processor SPC Ardmona found a light at the end of the tunnel. And we can’t help but wonder how it will be using the $100 million co-investment from the Victorian Government and parent company Coca-Cola Amatil to grow the business. How would you use the money if it was your decision?
The fact is, you need to plan for growth. You can’t just squeeze your eyes shut and wish for it to happen. Australia’s manufacturing industry is far too volatile and unpredictable for any business, in any industry, to sit back and expect it to come naturally.
Over the years, as we’ve been visiting customers across Australia, we’ve witnessed — and been part of — a whole range of growth strategies. One thing we’ve noticed is that the most effective strategies don’t require a huge investment, but do need vision and dedication.
Here are the 5 best strategies:
1. Innovate, and keep innovating
SPC has announced it will be using the $100m to fund innovation. But innovation is not about a “eureka” moment, nor is it just about launching exciting new products or one-hit wonders. True innovation is sustainable innovation. Innovation across every part of your business, from processes to staff training, across products and marketing.
Manufacturers need to create and nurture a culture that supports ongoing innovation. And if you fail to innovate, you risk being overtaken by those who do. Dairy is a great example of an industry sector doing just that. Consumers are demanding products that lend themselves to on-the-go consumption, and dairy brands have been satisfying this demand with single-serve and lunch box ready products, such as yoghurt-muesli breakfast packs and cheese sticks.
2. Listen to customers
Now is the time for manufacturers to pay more attention to customers than ever. In a recent interview with Food Magazine, Bronwyn Powell, SPC’s Marketing and Innovation Director, says one of her biggest daily challenges is “Getting to the heart of the consumer insight… digging deeper and deeper for the killer insight and not stopping.” This is the exact focus manufacturers need to have.
Of course, the main challenge for manufacturers, or any business for that matter, is that consumers are always changing. It’s not enough to try and keep up — you need to be ahead on how they think, feel and behave.
3. Improve existing processes
Your existing processes may well hold the key to your future growth. Process improvement encompasses a wide range of tools, techniques and strategies, including lean manufacturing to reduce waste and Six Sigma to increase quality. One example is using integrated vision technology to help identify issues and stop non-conforming products from even leaving your facility. Upgrading your product ID and inspection equipment is another way to improve your existing processes. Leaving it too long is a false economy, and can cost you money. (You could take advantage of the boosted $20,000 instant-asset claim tax break announced in the 2015 Federal Budget.)
4. Reduce waste
Australia’s food manufacturing industry is the second largest non-domestic contributor to food waste, sending 312,000 tonnes to landfill each year. It’s beaten only by the food services sector, which generates 661,000 tonnes of food waste annually.
And while the landfill is getting bigger, your profits are getting smaller; food waste is a huge contributor to lost profits for Australian manufacturers. Again, the answer lies in your manufacturing processes. By designing cost-effective and sustainable processes, manufacturers can minimise waste while enhancing efficiency and reducing energy consumption, ultimately improving their bottom line. And there’s help at hand: a new training centre led by University of Sydney chemical engineers opened this month, with the goal to educate the next generation of food technology.
5. Carve a niche
The truth is, Australian manufacturers are mostly small companies working within specific niches. But far from holding them back, this is something that manufacturers can use to drive them forward.
Look at the beer industry. In 2012, when beer consumption in Australia slumped to a 50-year low and big beer brands suffered a drop in sales, it was the micro-breweries that stepped up to fill the gap in the market. This month, it’s been reported that Australian beer consumption has plummeted to a 70-year low – but the craft beers stand strong.
The boom in craft beers is also driving interest and demand for Australian-grown hops, where growers are now using the flowers to bring unique and vibrant flavours to craft beer. Taking this a step further, Melbourne micro-brewery Feral Brewing has developed a German-style wheat beer with a very unusual star ingredient…watermelon! Think about your niche and how you can exploit it to open new doors.
Check out the Global Food Forum too, it had some great ideas on how Australian food manufacturers can become Asia’s deli, and these steps for small business to get ready for Asian export growth – particularly in light of increased interest from India in our goods and the newly minted FTA with China. If you’re in beverages, here are 5 trends you need to know. And on the subject of innovation, this piece looks at how 3D printing could completely restructure supply chains, improve customisation, push the boundaries of innovation and speed-up manufacturing.
What’s your strategy for growth? If you’re looking to improve your processes, Matthews is here to help. Contact us on 1300 CODING.