Published 30-06-2020
| Article appears in June 2020 Issue



“After two decades of offshore production in low-cost countries, many manufacturers are now asking: do we continue offshoring or should we consider reshoring?” (AMTIL (2020))

One of the many learnings over the past few months is that of self-sufficiency. In the past, Australia and New Zealand, like many other countries, gradually outsourced a large part of its supply chain internationally to reduce costs.

COVID-19 saw the best and worst of supply chain management – some companies came to a grinding halt while others couldn’t keep up with manufacturing demand. SMC itself has managed to deliver consistently throughout the pandemic because of their local stocking policy and commitment to local manufacturing.

William Lebihan, head of sales for SMC Corporation Australia and New Zealand (ANZ) says the past few months have helped strengthen the belief in local manufacturing: increase local revenues and to safeguard the economy.

“Businesses that relied on importing were caught in a supply chain drought and I sincerely hope that as we all emerge from COVID-19 that these examples are still front of mind to help drive a change in attitude towards Australian manufacturing,” he says.

“Unfortunately, it’s not a simple matter of just switching it all back on again and hoping for the best; government has a massive role to play here to help support a ‘reshoring’ of Australian manufacturing. Time is of the essence.”

As an established player in the market, SMC has noticed a trend towards more flexible manufacturing and a big drive among local companies to look at how they can improve their local manufacturing facilities.

Lebihan says SMH remains ever committed to its local customers.

“SMC has resources, people, skills and products to support our customers across both Australia and New Zealand,” he says.

“Whether you’re investing in IoT technologies to enable more flexible manufacturing, ramping up your automation to cope with demand, or diversifying your current product lines, SMC is a partner in the automation process. We offer a practical approach and want to assist our customers by making the resources we have at our disposal available to customers in our effort to support local manufacturing.”

Founded in Japan in 1959, SMC Corporation opened its first subsidiary in Australia in 1967 with New Zealand opening in 1984.

“While we have access to a wealth of global resources from our head office, we have invested heavily in the local market with offices and manufacturing facilities across Australia and New Zealand,” Lebihan asys.

“I am pleased to say that as it stands, we have $25 million worth of local stock on-hand; in fact, our logistics and production teams never missed a beat during the worst of COVID-19, working a split shift to accommodate for social distancing requirements and to help support our customers.”

In a new move, the company has moved towards offering hands-on remote support to customers. The company’s wide range of available products are backed by its virtual support strategy.

“We are helping customers futureproof their business remotely,” Lebihan says.

“For the first time our customers have access directly to our applications engineering team and can set up and conduct remote meetings, consultations, assessment of current systems and technical advice with no strings.”

This translates into hands-on assistance should the customer need it at the conceptual, installation or programming phase.

“The team, comprising of 88 salespeople and 12 application engineers, is on standby to assist with product selections, quotes, placing orders, enabling remote access to set up components, delivering product training, technical advice and more,” he says.

In terms of lead times, Lebihan notes that popular products are available locally within a day or two while products on request from its head office in Japan can be imported in as little as five days.

The local engineering team is also able to design and engineer solutions which may not yet be a standard product.

“Nothing has changed in terms of our delivery and customer offering,” he says.

“We still offer high quality products at low cost with rapid delivery. This is part of our commitment to reaccelerating and invigorating the local manufacturing sector. We want customers to feel safe knowing that no matter where they are in their journey, we are there every step of the way.”

Lebihan notes that keeping costs down remains critical.

“Rather than upgrading entire systems, there are smart and affordable decisions that can be made,” he says.

“We offer a practical approach for new and existing customers to sharpen up their digitalisation, without the hefty upfront investment costs – even if the project is a basic concept only.”



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