Holden’s closure a turning point for manufacturing in Australia

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Holden’s Elizabeth plant closed in South Australia last week. Although some see it as a sad event, an expert believes that Holden’s closure can be a turning point for the country.

In a report by The Advertiser, Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre managing director Jens Goennemann said that last week’s event was significant because “it will take us away from traditional manufacturing-related assembly and production and into the high-tech, high value research and development and services.” Australia should now have a new focus, according to Goennemann.

End of an era

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the end of Holden making cars in Australia was a “very sad day” for every Aussie. He called it an end of an era.

Holden’s closure comes after Ford Motor Co (F.N) and Toyota Motor Corp (7203.T) similarly moved out. It also meant that thousand of manufacturing jobs were gone.

Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union state secretary John Camillo said almost 2,500 newly unemployed will need help from the government in finding a new job. He told reporters outside the GM Holden plant in Elizabeth that those who lost their jobs need to be trained again so they can work in defense, mining and aerospace. He was joined by workers and car enthusiasts who gathered to greet the last Holden off the production line.

Turning point for Australia

“The focus should now be on upskilling right through the value chain of manufacturing to identify “high-value” pre and post production areas across all sectors that could open up a global market of customers,” Goennemann said. He added that an auto components maker in Victoria is already working with an international customer.

Goennemann believes there is likely going to be a transitioning too. Some companies, he said, might transition to other sectors such as defence. Some could take up opportunities associated to the defence spend linked to the construction of new submarines and other vessels. Most of these are in South Australia and West Australia.

Goennemann has worked with global companies Daimler-Benz Aerospace and Airbus Group. Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre is an industry-led organisation established through the Industry Growth Centres initiative by the government.

New company 'scorecared'

A report titled Advanced Manufacturing: A New Definition for a New Era calls for a new “scorecard” tool, which will be used to monitor progress of companies. It can also be used for changing how the information is reported and better target industry assistance.