Written by MaryAnne Edwards
Every country has its challenges within the marine sector and whilst Australia is a key player in the marine industry and is globally renowned for its innovation, quality and can do attitude, there are always issues that individual businesses face. As CEO of the Australian Marine Export Group for many years I saw first-hand the issues that businesses had to deal with in Australia and internationally. Over the last 15 years the world has become a smaller marketplace with communications, transport and access to many markets improving significantly, however there are always challenges and particularly for a small business or a new business entering the market.
Australian businesses face strong regulation and this brings increased costs to adhere to all the rules and regulations the Australian Government imposes. However these regulations also gives confidence to international companies importing Australian product, they know that the quality and safety standards will be second to none.
For many years distance to market was a barrier to businesses wanting to expand globally however as time has moved on this has become less of a barrier with on line sales increasing dramatically, easier access to international players and of course the many very professional logistics companies that now support the Australian industry.
It is critical for Australian marine industry businesses to investigate exporting as the level of local demand in many areas will not bring the increase in sales businesses continually need to survive. Australia has an established reputation in international markets with many Australia brands being seen as the best in the world. I have watched many of these brands get established and it is no mean feat. It takes perseverance, investment in research and marketing, a professional management team, continued development of global relationships and not taking no for an answer. AIMEX over the years has supported many Australian exporters and continue to do so providing cost effective opportunities to showcase products at international trade shows, helping to open doors and most of all offering the camaraderie and benefit of learning from others mistakes and successes.
The availability of skilled labour continues to be a challenge and some companies have better policies, cultures and training systems in place than others thus ensuring a steady stream of skilled and loyal employees. As in any businesses it is important to train and retain good employees and Australia has some fantastic examples of businesses doing this. The government also has a strong desire to upskill people and continue to promote a strong apprenticeship system, training programmes and transfer of skills.
The cost of labour in Australia is well known, we have one of the highest hourly rates in the world. Many businesses have moved their manufacturing offshore to take advantage of the low wage rates of some countries. This has been met with great success by some and disaster for others. There are always pros and cons and for those who continue to manufacture in Australia they realize in some cases some low wage countries need many more employees to do a job an Australia could do alone. They also realise that the quality control systems and can do attitude displayed by many Australia workers continues to be valued internationally. It is all about ensuring people work smarter not harder and are committed to the business paying their salaries. Internal business cultures have had to change and the new generation of employees have a completely different view of how their working life should be structured. We must all listen and adapt where we can.
As in every country a challenge will always come from imported products and given the global move to open up markets with free trade agreements this will continue. Many customers these days buy on price regardless of quality or comparing apples with apples. However Australia also has a discerning boating market with access to good quality information so how companies market themselves and their offerings is critical. Quality customer service, responsive after sales service and the best reputation are what all companies should aim for. Retaining existing customers is well known to be easier and cheaper than constantly having to find new customers.
Currently Australian businesses are focused on building on their strengths and where possible alleviating the impact of the challenges they face. The current Australian government is committed to support a strong marine industry especially in Queensland which continues to house a large share of the market.