Engage Asia or die: Winter

Australia’s supply chain industry must take action to engage in genuine partnerships with Asia before it’s too late, according to one CEO

Engage Asia or die: Winter
Engage Asia or die: Winter

By Anna Game-Lopata | May 3, 2011

Australia’s supply chain industry must take action to engage in genuine partnerships with Asia before it’s too late.

Logistics Executive Recruitment CEO Kim Winter says the Australian supply chain industry for the most part, behaves as if it were still a colonial outpost of Europe.

Winter was speaking at the launch of the Alliance for Supply Chain Innovation (ASCI) at the Chartered Institute of Transport and Logistics' 2011 International Convention yesterday.

He told over 50 supply chain stakeholders the need has never been more critical for industry to partner with research institutions across the Asia Pacific region, but the window of opportunity is slim.

"Despite being well developed and prosperous, we exist in an environment where national spend on research and development (R&D) is one of the lowest in the western world," Winter says.

"Meanwhile our neighbours continue to outstrip our economic growth."

"We are also one of the world’s biggest exporters of empty containers, that’s not going to take us very far."

Winter, whose global recruitment business
involves him in the supply chain space on a daily basis, points out that 95 percent of it is now outside Australia.

"There is engagement with Asia going on at a senior level, but there must be more," he says.

"We know we are a hot-bed of education. Australia has been educating the youth of Asia Pacific for the last decade.

"But we are exporting all those people back, so where’s the value for Australia in being a great educator?"

Winter calls on the newly formed ASCI, a collaborative consortium of 13 research institutions and two affiliated industry bodies, to become the pre-eminent platform in the APAC region for projects with high value commercial outcomes.

"What ASCI promises is a genuinely coordinated approach to research and innovation that is targeted and of value to a wider audience across the region," Winter says.

"It could be the first ever joint platform for supply chain development in Australia."

But Winter warns the birth of ASCI is well overdue and not without serious challenges.

"We are behind the 8th ball and need to move quickly," he says.

"There are models in other countries, proving the feasibility of ASCI as a collaborative organisation.

"In Singapore we’ve seen industry engage successfully with government and research organisations to undertake vital research that explores solutions for continued economic political and social sustainability."

According to Winter, Supply Chain Asia’s latest project is the development of a 100 square foot supply chain innovation centre in Singapore to be up and running within three years.

"The target is $20 million, significant commitments of
which have already been pledged by the private sector and government," Winter points out.

In Australia, however, industry fragmentation has lead to the inability to convince government of the need for funding for supply chain research.

"As a result we probably haven’t presented government with very good business cases in the modern setting for research in our industry," he says.

"There’s a raft of activities already happening in Australia, but how effective is all this research if it isn’t involving a range of stakeholders or offering significant commercial outcomes for end users and buyers?

"We fail to attract support, funding and attention from government that other countries have succeeded in doing- we need a unified approach."

Winter argues the opportunity and level of interest will only come once.

"Unless action prevails there will be serious, perhaps insurmountable challenges. ASCI’s opportunity has arrived late, but I see it as life or death for the supply chain industry in Australia.

"We must bring Asia to us and go to Asia rather than acting against it as a competitor.

"ASCI has the chance to play this role by finding developing meaningful partnerships, conducting innovative research of relevance to the whole region and delivering project outcomes that further the industry and the Australian economy overall."

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