A delegation of six business participants from Ai Group’s Hunter region visited 11 companies in Germany on a whirlwind 11-day trip.
The purpose of the trip was to determine what made family-owned manufacturing companies in Germany globally competitive, with a view to developing international business collaborations, Price told ILN.
“The thing that makes them successful is that they are family owned with quite a long-term outlook. Because of this they are quite prepared to ride through the rough times. They also invest heavily in research development, some as much as 7 to 9%,” Price said.
Price said that Australian and German attitudes to research, development and production differed in many ways, but this was why collaboration could provide an ideal balance.
“We both have our own methods but we don’t have all of the answers. Therefore, if we combine together we could do very well.”
The 11 German companies covered a diverse array of industries, all within manufacturing.
Crane manufacturer Demag, acquired in 2002 by mining giant Terex, was one on the delegation’s list.
“Their research and development is motivated by market input rather than internal process. We found most of the German manufacturers have a very close relationship with their customers and they constantly monitor any changes in customer requirements,” Price commented.
“We don’t do that to the same extent that they do. We seem to be more content to run with what we know and less inclined to change it. But it is good practice, it definitely works for them.”
Terex Material Handling vice-president and managing director Lars Brzoska said his Australian guests were particularly interested in this aspect of German business.
“As an innovation leader in crane and hoist technology, we aspire to making the customer and his needs the focus of our work to an even greater extent,” Brzoska said.
“Our global distribution and service network thus provides the best prerequisite for acting in a customer-orientated manner.”
Other host companies included MAN Diesel & Turbo, Schenck Process Group, Liebherr and Windhoff among others. Price said a number of the companies showed interest in future collaborations with Australia.
“We want to foster international collaboration both at the research level and at the trade level. Eight of the eleven companies that we visited have branches in Australia so there is opportunity for these companies to supply more into the Australian mining equipment market,” Price told ILN.
“We had a meeting with the The Fraunhofer institute in Munich. We discussed Australian and German research organizations working in the manufacturing space with the aim of further developing a joint relationship and exploring how it can be made operational.
“Ai Group has a bid in for a cooperative research center in advanced manufacturing so there’s an opportunity to make that an international collaboration.”