Speaking at a recent seminar by trade credit firms Coface and NCI in Sydney, Lisa McAuley of the Global Trade Professionals Alliance (GTPA) used the example of shipping, which she described as one of “the most archaic industries” when it comes to processes and documentation, with “stacks of paper” stuffed into every consignment.
This documentation, explained the former head of the Export Council of Australia, is a huge headache for businesses exporting their goods abroad, particularly when discrepancies create delays and bottlenecks at customs on the receiving end.
And it is not just customs drowning in paperwork — Michael Lim, head of the trade and supply chain division within ANZ, said the bank processes some 70,000 “stacks of paper” every month in relation to global export transactions.
According to Ms McAuley, digitising these cumbersome processes and embracing technologies such as blockchain could deliver savings of as much as $46 per shipping container — a sizable cost given the volume of containers that leave Australia’s ports each year.
And those savings are in just one part of the entire production and export process.
Ms McAuley suggested that SMEs waiting for the government and service providers to lead the charge in embracing technology are setting themselves up for disappointment, given that it is much easier to adopt ahead of the curve than to play catch up afterwards.
“I think the opportunities for a lot of small and medium enterprises are going be around the ecommerce and online, and digital services,” said Ms McAuley.
“It will be a case of Australian companies making sure that they are preparing their business for taking advantage of this disruptive change and implementing it into their business, because if not, they will get left behind.”
Sadly, Ms McAuley said that, in general, Australian firms are “way behind” those in some other countries in embracing technologies under the Industry 4.0 banner.
“I don’t know necessarily if a lot of Australian companies are embracing Industry 4.0, which I think will be a significant disadvantage when it comes to being a competitive manufacturing company,” she said.
“When we look at countries like Germany and just how embedded they are in the way that they manufacture, we’re way behind.”
However, she suggested that not enough is being done to educate busy SME operators of the new technologies available to them.
“The Australian Government has made pathways forward to look at how to support SMEs to embrace new technologies and Industry 4.0, but more could be done to help educate SMEs in this area and to prepare their business for the transition,” she said.