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Disruption, supply dominate CMIC 18

More than 600 delegates from across Australia and nine other countries attended the IQA/CCAA Construction Materials Industry Conference held at the International Convention Centre in Sydney.

The keynote speaker was Boral Australia’s non-executive chair Kathryn Fagg. She explained that infrastructure was a common topic of discussion in her time as a Reserve Bank board member, as it was viewed as a significant ‘enabler’ of growth in the broader economy.

She remarked that construction materials companies are now beneficiaries of that growth, and must be more responsive to disruption and change in areas such as worker and transport safety, product innovation, sustainability, worker diversity and professional services.

Fagg’s key message was that change and disruption requires leaders to be courageous – and there was a general sentiment amongst presenters and delegates that Australian politics was bereft of it. This was a topic discussed by political commentators Michael Pascoe and Janine Perrett.

Disruption, energy

{{image3-a:r-w:275}}Disruption and change were themes in subsequent presentations. Futurist Chris Riddell argued that the construction materials industry, to keep up with the rapid pace of technology, needs to be innovative and completely change its business approach.

Professor Andrew Harris, of Laing O’Rourke’s Engineering Excellence Group, expanded on Riddell’s ‘macrolevel trends’ by exploring numerous innovations, eg immersing stakeholders in a digital model of infrastructure projects, possibilities in 3D printing, and development of self-repairing concrete and other building materials.

Energy reliability and sustainability was a big theme, starting with a presentation from Kerry Schott, the chair of the Energy Security Board, about the National Energy Guarantee (NEG). The Federal Government has abandoned the NEG, but Schott said its reliability requirements might still be implemented, with the assent of state governments.

John O’Brien, a partner at Deloitte Australia, also agreed with Schott’s optimism. He predicted technological innovation would drive significant improvements in renewable energy and that companies globally will embrace those innovations – in spite of various governments.

Gordon Wymer, chief commercial officer of Snowy Hydro, similarly said industry is leaning towards wind and solar power because these resources are exempt from the volatility of international commodity prices. He predicted the costs of wind and solar energy would fall and pumped energy storage projects such as Snowy 2.0 would maintain system reliability while still meeting renewable energy targets.

Capacity, capability

{{image4-a:r-w:275}}Demand and supply, and capacity and capability, was the other key theme. Geoff Roberts, deputy chief commissioner of the Greater Sydney Commission, outlined the NSW Government’s vision of Sydney as a ‘Metropolis of Three Cities’.

Part of this vision is to transform the Western Sydney region into a ‘global economic machine’. It would encompass the Western Sydney Airport and global companies will be encouraged to operate in the neighbouring Badgareys Creek Aerotropolis.

It is estimated up to 10 million tonnes of quarry materials will be required to facilitate this vision. It raises the question of how planners will ensure resources are available for the new facilities in the three cities, including Western Sydney.

The issue of capacity and capability was integral to Adrian Hart’s talk. Hart, associate director of BIS Oxford Economics, said while there is strong growth in engineering construction across the nation, the states’ capacity – and the capabilities of the quarrying industry – to keep up with demand is an issue.

Hart argued the infrastructure pipeline is impressive but the states need plans for the availability and delivery of construction materials, as well as other strategies for recycling and waste by-products.

Trust in institutions

{{image5-a:r-w:275}}Edelman Australia CEO Stephen Spurr spoke about the Edelman Trust Barometer, an online survey that has collated more than 18 years of data from more than 33,000 respondents in 28 countries on questions of trust in political and business institutions.

Australia is one of the countries in the extreme trust losses, just four points off Russia! Spurr reported that while Australians distrust government, media, business and non-government organisations intensely, they still trust employers and believe businesses should be more proactive on social issues. They also have more confidence in CEOs to deliver policy outcomes than politicians and expect them to make informed contributions to policy debates.

Spurr suggested the takeaway for the extractive industry from this report is that Australians will support initiatives, such as new quarries, provided the engagement strategies resonate with the community and are not perceived as self-serving.

This message was echoed by Bruce Hervey, director and principal of Resolution88. In his presentation on quarry closures and rehabilitation, Hervey said extractive companies will gain more support from communities if they can promote economic opportunities beyond the quarry’s life.

Further, he recommended a company’s human resources division employ local people to manage the operation, which should also foster training of local apprentices. Hervey encouraged extractive companies and regulators to work with local entrepreneurs on options that encourage innovative end uses and repurposing of quarries.

Networking events, awards

{{image6-a:r-w:275}}In addition to the plenary sessions, there was plenty of opportunities for delegates to network, starting with the Hitachi Machinery Australia welcome function on the first evening.

The following night, the Komatsu Australia gala dinner at the iconic Luna Park provided a truly carnival atmosphere. Delegates were entertained by Australian illusionist Sam Powers, who ‘wowed’ everyone with his blend of cheeky humour and audacious trickery.

On the final afternoon, delegates attended the business leader’s lunch. A panel comprising Infrastructure NSW CEO Jim Betts, CCAA chairman and Holcim CEO Mark Campbell and Adrian Hart continued the discussion of the infrastructure challenges identified in the previous three days.

Another highlight of the conference was the signing of the IQA Membership Pledge. The representatives of 16 construction materials producers and suppliers provided a formal commitment to support the IQA’s mission. The signing session was overseen by IQA President Clayton Hill.

Over the course of the three days, the IQA presented its annual awards that recognise members’ achievements within the extractive industry. This year’s recipients were:

• Excellence in Innovation (sponsored by Trimble) – Malcolm Sawers and Michael Benic.
• Alec Northover Award (sponsored by the Australian Institute of Quarrying Education Foundation) – Ryan Crawford.
• Gold Hard Hat Award – Holcim Bunbury, WA.
• Gold Environment Award (sponsored by Groundwork Plus) – Brian Burr, Holcim Bli Bli Quarry.
• Operator of the Year (sponsored by Retracom Group) – Mark Bevan.
• Quarry Manager of the Year (>10FTE, sponsored by Metso) – Steve Butcher, Hanson.
• Quarry Manager of the Year (<10FTE, sponsored by Metso) – Matt Neil, Holcim.
• Supplier of the Year – Mike Cooper, Cooper Consulting.
• President’s Medal – Andrew Wilson.

More coverage about the conference, and the awards, will appear in future issues of Quarry.

More reading
Construction market trends: What does it mean for the quarrying, concrete and cement industries?
Shaping tomorrow: Robots, digital and virtual reality
Tomorrow’s world: What does the future hold?
Snowy 2.0: Transitioning to a decarbonised economy
Kathryn Fagg: Time for courageous leadership
The building of tomorrow’s Australia
Gearing up, being equipped for a demanding decade
Construction materials industry conference just days away






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