Plant & Equipment

Melbourne the focal point for innovation

More than 700 industry professionals attended CMIC16 at the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre in the final week of October. There were almost 550 full conference registrations whilst 73 additional persons registered for the Industry Innovation Day. The other numbers encompassed additional exhibitors and accompanying partners. Including key sponsors, there were more than 40 exhibitors in the trade hall over the three days.

{{image2-a:r-w:300}}The bulk of the registrations were from Victoria and New South Wales, then Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and the ACT. There were more than 20 registrations from New Zealand, New Caledonia, the USA, the UAE, the Philippines, Canada, Fiji, Ghana, Hong Kong and South Africa.

The Industry Innovation Day kicked off proceedings on Wednesday, 26 October. The day was developed in response to industry feedback that requested a more affordable opportunity for quarrying or concrete batch plant staff to participate in the conference. As a result, casual visitors could attend a full day of plenary sessions, with access to the trade exhibition, lunch and tea breaks.

There were 30 presentations throughout the Innovation Day from trade exhibitors and construction materials companies. These included case studies of the Hanson Hobart downhill power regenerating conveyor project (see page 9), community engagement strategies via Boral’s Lysterfield Quarry, development of an articulated dump truck stability warning system, implementation of a rollover prevention campaign, and the Quarry Life Award, the global research competition supported by Hanson Australia that promotes the ecological value of quarries.

{{image3-a:r-w:300}}Later that evening, Hitachi Construction Machinery Australia hosted the official welcome reception at the neighbouring World Trade Centre. More than 520 delegates mingled, socialised and soaked in the good food, wine and music in a naturally lit function room overlooking the Yarra River.


The plenary program for CMIC16, focusing on the themes of “Capability and Innovation”, officially commenced on Thursday, 27 October. The Honourable Luke Donnellan MP, Victorian Minister for Roads and Road Safety, officially opened the conference. He discussed the Victorian Government’s infrastructure program, and also the recent State Extractive Plan that discussed the demand and supply challenges the extractive industry faces to 2050.

{{image4-a:r-w:300}}Mark Campbell, the CCAA chairman and CEO of Holcim Australia and New Zealand, delivered the keynote opening speech. He remarked that while the construction materials industry is not renowned for its innovation, it is becoming more efficient every year. Indeed, he said it was likely that industry operators are subconsciously thinking about ways to innovate, eg in the process and product system, the profit model and product performance, and branding and customer engagement.

“Innovation is not a single event or idea,” Campbell said, “it’s a dedicated and structured approach to trying something different or improving something using information, creativity and intellect.”

Campbell added that innovation is never new but it takes time for adoption. The telephone took almost 50 years to become a household appliance whereas, with the aid of technology, the iPhone was prolific within five years. Members of society have the choice to adopt new innovations, Campbell said, but for industry, innovation isn’t optional.

He stated the approach of Holcim Australia to innovation required all round leadership for success, eg:

  • Senior leaders should drive innovation across the organisation.
  • Employees should pilot new ideas without fear of critical failure.
  • Roadblocks such as corporate structure and hierarchy should be removed so that innovation can flourish.
  • Organisations should better understand their customers’ future needs.

Campbell argued that innovation was even more critical in the modern age, due to rapid urbanisation. The construction materials industry will need to implement new methods of faster construction, access to raw materials and logistics innovation, particularly as 89 per cent of Australians live in urban areas. He remarked that the industry will have to consider where it wants to be in 2025, when it is estimated that up to 20 per cent of quarry operations could use driverless vehicles, 50 per cent of trucks on Australian roads could be driverless, 50 per cent of construction materials will employ building information modelling (BIM), and 50 per cent of precast concrete will be 3D-printed.


After the morning tea break, economist Saul Eslake summarised Australia’s economic performance over the last 25 years and explained why the national economy did not experience the shocks of the Global Financial Crisis that afflicted other Western economies. He attributed this to a combination of good economic management and luck but warned that the tide was turning with business and consumer confidence down and household income in decline. Where traditionally the construction sector had previously leveraged off the engineering construction work in the mining sector, there has been more of a reliance on residential construction to keep construction activity afloat.

{{image6-a:r-w:300}}Eslake remarked that while government investment in infrastructure would help raise construction activity, state governments are reluctant to borrow funds (even with record low interest rates).

Eslake forecast that the combination of a “hard landing” from China and the possibility of a “housing bust” would impact the construction materials sector. The question is how the sector would weather the storm.

Dr George Quezada, from the CSIRO’s Urban Research Projects division, discussed the report that his division, in conjunction with Construction Skills Queensland, delivered on four exploratory scenarios for Queensland’s construction industry to 2036:

  1.   Digital evolution to manage an ageing workforce and extreme climates.
  2.   Smart collaboration, whereby advanced manufacturing and new tools make the construction process safer, more productive and less labour-intensive.
  3.   Globally challenged, ie the workforce cannot compete with advanced manufacturing and robotics, and local companies and operations compete through outsourcing, ceding new construction methods and technologies to international competitors.
  4.   Rise of the machines, ie automation is embraced as a global construction hub, encompassing intelligent robot and advanced manufacturing and materials.

Allan Ryan, managing director of Managed Innovation International, stated that innovation requires insight and creativity. He also emphasised that it’s not essential to finish first in the innovation race – as “second mouse to the cheese”, organisations can leverage off the work of others. Ryan also argued that in successful teams that innovate, the most important person is the catalyst, who drives the organisational culture. He advised construction materials operators to identify who the catalysts for innovation were in their own organisations.


The first of the afternoon sessions featured presentations on innovative, long-term construction projects. Simon Thomas, of the Australian Railtrack Corporation, outlined the Inland Rail Project, a 10-year, 1700km rail line from Melbourne to Brisbane. This project will require 20 million cubic metres of earthworks, 2.5 million tonnes of ballast and 1.6 million sleepers.

Peter Wilkinson, the development and delivery director of the Melbourne Metro Rail Authority, also discussed this landmark project. Melbourne Metro will effectively introduce a whole new rail network to the Melbourne CBD, comprising a 9km greenfield tunnel and five new underground stations.

The late afternoon sessions were capped off by an entertaining presentation from leadership strategist Avril Henry who spoke about the future workplace. She argued that for traditional industries like the construction materials sector, it is women and young people that will become vital to their operations, particularly as the ratio of active workers to every retiree by 2050 will be 2:1 (in 2016, it is 3.5:1). Managers will also have to adjust to new, more tech-savvy and autonomous employees.

{{image5-a:r-w:300}}Professor Peter Gahan, from the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Workplace Leadership, presented the findings of a survey of Australian businesses of workplace safety leadership. The survey established that of front line leaders in Australian businesses – ie people working at the operational level – one in four were unsuited to the job, lacking appropriate qualifications. Many workplaces also lacked key performance indicators for innovation, productivity and workplace performance, and failed the criteria for incremental and rapid innovation. Leadership and WHS were also linked; without the right employee engagement, organisations cannot groom tomorrow’s managers as well as promote a strong workplace culture and risk management strategies.

The first day of plenary sessions concluded with Lend Lease’s Ro Coroneos’ presentation on the Barangaroo Skills Exchange, a 10-year project that is redeveloping the Sydney CBD waterfront. Lend Lease had to recruit skilled, qualified labour, and in conjunction with the NSW Government, NSW TAFE and the Construction and Property Services Industry Skills Council, has successfully implemented a program that has provided on the job training for more than 10,000 workers, 40 per cent of whom experienced accredited training for the first time.


Day one of CMIC16 was rounded off with the long-established Komatsu Gala Dinner. This year, the dinner was held in the auspicious surroundings of the National Gallery of Victoria and was attended by more than 510 delegates.

The first plenary session on Friday, 28 October focused on the impacts of political and social change. Barrie Cassidy, the host of ABC TV’s The Insiders and a veteran of the Canberra Press Gallery, summarised the political turbulence that has underlined Australian politics since 2007. 

{{image8-a:r-w:300}}Cassidy stated that the Federal Government’s current problem is that that typically elections are won between elections, not during election campaigns, because of the success of the incumbent government’s agenda. On that basis, the Turnbull Government has failed to clearly articulate what its agenda is. It has also failed to persuade voters that there is still value to “trickle down” economics when wage growth has stalled and globalisation and disruptive technologies are threatening traditional labour roles. Voters have also been frustrated by government and opposition politicking on other issues like industrial relations reform, climate change, marriage equality and infrastructure, the last being a popular “political football” of governments.

Cassidy warned that at the next election the government cannot rely on the argument that it is the superior economic manager, considering the national deficit deteriorated in its first term of office. Cassidy predicted that the next election would be earlier than 2019 – possibly September 2018. He anticipates that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten will again lead the respective election campaigns – despite leadership rumblings in government and opposition ranks.>

Cassidy also commented on the US presidential election campaign. He was bewildered by Donald Trump’s bid for the US presidency, likening it to the “Springtime for Hitler” skit in the Mel Brooks comedy The Producers!

Ross Dawson, of the Future Exploration Network, elaborated on the technological disruptors industry faces, such as the automation of knowledge work, and robots and computers performing traditional labour roles. However, he also remarked that while urbanisation and technology conspired to disrupt communities in the past, they are now creating new communities and new attachments, eg people will travel less to the office and will work from home or localised co-working spaces.

{{image7-a:r-w:300}}Dr Andrew Wilson of the Domain Group provided an update on the demographic changes impacting the construction materials sector. He remarked that while NSW, Victoria and Queensland are leading a three-speed economy that is highly dependent on residential construction activity (particularly in high rise apartments), the economy remains weak and to combat inequity in the property market, governments will need to intervene to raise more revenue.

The morning sessions were wrapped up by Peter Williams, of Deloitte Digital, and Stuart Corner, editor of the Internet of Things website. Williams articulated the kind of digital platforms that could be employed to improve quarrying operations and technologically augment workplace safety. Corner discussed what the Internet of Things (IoT) is and how its data can benefit organisations. Indeed, he explained that it is now possible for machines to drive innovation; machine learning is so sophisticated that through automated analytical model building it is possible for computers to find hidden insights that would escape human thinking. However, Corner warned the evolution of the IoT in the Asia-Pacific region is dependent on promotion by OECD governments. He said the Federal Government has largely ignored the value of the IoT.


The conference officially concluded with the Caterpillar Business Leaders Lunch Forum. More than 400 delegates attended the forum to listen to four guest speakers.

{{image9-a:r-w:300}}Brett Haskins, the Asia-Pacific regional manager for Caterpillar Safety Services, discussed the revolutionary technology being employed in Cat’s earthmoving equipment worldwide with Canberra-based company Driver Safety Systems (DSS). Caterpillar is working with DSS to combat fatigue in operators and address how to reduce incidences of fatigue in the workplace.

The Hon Wade Noonan MP, the Victorian Minister for Industry, Employment and Resources, and the Hon Daniel Mulino MP, the parliamentary secretary to the Victorian Treasurer, spoke about the Victorian Government’s infrastructure program to 2020 and the input of the Victorian extractive industry to the State Extractive Plan and Infrastructure Plan which addresses future population growth in Victoria and identifies the proximity of extractive resources to growth corridors in the state to 2050. Noonan praised the extractive industry, remarking that it could be proud of its input into the two plans.

Mulino outlined the current status of the Victorian construction environment. The construction materials industry was worth $40 billion in real terms in 2015-16 and the Victorian Government will commit almost $8 billion annually to infrastructure to 2019-20. Mulino remarked that there was scope for the government to make borrowings for further infrastructure work without impacting Victoria’s AAA credit rating. However, he cautioned that this would only occur in the event there was a productive asset to support.

The final speaker was Projects Victoria director David Saxelby, who is also the immediate past president of the Australian Constructors Association. He remarked that for the construction materials sector to be more innovative in the near future, it will need to engage in more collaborative, proactive procurement of infrastructure projects and there will need to be a simplification of planning processes and regulations. He also advocated an alignment of political and corporate interests with regards to large-scale projects – that is, governments should be more actively involved in the delivery process of big infrastructure projects, simply because they will be too important to fail. Haskins, Mulino and Saxelby kindly participated in a Q&A panel after the completion of their presentations.

Armed with three days of insight from experts across the spectrum on what constitutes innovation and technological capability, it was unlikely that delegates would not have had some new ideas that they could pass onto their peers when they returned to the quarry or the concrete plant on the following Monday morning.












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