Supplying the next generation of manufacturing

Roger Jowett at a company warehouse.

The Inenco Group of businesses are now Motion Asia Pacific. Australian Mining finds out how this empowers Australian manufacturers by tapping into a global network of excellence.

Every day for the past 60 years, manufacturers around Australia and New Zealand have visited one of over 100 Motion Asia Pacific locations, formerly known collectively as Inenco.

These store-fronts and branches, spread across every Australian state and the Northern Territory have become a fixture for the manufacturing industry, whether it be a BSC, CBC, Hardy Spicer, Specialty Fasteners or any of the other businesses owned by Inenco.

Such has been their longevity and brand presence; each business has continued to stand alone while under the Inenco ownership umbrella.

However, since 2019 when Genuine Parts Company, owner of United States industrial distribution brand Motion Industries, bought Inenco, work has been under way to combine these businesses under the Motion Asia Pacific brand.

Motion Asia Pacific chief executive Roger Jowett says this will directly benefit each customer who may not have been aware of all the individual parts of Inenco.

“We are still somewhat dysfunctional in that we’ll have two, three, or four salespeople visit the same customer. We’ll do great things, but we’ll produce four invoices. For us it’s the first step in pulling things together,” Jowett says.

By bringing together the distinct businesses under the one Motion Asia Pacific name, customers will find it easier to source a huge range of parts and products.

“We’re helping to reduce transactional costs and increase access to a deeper range of offerings. Reducing suppliers is a strategic aim for many industrial businesses as they want to have an uncluttered supply chain. You don’t want thousands of different suppliers, some of whom they might spend not a lot of money with,” Jowett says.

The efficiencies go beyond the physical objects supplied and will enable each of the Motion Asia Pacific businesses to improve how they work together.

In addition to the bearings, seals, or power transmission products the company can supply, the wealth of knowledge built up within the business can be brought to bear on a solution.

“For example, when we supply a Hardy Spicer hydraulic hose with fittings it is tailored to the application,” Jowett says. “Often a poorly-installed part can lead to ongoing problems, so that advisory service that wraps around the product, those are the things we work hard on.”

The people providing this service, the application engineers, may have an additional logo on their sleeve, but the experience will remain.

“We’ve got some of the best people who are very knowledgeable about specific applications,” Jowett says. “They’re not just selling you something in a box, they’re helping you find an alternative and ensure that it’s configured correctly and part of a solution comprising belts, cogs, pulleys, chains and bearings.”

Soon Jowett sees Motion Asia Pacific as creating go-to destinations in each location it serves, combining products, technology and knowledge.

“The people in those businesses who have been working with us for 10, 20 to 30 years, they have such a depth of knowledge and experience and in some instances know how the assets operate in the customer’s premises better than the person in charge because they have lived with it from day one of installation,” Jowett says.

Backed by #1

Partnering with Motion Asia Pacific allows for local manufacturing businesses to tap into a global database of expertise in industrial products. Known throughout North America as a leading supplier, Motion Industries brings formidable know-how to the Australian market.

The company has annual sales in excess of $US6.5 billion ($9.3 billion) and is enabling Motion Asia Pacific to provide the same level of training and support to its staff around Australia.

“Our employees already knew Motion Industries from the US,” Jowett says. “They go on to YouTube and download their videos and now we can package up all of that for training.”

The company’s size also enables Motion Asia Pacific to scale-up local operations.

“We’re adopting our own version of their operating system covering all of our descriptions and copying what they’d already built in terms of that collateral in the database,” Jowett says.

There are also opportunities to save transport costs and increase procurement, but what Jowett sees as most important is the approach Motion has taken to digitally connect with the customer, what he calls an omni-channel approach. This combines the existing face-to-face contact and the expertise that is only available when a supplier can be hands-on with a customer, with a seamless online offering covering sales, associated collateral such as brochures and videos, and customer analytics.

Backing this up is the experience of operating in the most sophisticated logistics supply market in the world, Jowett adds.

“There is the ability to get any product, anywhere overnight. You might need this in Alaska, and I’ve got it in Florida, and I’ll get it to you tomorrow. It is mind-blowing capability,” he says.

To achieve this in Australia, one also has to overcome a highly dispersed population across a huge continent. Motion Asia Pacific will take the best ideas from the North American market and apply them here.

“We don’t want to be touching the product too many times, we just want to glide it to you,” Jowett says. “Of course, when you can see how it works in North America you bring ideas about how to make us a little bit smarter and faster.”

Supplying the manufacturing renaissance

Embedding the change from Inenco to Motion Asia Pacific has come at a time where the manufacturing sector in Australia has undergone a wholescale re-evaluation in the eyes of the wider population.

No longer bemoaning the death of Australian manufacturing, now the exhortation is to buy local, and not just when it comes to food and drink.

Having seen changes in industrial composition occur in other countries in the region where Motion Asia Pacific has businesses, including New Zealand, Indonesia and Southeast Asia, Jowett highlights that our neighbours provide an indication of where manufacturing might be headed.

“We have a very strong business in New Zealand called SAECOWilson and we have watched as New Zealand deindustrialised over 20 years ago when car manufacturing ceased,” Jowett says. “What we’ve seen over the years is that manufacturing has blossomed, with some incentives from government and a really good engineering capability, and now there are some world-class manufacturing operations in New Zealand.”

Jowett describes the manufacturing landscape in New Zealand as akin to a start-up ecosystem, with manufacturers able to experiment with short runs of products to a smaller market while leveraging global best-practice.

Here, Motion Asia Pacific can be the conduit between their suppliers who are located in the industrial powerhouses of Asia, Europe and North America, and the businesses in Australia and New Zealand.

“It’s more these nimble, value-add manufacturers and that leads to more specialist engineering applications, with a heavy dose of design,” Jowett says.

Being linked to markets in North America also allows Motion Asia Pacific to bring the latest innovations to the local market as they come online.

“One of the things that we’re quite excited about is how our Motion colleagues in America have been investing in spare parts for robotics, and asking themselves as a traditional industrial parts distributor, ‘How are we going to be relevant in 10 years when we know our customers are changing faster than us in terms of their manufacturing techniques?’” Jowett says.

Continuing a focus on being the local advisor to customers, Motion Asia Pacific will be looking at how they can bring these new products to customers.

“We serve everything from the local repair shop that’s fixing trailers through to the big miners, and all the food and aggregates and agriculture in-between, so we’re quite flexible at working out the appropriate stocking programs,” Jowett says.

Investing in local capability

Just as much as the new wave of manufacturing will be assisted by the newest products and technology, Jowett also knows that it is the people who put these devices together who are the lifeblood of Australian manufacturing. For this reason, Motion Asia Pacific is continuing to do its part to train the next generation of manufacturers.

“For the past four years we have had a regular intake of mechanical engineering graduates in their last year. They’ve done 14 weeks of work placement and we’ve retained a fair number of them once they graduate and they become the application engineers,” Jowett says.

The program has had success with diversifying the industrial workforce, including women and those from regional backgrounds. This is important, Jowett notes, to ensure that the businesses that Australian manufacturers have relied upon for 60 years will be around for the next 60.

“It’s critical to understand how some people look at the same problem a different way and come up with maybe the same solution or a different one. It keeps us relevant. The world out there is diverse and it’s very important for a traditional business to drive harder and harder in that direction,” Jowett says.

Motion Asia Pacific is also ensuring that its own workforce will stick around and developing their skills to handle the next generation of manufacturing.

“Our business is made up of people who were fitters, mechanics, drivers, warehouse workers. They join us and they progress through our organisation, we invest in them, and they can get qualified all the way to leadership with MBA sponsorship,” Jowett says.

These programs will be extended and developed further, as graduates are able to tap into the knowledge found in Motion Industries in North America.

“We’ve already had some of our younger people doing internships on software and marketing projects in the USA with Motion Industries and you can see their eyes light up,” Jowett says.

He notes that the logos and familiar faces that Australian manufacturers are used to won’t disappear, and will instead be Motion Asia Pacific’s crown jewels, backed up by a global commitment to bring the best parts and expertise in the world to Australia.

This article also appears in the August issue of Australian Mining.

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