Bright Sparks

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-By Kristy Attard

AME Systems Pty Ltd started out in a garage in Melbourne around the mid 70’s and has developed into a world class business. “We’re the leading Australian owned manufacturer of quality electrical wiring harness, power and signal distribution systems; which is basically the electrical wiring for vehicles, fixed plant, defence equipment, aeronautical, automobiles and special purpose vehicles,” says newly appointed General Manager Dean Pinniger. “In order to service our customers we have 250 plus highly skilled staff who undergo extensive and intensive training in order to manufacture the product.” With a focus on providing absolute quality for customers, AME Systems is currently turning over around 40 million dollars per annum from its manufacturing base in Ararat Western Victoria and is a proud member of the Victorian Manufacturing Hall of Fame.

AME Systems builds to print for its 200 plus customers. Either the customer or the company itself will design a harness or a wiring loom and AME Systems technical staff break down the drawing into the information required to put it through the manufacturing process. Customers can rely on AME Systems to manufacture high quality products safely, efficiently and on schedule. Mr Pinniger explains “…we can receive a drawing today and have product to our customer this afternoon or tomorrow. Nominally we work on a 15-20 day lead time for our product and that can be from conceptual stage to finished product or repeat product orders.”

The AME Systems factory is a modern hub of activity brimming with possibilities, opportunities and technology. To give you an idea, at any one time there may be a thousand plus jobs in production, ten to eleven thousand components and 3000 active part numbers. The staff at AME Systems are passionate about what they do and enjoy seeing the company excel. Sophisticated technology is used to build products that conform to recognised standards, providing quality that customers have come to expect. AME Systems is ISO 9000 accredited and has been since 1994, maintaining a solid reputation within the industry as a capable, reliable electrical harness supplier. “Normally our delivery is around 98-99 per cent on time with a very high quality rating. We operate within the 800-2000 ppm range which is parts per million, so really we’re 99.9 per cent correct on quality across our turnover on a per annum basis.”

AME Systems actively prioritises the health and safety of its entire staff. “It really is front of mind that we need to look after our people so that they come to work safe and they go home safe. That’s the line that we take and that’s the line that we actively work towards.” WorkSafe has provided funding to assist AME Systems in running proactive health and exercise classes for staff and there is a safety improvement program in place. “Our staff undergo training in all aspects of OH&S and we have dedicated reps to work through internally.” Training is a key focus at AME, creating a strong foundation for success. A comprehensive training system consists of a skills matrix listing all the skills required for the business and all the people in the business and where they’re at with attaining those skills. “I believe AME Systems is about its people and providing the training that benefits not only the business but the community also,” says Mr Pinniger. AME Systems is well respected within the community of Ararat, being a major employer across the region.

When companies talk about OH&S and training, they tend to focus on physical health and physical skills. However, the importance of a strong mindset and good mental health cannot be ignored. The culture of a business is a major contributor to the psychological well being of employees. “I believe our culture in essence pushes on from the ownership of the business in that it started off as a family business and although it’s quite large now, we try and have an inclusive culture.” There are suggestion boxes on the floor to get ideas from staff about what improvements can be made to the business. “Every second month at AME Systems all our staff are brought into the canteen to enjoy a company supplied lunch and stay updated with reports, regarding Sales, Future Prospects, Health and Safety et cetera,” says Mr Pinniger.

A self-published newsletter, “AME Systems Info” keeps all staff updated on what’s happening from management through to the factory floor. To Mr Pinniger, it’s essential that people be treated like people, not numbers. “It is a team effort as a business and our strength is in our people and their willingness to come up with improvements and indeed, turn up to work and put their best foot forward. That’s something as a General Manager I’m very passionate about, that we involve and we engage our people right throughout the business so that the business does remain – our catch cry is – capable, reliable and sustainable.”

Mr Pinniger believes AME Systems has a lot to offer today’s changing market and has himself worked at AME Systems for 20 years, since leaving school. He says the most satisfying part of being General Manager is being able to guide and facilitate the business into a new era. The next stage of AME Systems is about recreating its marketing strategy as a part of a strategic business plan. The idea is to diversify the business, reducing the risks involved in working within a fluctuating market. A clever marketing plan will highlight what new products AME Systems brings to market in the future, ensuring that it stays competitive. “We define success as a business that has been around for 30 plus years and continues to thrive and to some extent reinvent itself.”

Currently AME Systems is looking at how to best meet price down requests from its customers to continue operating in a globally competitive market. To remain competitive against imported products, AME Systems is looking at ways to reduce the cost of its products for customers in a partnership sense. Mr Pinniger explains, “We carry out JPEP’s or Joint Product Evaluation Programs with our customers where we send a team of our people to their business and look at where we can remove time from the process or redesign our product in order to bring about cost savings… It’s about trying to gain efficiencies and improvements in our production process.”

Government pressures that exist today from the likes of taxes add to the strain for Australian manufacturing businesses to remain sustainable. Despite the heat, AME Systems plans to stay local. “We’re very heavy on maintaining a presence in Ararat in Western Victoria and growing our Melbourne facility…” AME Systems will continue to be a community minded business through sponsorship, awareness and involvement in local projects and is determined to keep on manufacturing in Ararat. “I see it as one of our biggest priorities, to look after our people and at the same time remain competitive, sustainable and diversify the business where possible so that we can provide that employment.” Mr Pinniger echoes the beliefs of Australians everywhere when he says, “from a personal point of view I believe that manufacturing in Australia is very important. I believe that it’s a basis for a lot of communities, it provides employment which provides dollars into the community.” By working with people and customers, setting the right priorities and having a future vision, AME Systems will continue to spark success. AME Systems – Proudly Australian and here to stay.

Making Sense of Management

Management is the art, or science, of getting things done through people. Sounds fairly straightforward – except for the fact that people are not robots waiting to do our bidding. People have their own minds, motivations, and goals. So how do managers keep operations – and the people behind them – running as planned?

June 21, 2018, 1:10 AM AEST