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Speech to the Awards Dinner, Institute of Materials Handling



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Speech by the Minister for Productivity, Hon. Ian Macphee, to the Awards Dinner, Institute of Materials Handling, Melbourne, 2 November 1978. .

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I am pleased to be with you again this evening to speak to you and to present one of the several awards earned by students this year.

As you know I have a previous personal association with your organisation, and my Department continues to enjoy a close and beneficial working relationship with the Institute.

Before presenting the award, I would like to make some brief comments to relate the activities of my Department to the important v/ork of such organisations as your Institute. .

As a preface, I wish tc examine the activity of some of our smallest economic units - the household, and the role of the housewife in this unit.

In many homes, the housewife either runs the budget or is a very influential partner in budgeting for the day-to-day domestic expenditure. A necessary part of this involvement is her concern to get value for money, to avoid waste, to get the best results from her expenditure.

The expenditure natterns of housewives are determined largely on the basis of prices. Prices are a result, primarily, of costs and my Department is directly concerned with reducing costs.

It is within this context that I wish to direct my comments, because the Department of Productivity is concerned primarily with encouraging the more effective utilisation of our natural resources, skills, expertise and technology. More effective utilisation should mean more

competitive products. . ■

While the Department is concerned with the complete spectrum of economic activity - from the activities of the largest organisations to those of the smallest groups and to individuals - and the improvement of resource utilisation in all these activities, your Institute is one of a range of expert organisations focusing on

specific activities which are an integral component of our economy.

Materials handling is one of three linked activities-: it follows the secure packaging of materials and it precedes the distribution of materials using different modes of transport. . ·

Each of these activities has developed its own technologies and skills. Nevertheless it is still an unfortunate fact of life that, despite continual advances in technology, the cost of materials handling and of all components of physical distribution is considerable.

’ . ‘ .Tien you and I as consumers spend a dollar on some product., up to 40 cents of that dollar is absorbed by the costs of physical distribution: materials handling is a very significant element in that cost. ·

Consequently, my Department is becoming increasingly active in developing and implementing productivity programs designed to reduce the cost of these activities. '

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We are working on these programs directly through the National Materials Handling Bureau and through the range of Industry Productivity Improvement Programs which we have initiated.

As part of our overall program to increase effort in industrial research and development, I expect there will be significant advances- in the technology of materials handling.

However, a further and increasingly important means of improving national productivity is for us to work very closely.with organisations such as yourselves. In this way, we are able to communicate directly with the range of firms and industries which comprise your membership.

By this, we are able to collaborate in determining what barriers exist to productivity in the field of materials handling and to identify, encourage and implement various means of overcoming these barriers.

One critical aspect in which your Institute might be able to assir" the work of my.Department is that related to the impact of ^

technological change on people. Some of the new technologies in warehouse designs, for example, have led to a revolution in the storage and retrieval of goods being held. These and other changes must have some effect on people working in these environments.

My Department is especially interested in this type of question because of the need to formulate policies and advise the government on such matters.

I will be representing the Federal Government at a conference being sponsored by the Victorian Government in a few weeks to examine this very serious question. In order to provide effective representation at forums such as this and to develop the best possible policies, I would see inputs from organisations such as yours being most valuable.

I regard physical distribution, including materials handling, as one of the most challenging and rewarding areas for productivity r improvement activity in this nation. I realise that in stating tVu.s I may be talking to the converted. However, I make the point so that you may feel that you have my earnest support in carrying

forward the work of your Institute.

V/e must co-operate in the twin challenge of lessening the impact of the costs of physical distribution on the prices of goods we buy and of ameliorating the effects of new technology on people employed on physical distribution activities.

I commend the Institute for its continued progress in its endeavours and in particular for the dedication with which you bring about the development of the personal skills and qualities of the people in your industry. By encouraging and supporting people in the study programs you initiate, you influence these students so that your

investment brings benefits to them as individuals immediately and to the community as a whole, in the years to come.

I recognise that the employers of these students also make a commit­ ment to the development of these people. I acknowledge this commit­ ment as an important factor in assisting us all in meeting the challenge.