There is an inherent reciprocity between globalisation and regionalism present in our industry that many a multi-national corporation could learn from. After all, almost every OEM competing in Australia has to balance the need to cut costs and create economies of scale with an effort to ‘localise’ each and every vehicle to ensure the harsh Australian environment won’t damage it – or the brand behind it.
Scania, for instance, just invested some $3 billion into the development of the new S-series, involving experts from all around the globe in the process. But, that still doesn’t mean it’s ready for an Australian rollout any time soon. Only after a long period of testing and tweaking will the new cab come to Australia, as Scania is well aware that the final touches must be made locally.
The same is true for Mercedes-Benz and the new Actros, which was finally unveiled in Cairns last month. Officially introduced to the European market in late 2013, it’s been three years between our first look at the new generation and the Australian release – a sign that the German powerhouse doesn’t want to leave anything to chance with the new flagship model.
What Mercedes-Benz and Scania have done is acknowledge that even corporations of global scope need to work regionally to succeed – there is no such thing as a single global truck market. As such, many of them act surprisingly locally. The ‘global’ dimension, meanwhile, is key to creating scale on a design, purchasing, logistics and HR level.
What’s interesting to see is how transport businesses apply the same wisdom on a micro-level. While adopting business systems that closely follow international best practice, Victorian Freight Specialists, Hicks Transport Group and Launceston Towing have all been able to turn local expertise into a distinct competitive advantage that is helping them survive and thrive in a time of lacklustre demand.
The more I learn about these nimble, innovative businesses, the more I understand what ex-Wal-Mart CEO, John Menzer, meant when he compared global leverage to 3D chess – in our hyper-connected economy, global, regional and local levels have to interact seamlessly for a strategy to be successful.
Back in the OEM realm, Toyota may have gone furthest in exploiting the power of regionalised thinking. As Honorary Chairman, Fujio Cho, once said, “We intend to continue moving forward with globalisation … by further enhancing the localisation and independence of our operations in each region.”
He may not have had Australian road transport in mind at the time, but he would certainly approve of the smart, multi-dimensional approach to business our local industry is taking today.