LA Services + OutLoud : An opportune collaboration for social betterment

As a traditional manufacturer, our ventures towards a digital realm has been one of the many catalysts that prompted a new way of thinking. We learnt development of a business purpose comes from more than a financial motive. It taught us how a social cause can stimulate a drive to be an active member of the community.

And this newfound realisation allowed us to understand the importance in B2B community collaboration as a way to help better society through genuine efforts in inclusion. We can credit this realisation to the Canterbury Bankstown Chamber of Commerce (CBCC) as they are one of the leading organisations here in our Local Government Area (LGA) to connect businesses. Regardless of industry, they will network companies with similar values in hopes to enrich communities through collaboration. 

Very recently we saw the power of community collaboration as our very own David Fox networked with OutLoud to talk about school-based programs and engagement models. What was supposed to be a mere conversation ended up turning into an instance of collaboration between different industries coming together with the aim of community advancement.

As we walked into the office of Finn Branagáin, who is the current director and CEO of OutLoud, or also formally known as Bankstown Youth Development Centre (BYDS), we saw walls decked out with photos of young and old, performing in high spirits as crowds cheered amongst them. Whilst munching on some Lebanese goods from the local bakery, we started to discuss the amazing work of OutLoud. A resounding sense of pride permeated around the room as we started to understand the amazing complexities of what it means to be a true member of the community. 

As a manufacturing company, one might not expect us to interact with an organisation like OutLoud who are key role models in the Bankstown-Canterbury area. The teaching powers of OutLoud are not limited to only school children as we astonished ourselves through Finn’s encouragement in becoming social leaders of the community. Though we went in open-minded and optimistic about our start into a socially driven journey, it made us realise that we undermined the potential in our own abilities as we learnt a valuable lesson in becoming a socially-conscious business.

What we thought would be a simple conversation ended up with us reimagining our own efforts in school engagement as we started to understand how we could help our community to thrive in our own, industrial way.

We were able to connect with Finn and her amazing work through the Canterbury Bankstown Chamber of Commerce, an organisation created to connect local businesses together to enrich the community by stimulating local investment. They hold networking events and allow businesses like LA Services to interact with fellow community members who would otherwise have no opportunity to do so. 

Finn first guided us through the RESPECT project, arguably one of the most important and established programs of the organisation. Supported by the Australian department of Social Services and Bankstown communities for Children through the Smith Family, it connects young boys under the age of 12 to singer/songwriters to create their own songs that discuss Family and Domestic Violence. It is a 12 week early harm reduction initiative and focuses on anger management and gender stereotypes – prevalent issues that perpetuate a cycle of violence. By allowing boys to personally partake in the creation, it allows them to become “active agents of change.” The sheer scale of the program is immeasurable and has worked with many schools across the board from Chullora Public School to Bankstown Public School. It was exciting to hear about an overlap in our visions where we both aim to create a meaningful impact on future generations and reaffirmed that the manufacturing industry is not purely limited to its product and service but rather what it can do for the greater good.

OutLoud (1)

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A study conducted by Murdoch University has proven the consequential change in students as 98% of them have shown an increased understanding in healthy relationships and domestic violence. Hearing the quantitative results was a real reminder of the impact in school programs to help shape the perceptions and minds of the future, and our potential to help bolster these improvements as an active member of the community. It reaffirmed our own journey in becoming more socially conscious and to do so in a genuine and responsible manner. 

Finn continued her enthusiastic explanation with her vision for current and future initiatives, adding onto the already extensive list of work she and her team have achieved. She announced the exciting creation of the female counterpart to the RESPECT project, where she hopes to tackle body image and perceptions in unhealthy relationships. We also learnt about her work in providing resources and counselling to young queer LGBTQ+ youth in the community, highlighting one of the many issues that we were once ignorant about. 

Despite achieving so much with just RESPECT, her vision to do even more in the community was inspirational. It was extremely humbling as we learnt to check our privilege in society and served as a reminder that being an active member of the community meant that complacency and willful ignorance must be proactively fought against. 

This was an introspective experience as we started to understand the magnitude of being a social innovative leader. She reassured our vision and potential in becoming a revolutionary figure both in the industry and the community as she complimented our drive to widen our own perceptions and worldview for the better – a value that is stereotypically unexpected of manufacturers. 

We concluded the meeting with a newfound respect for Finn’s work as the immensity of OutLoud hit us and she graciously offered to help with our own vision by guiding us through the proper structure needed to engage with students to create a widespread and meaningful impact. 

Who would have thought a chance meeting between a youth organisation and a manufacturing company could stimulate so much ideas and inspiration into bettering society. 


Collaboration – I4.0 Capability Building in SME’s

There is much talk about industry collaborating with academia to deliver game-changing products, services and business models in the manufacturing sector. Like many other businesses today, LA Services has been redefining innovation into a meaningful framework and understanding the ‘demons in the technology details’ that will underpin a new era for this sector.

Realising the complexity of digital when applied to an integrity-driven industry that relies on rigours engineering, LA Services engaged with academics to discuss the underlying problems and challenges of applying cyber-physical technologies to the age-old pressure equipment manufacturing industry. Our objective is to enhance the operational uptime of these assets through advanced predictive maintenance analytics.

After more than 12 months of informal meetings over coffee, UTS academics provided clarity on a pathway that could bring these two worlds together with the rigour that is necessary to serve the engineering needs of our products and services. As a result, we are pleased to announce on the 18th July 2019 LA Services signed off on a 12-month research placement project with UTS Faculty of Engineering and IT to develop the data streams, digital interoperability and AI systems that will bring our heritage into the 21st century. This project is supported by an ‘Innovation Connections Grant’, under the ‘Entrepreneurs’ Programme’. It is part of the Commonwealth Government Department of Industry, Innovation and Science initiative, set up to drive the development of SME’s like LA Services so they can build the required capabilities needed in an advanced manufacturing environment.

This project follows on from foundational work LA Services did with Western Sydney University through a Tech-Voucher agreement set up by the LaunchPad. Getting to this point with our digital strategy would not have been possible without the support of a vast network of people across business, academia, government and industry bodies.

Getting Comfortable with Innovation

It is often said in business ‘innovate or die’. However, what does innovation mean or offer a company? Not much in isolation of a context that can make it meaningful to the user. However, if an opportunity comes along to play with a piece of technology, being open-minded to experiment on the fringe of possibilities can be worthwhile. LA Services has been exploring digital applications for a few years now and incrementally finding comfort in getting outside its comfort zone, a change in behaviour that is helping the company to re-think its place in Australian manufacturing.

Leading by example our Managing Director and founder Louie Chouaifaity, while far from comfortable in the VR environment, continues to be open-minded about the possibilities of digital, in an industry context that helps him to become accustomed to the disruptive innovations impacting a sector he has lived and breathed for more than 40 years. So, in the spirit of LA Services’ purpose ‘to lead our industry through innovation,’ he recently immersed himself in unfamiliar technology, so he could step into a familiar environment (a pressure vessel) while catching up with a past industry acquaintance Allen Palmer from IndustrialXR at The Chill Café Wooloowin QLD. While the experience itself may not be innovative, the human connection and enthusiastic conversations about the possibilities that followed over coffee under the tree canopy of this outdoor café, is what underpins the pathway to meaningful innovation and a new frame for comfortable.


The ‘Future of Work’ – Academic Theory vs Learning Integrated Work

It seems like the only constant at present is that the old order of doing things is being challenged in every corner of the economy. While different sectors are dealing with the opportunities of change at varying rates, the responses are primarily within the realm of the relevant industry, bringing some comfort to the change agents. What is interesting in the ‘Future of Work’ proposition, is how enterprises will compete for the best talent as technology and business models blur the lines between once disparate sectors, and hence widens the playing field for attracting top talent. Imagine a manufacturer looking to hire UX or UI design capability to grow a new thread of an advanced manufacturing service, how might this outside industry attract such talent and compete with the incumbent normally engaging these capabilities. Defining the future of work makes for a fascinating conversation that spans everything from how we educate the next generation, to business strategies and re-skilling established talent.

Dr Sean Gallagher says learning and work need to converge to prepare workers for the continuous and rapidly changing work of the digital future.

While this topic was not front and centre for LA Services when it began dabbling in digital in 2016, it quickly became a conversation as we contemplated how our future state may look. So it is not a surprise to us that the ideas raised in Swinburne University’s recent Centre for New Workforce report, title; “Peak Human Potential: Preparing Australia’s Workforce for the Digital Future” are aligned with where LA Services stands today based on its recent digital transition

experiences. In our minds, there is no question a deep digital dive by a traditional business like LA Services will:

a) force a definition around the ‘future of work’ that will influence strategic planning, and

b) change the landscape on what are considered high-value skills versus baseline competencies.

We thought it would be interesting to compare the theory of this recent report with what has been experienced on the ground at LA Services during three years of experimentation with an I4.0 pathway. Here is a summary of what we think, framed around the report’s executive summary content and noting our business context is “a least-disrupted industry” meaning jobs have typically not previously been displaced by digital:

Future-ready Workers

Future-ready workers areunderstood to represent how different workers view skill value and hence job security. Simply put, task orientated (traditional skills) versus the softer social type skills. Our experience is aligned with the results in that traditional expertise are valued far more than social competences by our workforce (a least-disrupted industry). Yet as we map out our manufacturing future it is apparent the knowledge sector workers view of; “collaboration, empathy and social to entrepreneurial skills” will play a lead role in bringing new value to products, services and revenue opportunities. It seems the OECD forecast of a ‘balanced skill set’ will become unavoidable as we transition towards a digitally literate workforce and knowledge markets.

Learning-integrated Work

Learning-integrated Work is a term the report uses to take ‘learning off campus and immerse it into a disruptive work environment, such as an Industry 4.0 setting’ in a quest to meet future learning needs. Reflecting on our last three years, which can be described as an education in ‘intrapreneurship’ framed around wrestling the diversity of I4.0. Our own disruptive learning-integrated work setting has been instrumental in shifting our family SME mindset from ‘not knowing what we don’t know’ to ‘knowing what we don’t know’, and equally important what are the levers we can pull to change the future of the company, depending on succession ambitions and the choices that will underpin strategy.

A new Learning Infrastructure

A new Learning Infrastructure represents the convergence of industry and education working together to bring a new context to our education efforts. Not to say that present educator efforts are not valued, but in our minds, this means adding a layer of application context led by industry. . In reviewing the details of the report, the only difference appears we call it Learning Through Internship (LTI). While this experiment has underpinned many lessons in an industry/education partnership, the test bed is about to evolve, with a UTS led Research Placement Project that will allow us to immerse two LBH interns into this higher learning environment to experience the mathematics, data architecture design, literature review and business planning that will underpin our I4.0 uptake.

Overall the theory represented in this latest Swinburne report has a high degree of correlation to the learning pathways LA Services has formulated through practice, and the views we hold about the future of work as we move towards our advanced manufacturing ambitions. It is another indication to us that academia and the manufacturing industry including SMEs’ are converging on outputs that will begin to restore our industrial commons, and with it create new value that will ultimately improve employment potential and impart a positive social impact community by community.