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6 Concluding comment
In the modern knowledge economy, manufacturing and ICT are closely intertwined. In many respects, ICT is like other technologies used in manufacturing, but in a number of important respects it differs. These differences relate to the capacity of the technology to:
- enhance the service potential of manufactured products;
- generate useful and applicable knowledge from ICT embedded in products, processes; and
- build business relationships with other companies, suppliers and customers.
The application and use of this information in a business context is a major source of performance improvement.
The capacity to extract and use information generated from manufactured products and manufacturing processes relies on the capacity of businesses to adopt, apply and use ICT in a business and commercial context. This relies to a large extent on the quality of the ICT – and particularly the software production and enhancement capabilities of Australian suppliers and the ability of Australian service providers to adapt internationally sourced software to Australian manufacturing situations and circumstances.
The companies consulted for the study indicated that important software developments and enhancements are quite often undertaken by service providers, consulting companies and advisers. It follows that manufacturing companies must have deep, trust-based and secure relationships with such companies. Computer manufacturers, global software houses and service providers are positioning themselves for this role.
This study commenced by seeking to understand the importance of the ‘hidden’ use of ICT within manufacturing as a basis for company-specific competitive advantage. On the basis of both company profiles and a literature review, it concludes that effective use of ICT provides the logical means for realising knowledge-based competitive advantages through design, product development, manufacture and relationships with customers and suppliers.