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New Zealand’s exporters must harness technology and innovation to give our products a point of difference in world markets. By Catherine Beard.

A group of New Zealand’s top exporting experts recently joined forces at ExportNZ’s annual Go Global conference. 
It’s aim? To help New Zealand’s exporters navigate their way to success in an unknown new world of political uncertainty.

Now more than ever, we need to collaborate onshore to compete offshore. We need to be smart and innovative in order to stand out. 
Being from New Zealand is not enough. We must harness technology and innovation to give our products a point of difference.

“New Zealand companies need to get better at looking for digital opportunities outside of their traditional supply chain,” says Dr Chris Hartshorn, CTO at Callaghan Innovation. “There’s a reluctance amongst some to move into this century with their thinking. A lot of New Zealand companies are in the digital dark ages. 

“There is a lack of awareness about how much technology has advanced globally, and they are falling further and further behind what is considered state-of-the-art in the rest of the world. 

“Now more than ever, there’s got to be a willingness and a capability to talk to areas of digital expertise and types of companies that you would never have thought about talking to before. Because there’s so much technical convergence, value chain convergence, and market convergence going on now, that eventually someone who you never thought would be relevant to you, is probably going to become either a potential collaborator or a potential competitor,” says Chris.

Dr Antje Fiedler of the University of Auckland agrees.
“There is a false belief in the premium brand. Our research shows that ‘Made in New Zealand’ is not enough when you compete in China. The customer doesn’t really care that you’re from New Zealand; they care about Western products. You need more to your story that just being from New Zealand – it can be one element to your brand story, but you really have to offer more to your customers than other Western brands.”

As another Go Global speaker, Elinor Swery PhD, senior consultant on digital strategy at IBM points out, using AI (artificial intelligence) to produce guaranteed higher quality goods can help differentiate us in overseas markets. 

IBM’s Watson technology is now available to detect defects in real time in a manufacturing line as part of a relatively low cost quality assurance process.  
If 40 percent of our GDP is going to be from exports by 2025, as part of that we must manufacture high quality goods to export overseas, so we need to be competitive on ensuring there are no defects.

Manufacturers must re-think
AI is just one way of adding value, credibility and safety into New Zealand’s existing product lines. According to Hartshorn, “Manufacturers need to re-think the way they do things to prevent Darwinism hitting them in the face in the future.
“By moving towards more nimble and agile manufacturing techniques, with digital and distributed manufacturing, we have an opportunity to reinvigorate manufacturing in New Zealand.” 

One example he cites is the use of blockchain technology, which can offer tracking of products from source to customer that can drive efficiencies through an export value chain. 
“It can also guarantee where a product came from. If we’re claiming that New Zealand makes high value, high quality products, we’ve got to validate for the customer where exactly the product came from. Just like they do with Champagne. 

“We can leverage the New Zealand brand through our high value products. For example, a consumer who orders New Zealand goods from a 34th floor apartment in Shanghai, should have their goods delivered and be able to trace them back to the exact cow or farm in New Zealand.” 

Using smart sophisticated technology to succeed in a country as large and complex as China is key to New Zealand surviving and thriving there, he says. 

Kevin Parish, GM of PCNZ, which recently signed a collaboration deal with 
ANZCO Foods to tackle the complex Chinese market, says “China’s online players are rapidly investing in ‘bricks and mortar’ retail. One example is the Alibaba-backed He Ma concept. 

They currently have six stores in Shanghai, but will expand to 20 stores and establish in Beijing as well. A hybrid between a supermarket, food court, restaurant and distribution center – it delivers an online and offline experience wrapped up into one little box (He is Chinese for Box). 

“With growth like this planned, New Zealand companies need to be positioning themselves to cater for this new channel to consumers,” says Kevin. 

Catherine Beard (pictured) is executive director of ExportNZ, which assists exporters throughout New Zealand. 

Glenn Baker

Glenn is a professional writer/editor with 50-plus years’ experience across radio, television and magazine publishing.


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