Insource for a better future

Pacific Wireless Communications Pty Ltd
By Martin Cahill, Pacific Wireless Communications
Thursday, 28 May, 2009

At what point did it become fashionable and corporately clever to outsource communication projects to global organisations rather than lead with courage and vision to support and build these radio communication systems and foster Aussie innovators.

Not only has this questionable business practice sent profits and long-term contracts offshore but it has severely hampered the development and investment in our own engineering talent in this country.

Radio communications has never been a ‘nice to have’ form of communications. It is permanently embedded into nearly every essential, emergency, business, industrial and commercial sector and delivers the most robust, reliable and failsafe form of communications available.

These systems save and protect lives and assets.

When major users lose their ticker to develop, manage, build and operate their own systems, they take the easy option for a short-term bottom line. The long-term impact has seen thousands of potential technicians, engineers, project managers, designers, fabricators, assemblers and software developers select other streams of learning and vocation because the radio communications opportunities were not available in Australia.

As a result, factories have closed, R&D labs have been abandoned and tertiary courses shut down. There is a line of guilty participants implicit in these decisions that include faceless working parties and avant-garde financial modellers.

Of course, let’s not forget the consultants that were more than happy to borrow clients’ watches to tell them it’s time to shut down the engineering labs and workshops, while spooking them with risk stories and herding them to reach for the outsource contract sparkling with short-term cost savings.

As we exit the first decade of the 21st century, digital radio solutions of all kinds abound. The latest DMR and DPMR solutions have further exacerbated the growing hole in general radio know-how but where is the industry talent to best consider, weigh, adopt and execute the long-dreamt-of benefits that these together with P25 and TETRA deliver? If it resides purely with an offshore product engineering specialist within the manufacturer’s organisation then we will all inevitably get as much value out of these new technologies as the average gambler gets in Vegas ... and we all know who the winners are there!

The increasing adoption of these digital two-way radios now represents the perfect window to take back the reins and again invest into developing the talent in our country to implement and manage large radio projects so we too can once again grow local innovators.

Digital radio system adoption represents an enormous opportunity for new engineering talent to design and deploy these new systems. Given the chance, Australian engineers can deliver the talent, drive, spirit and ingenuity to design and deliver radio communication solutions and also fully understand the operational sensitivities and imperatives of the users. Without support from our own nation’s radio user organisations, how can we ever expect to export our ideas and experience to other places and further drive Australian innovation?

Simply put — hire and develop a new engineer for your next radio project instead of another accountant to write a cheque to an outsourcer!

Martin Cahill is a co-founder and regional director of digital radio specialists Pacific Wireless Communications in Melbourne. With a background in core two-way radio for over 35 years, he has seen massive changes in the evolving Australian radio industry since the advent of the first transistor transmitters. He has spent considerable time with a global radio manufacturer both here and internationally helping drive its two-way products and marketing initiatives. He admits he shares the ignominy in pushing the now, he says, discredited outsourcing doctrine to the unwary. Since forming PWC some six years ago, he believes de-toxing in the real world, solving real problems with real people gives one a much clearer perspective.

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