Lessons from across the ditch in building better


Many of the results and conclusions drawn from those surveyed in Australia in the Design and Make report will be equally important and offer meaningful directions to New Zealand operators in this category says Autodesk

Autodesk’s State of Design & Make report studied 5400 business leaders worldwide – including 451 in Australia – in industries that comprise the Design and Make category. These sectors include architecture, engineering, construction and operations (AECO), product design and manufacturing (D&M), and media and entertainment (M&E).

Much like Australia, business resilience is as critical as ever given New Zealand’s economic landscape, and in the same vein, the country’s AECO companies face challenges with cost control and talent says Andy Cunningham, Autodesk’s Senior Regional Director for Australia and New Zealand.

“Naturally, the exact figures would show slight variation when surveyed but there are distinct similarities with what I am seeing across New Zealand,” he says.

“We are seeing an increasing number of progressive and digitally-transformed organisations in New Zealand – both those with local offices such as Aurecon and Unispace, as well as home-grown success stories such as Warren & Mahoney (WM).

“WM is an especially interesting case study. The company is heavily using digital capabilities to access material data from its building design portfolio at scale and speed,” says Cunningham.

“This has enabled it to pursue game-changing projects across its daily operations right through to instances of machine learning. Crucially, WM uses data generated through its technology investments to drive fast and easy material design decisions to minimise impact on the environment and reduce embodied carbon of construction projects.

“If we look broadly, sustainability is high on the New Zealand government agenda, which is helping position the nation at the forefront of global and cross-region initiatives to become more sustainable in terms of the built environment.

“It is important to note, though, while the government is critical in influencing sustainability goals, this needs to be matched by corporations and investors to allow sustainability to both prove short- and long-term value to business health and contribute to a more sustainable world for generations to come, Cunningham says.

The study of the 451 Australian Design & Make companies revealed greater confident from AECO and D&M sectors, with digitalisation and sustainability strategies progressing amid ongoing operational challenges

According to the report, 78 percent of Australian leaders and experts say their companies are prepared to handle unforeseen economic or geopolitical challenges – ahead of the global average of 73 percent, and up from 63 percent in 2023.

The report also found respondents are confident in their companies’ market position: 94 percent feel they are keeping up with the rate of change in their industry, and 86 percent say their companies outperformed expectations in the previous year.

Although these figures reflect that the sense of uncertainty brought about by the global pandemic, geopolitical turmoil and economic instability is easing, 63 percent believe the global landscape feels more uncertain now than three years ago.

The introduction of AI

While Australian companies are improving their positions and operations – with many planning new offerings, entering new markets, increasing agility, and diversifying supply chains – the scope of challenges they face has shifted.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is steadily making its way into Design and Make sectors. Two thirds (67 percent) of Australian respondents say they are approaching or have already achieved their goal of incorporating AI into their companies.

Additionally, 79 percent trust AI technologies for their industry, 77 percent agree AI will enhance their industry and make it more creative, and 67 percent agree AI will be essential across the board in two to three years.

The industry must double down on upskilling and reskilling the workforce to thrive in a digital and AI-led economy says Matthew McKnight, Autodesk’s Director for Design & Manufacturing in Australia and New Zealand.

“It needs to identify where AI can take over repetitive processes to free employees to focus on different types of thinking and high-value work, and adapting generative design to drive greater sustainability.

“These are fundamental factors that will steer the industry forward as we approach a wave of next generation manufacturing,” he says.

Digital advantage

Digitalisation continues to be a centrepiece to driving new outcomes and broadening opportunities for Design and Make organisations across Australia. A third of Australian companies strongly increased investments in technology to deliver improved project outcomes, and 15 percent strongly increased overall investments.

The predominant results from these digital investments include: improved profitability (seen by 35 percent), better reputation (30 percent), improved productivity (29 percent) and improved data exchange (29 percent).

There were, however, barriers to digital transformation; 30 percent identified cost as one of them, and 37 percent felt the time needed to invest in new tools and ways of working was holding them back.

Near term challenges

The report identified that cost control is currently the top challenge (32 percent), followed by attracting, training and retaining talent (30 percent), and environmental sustainability (29 percent). Interestingly, 18 percent noted unreliable supply chain as a challenge.

“For several years, companies across Design and Make sectors have faced multi-faceted volatility, and in many cases, complete turmoil,” says Cunningham.

“While we are still far from calm waters, architects, engineers, builders, designers and manufacturers have made notable strides in creating foundations for recovery.

As the report flags, Australia is ahead of the global average in preparedness, moving faster to leverage advanced technologies like AI, and hold much stronger views on the short- and long-term benefits of sustainability on business.

“This is the result of a concerted transition from reactive to proactive positions, and is creating both resilience and certainty for the years ahead, and with it, uncovering new avenues for growth. Crucially, it’s leading to strong competitive advantage for Australian and New Zealand industries at a global scale, and stands to help in bringing international talent to our shores.”

The talent crunch

Attracting and retaining talent continues to plague Design and Make companies. Leaders want to train and upskill their workforces – 71 percent agree this is important – but not everyone knows how, and 46 percent of organisations lack the expertise needed to design effective internal training programs. On a positive note, 71 percent are implementing continuous learning, and 73 percent are investing in digital skills training programs.

Over the next three years, the technical and digital skills organisations expect to prioritise are: advanced skills working with building information management (BIM), modelling or 3D design (39 percent) and software development and programming (36 percent). This is followed by knowledge of data safety and security (35 percent), data analytics, mining and insights (35 percent) and digital skills design (35 percent).

The emphasis on ramping up digital skills comes down to the fact 71 percent of companies believe digital maturity helps attract talent.

Sustainability in the spotlight

The last year has seen a substantial shift in attitudes towards sustainability and reducing negative impact on the environment. In 2023, 53 percent of leaders and experts said sustainability is good for short-term business – in this year’s report, that figure is 82 percent.

Meanwhile, 77 percent wish their company prioritises sustainability as much as profits, and 82 percent believe their company’s sustainability initiatives are a key part of business growth strategy for the next three years.

As organisations take more sustainability-centred actions, report respondents note significant changes in how they feel about their companies’ efforts: today, 81 percent are proud of their organisation’s sustainability efforts, compared to 47 percent in 2023.


This article was authored by Autodesk, the staff of which surveyed and interviewed nearly 5400 industry leaders, futurists, and experts in the architecture, engineering, construction, and operations; design and manufacturing; and media and entertainment industries from countries around the globe for the Design & Make report.

Autodesk says its software is changing how the world is designed and made.  Its technology spans architecture, engineering, construction, product design, manufacturing, media and entertainment, empowering innovators everywhere to solve challenges from greener buildings to smarter products

For more information, visit autodesk.com.au or follow @autodesk. #MakeAnything ##