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Publisher's Letter

Innovation is the key to success

In this month’s issue, we have two interesting articles on manufacturing but the stories are far apart chronologically. The older one is the story on the manufacture of Atwater Kent radios, a now legendary brand of vintage radio. The story is illustrated by some wonderful photos processed and enhanced by Kevin Poulter from scans of 4 x 5-inch glass negatives held in the US Library of Congress. The Atwater Kent factory was a huge facility employing 12,000 people at its peak and it grew to that size in only a few years.

Arthur Atwater Kent was clearly a great entrepreneur who drove the whole process, over 80 years ago. Innovation was the key to success. This applied not only to the manufacture of the goods but also to the aggressive marketing of the radios. Atwater Kent had a huge advertising budget. There is a very close parallel today to another American company which is renowned for innovation in its products, rapid growth and very successful marketing: Apple.

The other story is on an Australian development, Vertical Farms, which we think could be the basis of a great deal of factory farming in the future. This combines artificial lighting provided by high intensity red and blue LEDs, with bioponics (not quite the same as hydroponics), to enable intense horticulture in large multi-level modules, all under computer control. This technology has been developed in Australia and is already attracting considerable interest both here and overseas, particularly for the production of fresh vegetable in remote desert areas.

Are similar processes being developed overseas? Quite possibly. But if Australian manufacturing is to have any real chance of competing on the world market, it can only be done with innovative products and processes because we are otherwise at a severe disadvantage with our relatively high labour costs and very strong currency. We wish Vertical Farms every success in their venture.


Cinemas and theatres are excessively loud

As I write this editorial I am a bit bleary-eyed, having last night seen Andrew Lloyd Webber’s latest live musical show, “Love Never Dies”, at Sydney’s rococo Capitol Theatre. This is the sequel to “The Phantom of the Opera”. I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it: the music, the singing, the orchestra, dancing,
choreography, the elaborate set, costumes, lighting and so on. The elaborate set was remarkable for its complexity and the way in which it was used to frame so many different scenes.

In fact, it has to be said that each new live musical show these days seems to strive to be yet another tour de force, with elaborate sets, big casts and orchestras and so on. You can point to any number of recent instances, such as the musical “Wicked”, several recent opera and ballet productions or tours by big bands, Andrew Rieu, and so on. They are very expensive to produce and generally very successful in creating a great spectacle.

So why do they persist in making them too loud? I know that they are trying to create drama. I know they need crescendos. But it is difficult to create crescendos if the sound levels are already loud.

Sound engineers should realise that loud music does not equate to excellence; drama should not equal bedlam. I know that half the population is probably half deaf or too stupid to know that loud music is exactly the same as loud noise when it comes to damaging your hearing. But the other half of the population is not deaf; why do they put up with it? They complain about it among themselves. Why don’t they complain to the management of the venue?

The really silly aspect of this is that if people were subjected to the same level of noise in their workplace they would expect to be issued with ear plugs or else there would be danger of prosecution by Workcover.

I routinely take earplugs or cotton wool to protect my ears. What do you do – just sit there and endure it? Nothing will change at these venues until people complain. Loudly.

Leo Simpson


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