Thursday, January 10, 2008

PEIE's Big Ideas Tent in Sohar

This is a note to let you know that PEIE is organizing a ‘Big Ideas Tent’ exhibition and seminar program 9th and 10th February 2008 on Sohar Industrial Estate. The event is being held to commemorate Oman’s Industry Day and we hope you will be able to come along and network, socialize and debate some of the burning issues facing Oman’s manufacturing sector.

The event format for Saturday 9 February is as follows:

8:00am 9:30am Registration
9:30am 9:45am Opening Remarks – PEIE
9:45am 10:00am Opening Remarks – Port of Sohar
10:00am 10:30am Investment Opportunities on Port of Sohar
10:30am 10:50am Al Batinah Development Agency
10:50am 11:50am Open Discussion
11:50am 12:15pm Unveiling
12:15pm 12:45pm Inauguration of Exhibition
12:45pm 1:45pm Lunch
1:45pm Tour of Port of Sohar
3:00pm End of Day 1

There's always plenty to talk about in manufacturing, so to focus the discussion for Day 2 (Sunday 10 February) we are inviting delegates to submit questions which can be short or long, plain or nuanced, serious, heartfelt, flippant or funny. The chair will also open up each question to the audience, so that everyone is free to join the debate and to challenge or develop points made by the panel.

Here are just a few of the burning issues that we might tackle in the Big Ideas Tent on Day 2: Who’s financing manufacturing and on what terms? What does technology really offer manufacturers? How important is life-long learning to the manufacturing sector? Do manufacturers regard new talent as a renewable source of cheap labour? Manufacturing & Education: How de we turn up the volume? Is it important to have a visually literate manufacturing sector? There's much more to debate, so please get involved and submit your questions to Hamida Al Balushi on: by Saturday 26 January.

The panelists for Day 2 will include representatives from: Reem Batteries; Ministry of Commerce & Industry; Jotun; Omantel; GroFin Oman; Hussam Technology; Teclution; PEIE; Knowledge Horizon; Total Alignment; Infocomm; Microsoft; Nawras; OCIPED; Ericsson; Oracle; Cisco; Oman Cables; ITA; and Sohar Aluminium and many more...

Session One: 10:00am - 11:45am: Technology & Manufacturing: Where’s it Heading?
It is apparent that manufacturers are failing to invest sufficiently in technology, causing them to lose productivity and market share. A wider integration of ICT by manufacturers throughout Oman would significantly contribute to improve effectiveness and productivity and could potentially revolutionise and maximise processes and firms in a number of key sectors. Indeed, research clearly links ICT with productivity. What role has government, education and the telco providers to play in spreading the value of ICT across the sultanate? Is enough being done to help manufacturers understand the value and importance of ICT? Indeed, are manufacturers helping themselves in this regard?

Session Two: 10:45am - 11:30am: Marketing, Design & Packaging: What’s it Worth?
Manufacturers are having to become more innovative in response to more sophisticated consumer expectations as customers demand, not just lower prices but higher quality and better designed products. Indeed, innovation is a vital ingredient for improved competitiveness and productivity within Oman’s manufacturing sector.

On an environmental note, Oman-based manufacturers need to be more innovative vis-à-vis environmental regulations and sustainable manufacturing. Today, these are not just moral issues for manufacturers, but also, potentially, rich and dynamic features which differentiate them commercially from competitors and provide new market opportunities. Domestic and international consumers are increasingly demanding more than a product - many look more closely at the manufacturer and what it stands for, for example, overcoming the 'throw away' culture, re-configuring and re-designing products to be more environmentally friendly. It is in this regard that innovative marketing, design and packaging play an important role in how the manufacturer and its product(s) are perceived and received in the marketplace.

Session Three: 11:30am - 12:15pm: Education & Training: Turning up the Volume
Manufacturers under-invest in training. However, whilst a very large proportion of small manufacturers provide no training at all, those that do train undertake as much proportionally as larger firms. Most of those who do no training at all are generally absorbed with surviving from day-to-day and are therefore difficult to engage.

Skills needs include customer care, ICT, product assembly, marketing, design, strategy, management and team working. Although precise requirements vary from sector to sector, they are significant for their broadly generic, cross sectoral characteristics.

Skills and education issues of specific concern to Oman-based manufacturers include:

1). Changing the mindset of employers towards management and workforce development, in effect, stimulating a culture change.
2). Tailoring training programs that meet the needs of employers, particularly smaller manufacturers.
3). Promoting the importance of training within the manufacturing environment to offer smaller firms a more flexible solution to workforce development.
4). Promoting the role of Oman’s Higher Education in providing training and R&D support to manufacturers.
5). Enabling young people to make informed decisions about a career in manufacturing by speaking to real people working within the sector.
6). Adopting a long-term training and capacity building strategy for manufacturers

Session Four: 1:15pm - 2:15pm: Exports: The Highs & Lows of Going Global
International trade is an important economic activity for Oman, generating wealth, encouraging innovation, productivity and creating employment. However, despite recognizing the opportunities afforded by international trade it is reasonable to believe that there are a significant number of Oman-based manufacturers that are failing to achieve their full international trading potential. The main reasons for this include:

1). Insufficient export knowledge, market-entry advice and information.
2). Lack of understanding of the available international trade services, market opportunities and the processes involved.
3). Lack of skilled staff, particularly those with management, technical and marketing skills, to develop international markets.
4). Limited access to appropriate finance.
5). Language and cultural barriers.
6). Confusion over how to deal with international paperwork.
7). Belief that there are enough opportunities to trade in the domestic market.

For those manufacturers already buying and selling internationally, the biggest challenge facing them is finding the right partners and markets to do business with. Other challenges include: transactions, distributors and logistics/freight.

Session Five: 2:30pm - 3:15pm: Accessing Money: Who’s Got it & on What Terms?
Finance is readily available. The problem is that manufacturers (mainly small manufacturers) do not come forward with adequate proposals. Indeed, business plans submitted to banks (commercial and development) are often vague in nature. Further work is required on educating manufacturers on the process of applying and securing finance. On the other side, traditional banking practices are not adequate to spur and sustain new companies because the risk management of green field projects cannot be done through commercial lending practices. Who is out there with the cash and what are their terms and conditions?

Each panelist will give a short account of their views on the subject before we launch into a series of questions, responses and general discussion. Throughout Day 2 there will be plenty of time to continue the debate, mingle and network over food and refreshments.

PEIE’s Big Idea Tent event is free of charge and should you wish to attend please send your name and e-mail contacts to

Should your company wish to exhibit at the Big Ideas Tent event please call Mulkie Al Hashmi on: 24 15 51 35 or e-mail:

Blog contents copyright © 2006 PEIE