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Industry 4.0 The Next Industrial Revolution – What is it and how does it effect or influence Australian Manufacturing?

Everywhere I turn lately within the academic space, I am hearing about the next Industrial Revolution, Industry 4.0, I was a little unsure.  So are many of the regional manufacturers I spoke to.  So I decided I best find out for myself what this was and how it affected industry and came up with some questions.


Industry 4.0 as it is known in Australia is the global revolution that is more than just the new wave of advanced technology, it extends beyond manufacturing and production to include the entire eco- system of a business and how and who they engage with.  Partners, suppliers, customers, the work- force, and education and training providers.  


It is based on the principals of connectivity within operations and the operations supply chains, but this is not new to industry, so what is the fuss about? 


The new revolutionary way of engaging takes this beyond the operation and beyond the current physical to digital application, digital to digital system and creates the ability for the machinery to not only be automated but to produce information thus creating a link from digital back to physical. This information then can be analyzed and utilized by the person who is in charge of the operation and influence their decision making, internally and externally with their supply chain.


Deloitte Insight has released a report that outlines Industry 4.0 from an overarching perspective and very much at a Global level. It is well worth a read for those in industry to understand what is being said about the industry and where it is headed from the perspective of the academic and much larger corporate and Government spaces.


The Fourth Industrial Revolution is important to understand. “Manufacturing is the backbone of the world”. Says Deloitts Mark Cotteleer and Brenna Sniderman and when you think about our world our societies everything we use is manufactured.  So what things are made of, how they are made, where they are made and how they get to us, and where they go when we need them fixed is of great importance.


This statement is music to my ears, finally!  This industry and the changes it has seen over the last two hundred years and the changes it will see going forward influences and underpins every other industry, it drives innovation, influences government spending and has a significant impact of the focus of our education system, through the changes within its workforce and this is just the beginning. Manufacturing touches us all.


After reading all of this information I would like to pose a question.  Industry 4.0 is said to be the next revolution but it is still from everything I have read very much at an individual company level. When we take into account the cultural difference of the Australian industry and the strong regional component that we have that are made up primarily of SME’s mostly employing less than 50 staff. A true revolution is about change at an industry level.  How does Industry 4.0 fit with the Australian manufacturing landscape and what positives can we take from it?


Regional Australia still has sound manufacturing within it, however it is becoming increasingly hard to operate due to a number of external factors.  We need our regions to stay as sound manufacturing regions of excellence.  The key to the Australian industry embracing Industry 4.0 and not just surviving it but also coming out a nation that leads the next manufacturing generation, is the one thing that Industry 4.0 does not really touch on.


Industry to industry relationships.  A connected industry is the key to the success of individual business, Industry and this nation and while some of this does would be supported with supply chains, it is more than that. Keeping information flowing between industries and building a culture of co-opertition where they happily compete co-operatively, share resources, information, training, etc.   This is also the way we will secure our regions once again as we build the eco systems not in a silo, based around one company and their supply chain but around a regional industry, and the full supply chain to support it, identifying gaps within regions which potentially become opportunities.


Lets compare the outcomes of this difference. Each individual company collecting data and engaging with their supply chain and their stakeholders.  Great, who else has this information, where has it gone what is being done with it?  Do we not want a national system to capture this data so that not only individual operations can begin to predict but also Industry and Government can begin to predict instead of being reactive.


Eco-systems are the new buzzword and I hate buzzwords but this one actually does have merit and a foundation for success for Industry and regional Australia. Information, communication and involvement is the key from all sides of the argument especially regional SME’s.  This is exciting and I look forward to this opening conversation.

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