Insight – Industry 4.0 transforms prospects for Australian manufacturing

Across the world, the pace of innovation is increasing and transforming the way services are delivered and goods produced. Powering change is what is commonly called the ‘fourth industrial revolution’, or Industry 4.0.

The concept of a fourth industrial revolution began in Germany over a decade ago. The basic idea is that industrial transformation has occurred in four distinct phases: the first in the late 1700s saw the application of steam power to manufacturing; the second, from 1870 saw the application of electricity to manufacturing, as well as new transport communication technologies; and the third saw the introduction of digital technologies, and information technology systems.

According to some analysts, the fourth industrial revolution is a convergence of digital, biological and physical innovations. Many of these innovations were developed during the third – or digital - industrial revolution, as internet and digital solutions embedded themselves into the manufacturing process.

But at the heart of this fourth industrial revolution (or industry 4.0) are technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) sensors, robotics and additive manufacturing. These technologies are transforming the scope of modern manufacturing, for example, by enabling bespoke products to be created efficiently at high speed. Critically, these are also technologies in which Australian companies are carving out niche areas of global competitive advantage.

Although adoption has not been universal, Austrade is seeing growing global demand for exporters using advanced manufacturing technologies, and many Australian companies are embracing these opportunities.

Industry 4.0: What it means for Australia

In a recent Insight article, global consultant, Deloitte, points out that the current pace of technological advance is unprecedented in history and shows no signs of stabilising as other historical technological innovations such as electricity, eventually did.

So, technology is changing, but it is also changing more quickly. For businesses, it is increasingly important to plan for how to adapt and realise the opportunities of accelerating innovation. This includes creating an ongoing strategy for incorporating new innovations, as they unfold.

What does all this mean for the modern manufacturer in Australia? The CSIRO’s Advanced Manufacturing Roadmap defines Advanced Manufacturing aims to raise awareness of key enabling science and technology areas for the future of manufacturing in Australia, including:

  • Sensors and data analytics
  • Advanced materials
  • Smart robotics and automation
  • Additive manufacturing
  • Augmented and virtual reality.

These are the technologies that will transform manufacturing and they are precisely the areas in which Austrade targets support for Australian businesses in overseas markets.

How Austrade is helping advanced manufacturing exporters

Currently, Australian companies export approximately A $96.1 billion of manufactured goods, according to CSIRO. Only a few companies are involved, however The Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre has found that 5% of firms drive 99% of Australia’s manufacturing exports. The potential is therefore huge for Australian businesses to respond to overseas demand and expand their export base.

Austrade is supporting advanced manufacturers across multiple sectors, including defence and space, to enter new markets through trade missions. For example, Austrade is partnering with the Australian Manufacturing Growth Centre to lead a delegation of Australian companies to the 2020 Hannover Messe trade show – the world’s leading industrial technology show.

Financial support is also available. Austrade’s Export Market Development Grant (EMDG) Scheme has underpinned the growth of companies such as Quickstep Holdings, which manufactures advanced composites for highly demanding projects such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Composites are an area of strong advantage for Australia, with multiple Australian companies achieving export success.

Austrade has also observed strong interest from overseas investors and customers impressed by the quality and competitiveness of Australian advanced manufacturing. For example, defence and aerospace giant Safran has established a strategic partnership with Australian additive manufacturing company Amaero, which created the world’s first 3D-printed jet engine.

So, the fourth industrial revolution is transforming the prospects for Australian manufacturing. Inventiveness and agility are displacing scale and logistics as the key determinants of global competitiveness. As a nation of innovators, Australia’s global prospects in manufacturing have rarely looked better.

Austrade invites companies to register for the 2020 Hannover Messe trade show here.

For further information on the EMDG program, please refer here.