It’s been hard to miss the curiosity around “the Fourth Industrial revolution” across industry news stories and conversations over the last few years. Scott Moffat, managing director of Pilz Australia reveals how automation is set to be industry’s big game changer.
Industry 4.0 is a vision of a world where the cyber and physical worlds merge, providing real-time, self optimising production and complete visibility of everything in an organisation’s value chain. It will bring highly networked system structures involving a variety of people, IT systems, automation components and machine goes one explanation.
It will also enable far more flexibility and adaptability in factories, with scenarios involving what is known as “batches of one”. Automation and information will coalesce, and feed off of each other.
“The level of preparedness for Industry 4.0 varies across markets, but the need to invest in new plant and equipment is generally understood,” said Moffat.
A survey of 300 manufacturing leaders in the US by McKinsey last year found only 48 per cent consider themselves ready for Industry 4.0.
Those surveyed estimated 40 to 50 per cent of the machines used today would need to be upgraded or replaced. A much-cited report by consultancy Strategy&, also from last year, found that of 235 German industrial businesses surveyed, 80 per cent of these expected to have digitised key value chain processes by 2020.
They also expected to spend 3.3 per cent of their revenues on Industry 4.0 solutions doing so. On the other side of the world, the Australian manufacturing sector’s capital investment has been at a worrying low for some time. Fortunately, there are signs things could be starting to improve – “the willingness to invest couldn’t come at a more appropriate time,” pointed out Moffat.
This is just as well, with manufacturers in advanced economies seeking to gain the edge through technology. The benefits of the fourth revolution suit the profile of the kinds of firms that tend to thrive in Australia: generally high variability, high complexity, low volume producers. And those who know suggest that not joining the march to Industry 4.0 could be disastrous for local industry.
An ever more globalised manufacturing world means being globally competitive – increasingly something that means digitising a firm’s operations wherever this is an option.
Asked if Australian manufacturers could survive without being a part of the movement, Moffat said, “I personally don’t think so.”
“The main difference I see between the two countries with the adoption of Industry 4.0 is that Industry 4.0 is an initiative of the German government and they have a whole Industry approach. This includes government departments, industry bodies, machine and plant OEM’s and manufacturers all working collaboratively on Industry 4.0 themes and initiatives,” said Moffat.
“As a result, it has permeated through all levels of business and there is now question that Industry 4.0 is a must for German manufacturing and equipment suppliers to be successful in the future.”
“In Australia however,” said Moffat, “the approach is a little more disjointed with a large reliance on industry 4.0 technology being mainly promoted by German-based vendors and suppliers.”
“We are seeing pockets of good collaboration within industry with examples such as and the establishment of “Factory of the Future” research center, the Prime Ministers task force for Industry 4.0, and set up of the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre (AMGC) however there does not seem to be the same level of acceptance with Industry 4.0 as I see when visiting Germany.”
“In my opinion,” noted Moffat “the only way Australian manufacturing is going to be able to compete on a global scale is with the adoption of Industry 4.0.”
“We need to reinvigorate and further develop our local manufacturing with smart technology so that it is both efficient and globally competitive as well as being supported by a vibrant local high tech machine, plant and equipment supply market.”
“We need to also choose the specific industries to which we can compete and develop these with a view to being global leaders & suppliers for these markets.”
“We then need to adopt Industry 4.0 themes and concepts to these markets and develop specifics around this and we are already seeing progress in this space as such with some phases coined like Mining 4.0, medical 4.0 and Defence 4.0,” noted Moffat.
“Finally,” he said, “we need to make sure we create a vibrant and globally competitive machine / equipment / plant supply industry to support this. This second tier industry can also be a provider of equipment & machinery globally and provide great export opportunities.”
“Unfortunately, at the moment I am seeing the opposite with the trend of the supply of plant and equipment from overseas and local manufacturers being squeezed out of the market.”
“I see Big Data and Industry 4.0 as very distinct things. Big Data has more of a consumer feel to it and is more aimed at the retail or B2C markets. Industry 4.0 is more aimed and the manufacturing process.”
“One of the big challenges with Big Data is as the creation of Data exponentially grows and the opportunity to cross link all of these different sources of data to provide greater insight we will be challenged to ensure that we objectively analyse this data.”
“I can see a significant amount of time being wasted analysing data for spurious outcomes or biased outcomes where the data has been preselected to engineer the desired outcome.”
“We will need to develop local talent as well as import talent from overseas to help train up and develop local resources,” said Moffat.