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Declining productivity in Australian mining and manufacturing highlighted in Siemens study

After tackling water and energy last year, Siemens is currently turning the spotlight on Australia’s productivity in its Picture the Future Series. According to Siemens, this is one of the largest industry based meta-research studies in the nation’s history.

There aren’t many surprises and the picture isn’t pretty: Australia’s productivity has been in decline by approximately 1.2 per cent per year since 2003-04. One of the fixes advocated revolves around automation and digitalisation. “Digitalisation enables far better capture of data in real time.

It also allows for extremely fast iterations in terms of design. If you have a fully digitalised and automated system, you can cut your time from design to product by half and this is what will improve productivity,” Matthew Rait told PACE magazine. Rait (pictured here) is Head of Productivity Research, Picture the Future Australia, Siemens.

A specific area of concern is mining where the productivity decline has been 4.6 per cent since 2003-04. “But the real concern is how will the economy prosper beyond the mining boom and booms are cyclical. Historically, they don’t end well,” adds Rait who would like to see the Australian economy thrive off green industry.

He believes manufacturers ought to be looking at what can they do to improve their productivity from a green perspective because once the carbon taxes imposed, that’s going to cost money. “We need to improve our productivity to absorb these costs,” he adds.

According to Siemens research, digitalisation and automation will enable flexibility within the manufacturing environment. “We will then be able to adapt quickly to market changes and also handle the high level of customisation being demanded by customers,” notes Rait. “It will also hit one of our other solution areas, which is environmental sustainability.”

Things like Smart Grid Smart Management System are expected to place less pressure on the environment, on raw materials and enable sustainability.

Following on from their Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) solutions, Siemens are now promoting Totally Integrated Automation (TIA) which has a common level protocol for communications between systems enabling continuous manufacturing optimisation. “Both PLM and TIA are enablers for improving productivity,” says Rait.

To action and implement the Picture the Future proposals, Siemens have expressed a willingness to work with other companies in “collaborative innovation” thereby allowing a spread of risk, a spread of cost and a spread of IP.

Stripped of pretty pictures and lofty sentiment, what can the country expect from this laudable initiative? “When we look at it from a national perspective, we will be able to see shifts in our productivity performance over time,” reckons Rait. “We will be able to measure the shifts at each industry level and we see whether these visions are making a positive difference.”

Rait is certainly not alone when voicing one of the challenges facing industry in Australia – over regulation. “To accomplish our vision, it is absolutely necessary for us to somehow work through and rationalise some of the restrictions that are the consequence of a three-tier government – such as the 1,300 regulatory bodies we have across those levels,” he explains.

At the programme launch in Sydney in February, CEO and managing director of Siemens, Albert Goller pictured a positive outlook for Australia. “By addressing our productivity challenges now, we will open up new opportunities for our nation,” said Goller.

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