New report: collaboration needed to drive Industry 4.0 innovation and growth

New research undertaken by Swinburne, PwC, Siemens and the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union (AMWU) – as part of the Australian Industry (Ai) Group Industry 4.0 Forum agenda – has identified the ways in which manufacturing businesses and workforces must adapt to changes being wrought by Industry 4.0.

The research report, titled Transforming Australian Manufacturing: Preparing businesses and workplaces for Industry 4.0, arose from the work of the Industry 4.0 Advanced Manufacturing Forum Workstream co-chaired by Swinburne’s Professor Aleksandar Subic, deputy vice-chancellor (research and development) and Andrew Dettmer, AMWU president.

The report provides information and advice for government, industry, unions and peak employer bodies, and education/research institutions. It was launched during National Manufacturing Week, Australia’s largest manufacturing expo.

Following previous industrial revolutions in mechanisation, mass production and computers, the fourth industrial revolution – known as Industry 4.0 – is about the fusion of cyber-physical systems that involves digitalisation across the entire industrial value chain. It includes technologies such as Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), advanced automation and robotics, 3D printing, machine-to-machine communication, digital twins and sensor technology.

The report finds industry, education, unions, peak bodies and government must collaborate to drive innovation and workforce transformation for the benefit of industry and society. Among its eight recommendations, the report proposes that new funding, delivery and accreditation models be created to support lifelong learning, reskilling and upskilling throughout the work lifecycle.

It details a number of case studies and highlights international and national best practice, including Swinburne’s Industry 4.0 apprenticeship program and national Industry 4.0 Testlabs network model that demonstrate how education, industry and government collaboration can be used effectively to co-create and develop education and research offerings that better meet future workforce requirements.

The report also identifies the emerging skills needs of the manufacturing industry, such as:

  • Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)
  • intelligent data analytics
  • higher levels of digital literacy
  • automation
  • cybersecurity
  • advanced cognitive skills

This will require the upskilling of existing workers for changing jobs, as well as the recruitment of new entrants to the manufacturing workforce.

“The report presents findings that include international and national best practice of workforce transformation initiatives in the advanced manufacturing sector, as well as in other areas of relevance,” said Subic, who was a member of the Prime Minister’s Industry 4.0 Taskforce.

“In order for Australian companies to access global value chains and associated benefits within an emerging Industry 4.0 world, our businesses and government must actively encourage and support new skills development in advanced industrial digitalisation across the entire continuum, from vocational training to higher education and PhDs. This requires disruptive innovation in education and training based on new models of public and private sector partnerships.”