Innovation and evolution for the future at NMW

With economists reporting on the continued growth on the Australian economy, one had to see it to believe it and NMW 2019 was testament to that fact. Manufacturers’ Monthly reports.

From the opening hour of day one at 10am to the final day, National Manufacturing Week (NMW) 2019 had long queues reminiscent of mega sales events. With industry-led sessions by industry stalwarts and experts from the field, the event showcased Australia’s role in the industrial evolution. In addition, this year’s event saw an increase in the number of suppliers who displayed their latest products and services on the exhibition floor.

The 20th edition of NMW, co-located with Austech, held at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre from May 14-17, saw more than 11,000 attendees and 200 companies displaying the latest technology advancements with leading suppliers in attendance.

The theme for this year’s NMW was Industrial Evolution. The event had a strong focus on advanced manufacturing processes during the exhibition, particularly in the automation and robotics that had an expanded section of exhibitors, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), and engineering zones that will carry over into 2020, according to the organisers.

Within Australia, since the call from the Federal Government to have manufacturing companies adopt more advanced technologies into their processes, there has been a shift in Industry 4.0 from operational concept to reality and this has resulted in manufacturing requiring high-level engineering to re-design processes to support ever-increasing smart manufacturing facilities.

The Australian Government’s $100 million investment into the Advanced Manufacturing Fund in 2017 has provided support to the manufacturing industry in the creation of new jobs, growing of businesses, improving of productivity, and seen the increase global investment into the country.

According to the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre’s (AMGC) research, the most successful manufacturing companies in Australia have an automation rate of 1.3 times that of less successful companies. The Australian Centre for Robotic Vision predicts that automation is forecasted to boost Australia’s productivity and national income up to $2.2 trillion by 2030, while the global market for robotics and autonomous systems is forecast to be worth $23 billion by 2025.

Hence, this year there was a big focus on the next industrial revolution and artificial intelligence in manufacturing. There were a large number of visitors from learning institutes that are interested to find out where the industry is at in terms of advanced manufacturing techniques and the tools/equipment that will support it.

Featuring over 90 industry leading expert speakers and panellists, NMW’s conference program opened with a welcome from Dr Jens Goennemann, managing director of AMGC, and Martin Pakula, Minister for Jobs, Innovation and Trade, in the Industry 4.0 Theatre. Pakula reiterated to attendees about the strength of the Australian manufacturing sector and the commitment of the Victorian government to its continued growth.

The keynote was then delivered by Australia’s chief scientist, Dr Alan Finkel AO, “Reversing the flow – what manufacturing can teach AI”, focussed on the challenge of responsibly deploying AI in manufacturing, what AI developers need to learn from previous industrial revolutions, and how to integrate with manufacturers’ evolving systems.

These were followed by numerous insights focussed sessions across the two conference theatres of Industry 4.0 and Connected Manufacturing, including the Ai Group’s director, Mark Goodsell, on “Australian Manufacturing 2019 and beyond”.

Goodsell mentioned in his presentation that Australia has had more than three years now of solid growth. He said that although there is “the odd month now and then” when this growth has slowed down to 50 (anything above 50 in the Australian PMI is considered positive growth), but the story has been one of “unambiguous optimism” in the industry.

“If you look at the 10-year cycle since 2008, we had a period of decline, and that coincided with the dollar going very high in the mining boom, and it was difficult to do onshore manufacturing during that period – our labour got sucked into Western Australia to work on mines, it was hard to compete because of the dollar, and there was a lot of negative talk about the industry. It was a tough time, and probably only the tough survived.

“However, over the last five years, it has been a different trajectory through to the end of last year. Towards the end of last year and through into the beginning of this year, we’ve had some sogginess. It is not drastic,” Goodsell said.

Goodsell, however pointed out that the structure of manufacturing is changing where food is now what he calls the “spine” of manufacturing.

“It may have been automotive and machinery manufacturing in the past, but food and beverage has overtaken these. And this is particularly driven by exports into Southeast Asia and China, where they really do trust the supply chain that we bring from farms, through production, and to those markets,” said Goodsell.

He also made mention of other subsectors within manufacturing that are doing well. One of these sectors is textiles, which he said many had written-off.

“The textile component of manufacturing has put on jobs in the last year or two. This is driven by new business models, the need for retailers to get really quick service out of their suppliers; and the models that are working in other manufacturing sectors are also working in textiles,” said Goodsell.

Goodsell mentioned that when people talk publicly about manufacturing, they often precede it by saying ‘the declining’. He observed that the story is not so straightforward with the available evidence showing that manufacturing is in an era of growth
– albeit with some recent wobbles and it is still a good generator of jobs and wealth.

Visitors were able to try out their “VR skills” in welding with Soldamatic Augmented Training at the Weld Australia booth.

The Advanced Welder Training Hub, on Weld Australia’s stand, received a lot of visitors. Over there, they were able to try out their “VR skills” in welding with Soldamatic Augmented Training.

NMW 2019 attracted over 200 leading companies showcasing the latest technology advancements, with industry-leading suppliers in attendance including Air Liquide, Axelent, BOC, Cadgroup, ECI Software Solutions, Epicor, Excision, FARO, Hiwin, Intelli Particle, Kemppi, KOBOT Systems, Linak, Lincoln Electric, Lorch South Pacific, Peak Industrial, Pilz, Profifeed Technologies, Prytec Solutions, Saint- Gobain Abrasives, Supagas, SYSPRO, Tesuco, Trotec, Universal Robots, WAGO, and X-Pak.

“National Manufacturing Week 2019 opened with a fantastic first day. It was great to see the eagerness and excitement of visitors lining up ready to enter this year’s exhibition and conference,” said Robby Clark, exhibition director, National Manufacturing Week.

NMW 2019 also saw WorldSkills Australia host the Victorian Regional Mechatronics and Welding competitions across all four day of the exhibition.

WorldSkills Australia CEO, Brett Judd, had earlier said in a press statement on their official website, “We have been committed to empowering excellence in young Australians since 1981 and competitions continue to identify and celebrate outstanding young apprentices and trainees. Through our national program of skills competitions, WorldSkills creates life- changing opportunities by promoting a skills-based culture and showcasing vocational training”.

The numerous conference sessions at NMW 2019, spread across the Industry 4.0 Theatre and Connected Manufacturing Theatre, were developed in partnership with Austech and the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre (AMGC).

Robby Clark, exhibition director of National Manufacturing Week, said, “NMW 2019 focussed on supporting manufacturers in their adoption of high-tech solutions, advanced manufacturing processes and integration of Industry 4.0 into their operations, with visitors’, exhibitors’ and conference speakers’ eagerness to celebrate recent successes and generate further momentum characterising this year’s event.”

In terms of exhibitor satisfaction, Air Liquide, a top end manufacturer of gases, technologies and services for industry and health, experienced good traffic to their booth at NMW 2019.

Arnaud Voisin, marketing manager of Air Liquide, told Manufacturers’ Monthly, “We had a lot of people come by our booth, especially tradies, welders and people who work in the field of fabrication – mostly from smaller businesses. We, having a lot of expertise in those fields (welding) as well, were well placed to answer all those questions that came forth and we were also able to highlight the key differentiating features of our products to all who came by.”