The Facility for Intelligent Fabrication (FIF) that provides expertise, technology, equipment and training in automating steel fabrication to help manufacturing businesses adapt and compete was launched at the University of Wollongong (UOW) on 9 March by Gareth Ward MP, Parliamentary Secretary for Education and the Illawarra and South Coast, on behalf of the Hon John Barilaro MP, Deputy Premier, Minister for Regional New South Wales, Minister for Skills, and Minister for Small Business.
The FIF reportedly combines the knowledge and resources of the University of Wollongong (UOW), TAFE NSW and the Welding Technology Institute of Australia (WTIA). FIF was formed in recognition of the changing business climate, as the Illawarra transitions from large-scale heavy manufacturing, and the need for local manufacturers to innovate and adapt to remain competitive.
UOW says that the facility draws on decades of research-based welding and automation expertise and welding training at both UOW and TAFE NSW, enabling local firms with their own history of fabrication expertise to access specialised knowledge and skills in automation.
In addition FIF will develop and implement solutions to industry challenges and provide demonstrations of technology and proof-of-concept, including prototype development. It will also support the adoption of new technology with technical education, training and certification support.
Deputy Premier, Minister for Regional New South Wales, Minister for Skills, and Minister for Small Business John Barilaro MP said the facility would be a valuable resource to ensure that manufacturing firms in the Illawarra and across NSW had access to the latest technology, training and certification.
“There are current and emerging opportunities for local fabrication companies to participate in steel intensive defence and infrastructure projects that will be a source of long-term skilled jobs,” Barilaro said.
“Connecting industry with training and accreditation partners and research will put local businesses at a competitive advantage and will be a game-changer for the region.”
Parliamentary Secretary for Education and the Illawarra and South Coast Gareth Ward MP said the FIF was an example of how governments, businesses, industry and training organisations can work together to promote innovation.
“This type of business transformation program will help industry transition to a new future and attract additional investment to the region. A strong economy will mean more jobs and go a long way to ensuring that Australia’s manufacturing industry is competitive on the global stage.”
The facility is an extension of existing UOW research, consulting and education expertise, combined with TAFE’s complementary training and facilities, and WTIA’s network of companies in the welding and fabrication space and internationally accredited certification.
Services the FIF partners offer include:
- Expert, research-backed advice on automation technology adoption and implementation
- Robotics and automation fabrication solutions
- Augmented reality welding training for apprentices and trainees and ongoing welding training certification
- Industry linkages and partnerships that offer opportunities for collaboration and sharing of knowledge within the industry
UOW Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences Executive Dean Professor Valerie Linton said welding technology remained an integral part of the manufacturing industry, but firms needed to evolve rapidly.
“Solving challenges in adopting automation, accessing apprentice training and gaining welding certification would typically require multiple touchpoints with more than one agency or organisation,” Professor Linton said.
“Here we are creating a one-stop-shop where they can access impartial expert advice to improve their business.”
Head of the TAFE NSW SkillsPoint for innovative manufacturing, robotics and science Karen Humphreys said TAFE NSW worked collaboratively with UOW and WTIA to establish a facility with capabilities across planning, research, vocational training and development as well as access to the latest technology.
“TAFE NSW works in close partnership with industry, business and employers to design training that looks to the future and supports local economies,” Ms Humphreys said.
“TAFE NSW students are equipped with the skills and training that they need to respond to the opportunities provided by high-growth and emerging industry sectors as well as existing employer needs.”
WTIA CEO Geoff Crittenden said: “The launch of the Facility for Intelligent Fabrication offers innumerable benefits to Australian welders, as well as manufacturing firms in Illawarra and across New South Wales.
“Together, the University of Wollongong, TAFE NSW and the WTIA will strive to secure the future of the Australian welding industry by producing highly skilled, qualified welding professionals, and delivering solutions that promote the adoption of advanced welding technology such as robotics and automation.”