Time to see new value in manufacturing: Jeff Connolly

In a speech to the National Press Club, in Canberra, Jeff Connolly, CEO and chairman of Siemens in Australia Pacific, drew the attention of the nation’s capital to manufacturing, and in particular, Industry 4.0.

Arguing that the major challenges that Australia faces, including climate change, energy transition, scarcity of resources, cyber security, and education, are interconnected, Connolly proposed that by preparing for Industry 4.0, these tricky topics could be addressed.

Connolly defined Industry 4.0 as the merging of cyber and physical systems, which will bring speed and flexibility to all industries, allowing for mass personalisation.

This kind of production process is realised in the digital twin, a technology then put into practice through3D printing, artificial intelligence, robotics, data analytics, and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). These technologies are already being used in cases from formula 1 racing to emergency services conducting search and rescue missions.

While initially adopted in manufacturing, Connolly pointed out that Industry 4.0 is expanding to utilities, with savings found in the millions of dollars through better directed capital expenditure and improved knowledge of systems, resulting in lower insurance.

However, Connolly noted that there are two barriers to widespread Industry 4.0 adoption, capital expenditure and skills development. With millions of jobs predicted to be displaced by robotics and artificial intelligence by 2022, according to the World Economic Forum, the need to have the human knowledge to grapple with these technological changes is apparent. But at the same time, with the creation of new jobs, new skills will be required.

As 75 per cent of employers cite a skills gap, in Ai Group research, young people are graduating university with degrees that may not be giving them the knowledge to take advantage of economic and societal disruptions occurring in the industries they will work in.

Connolly went on to outline that for a successful transition to Industry 4.0 to occur in Australia, the image of manufacturing in this country needs to shift. With 10 per cent of the workforce employed in manufacturing, according to the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre (AMGC), it’s time to see manufacturing as a ‘cool’ industry, said Connolly.