Future-proofing Australia’s smaller manufacturers

Thursday 23 January 2020

Nico Adams and team in the Factory of the Future

Back row: Craig Webster, Vikram Sachdeva, Hasan Baran Kaptan, Vince Lorefice. Front row: Shanti Krishnan, David Smoors, Professor Nico Adams. | Image credit Eamonn Gallagher

In summary

  • This article originally featured in Swinburne's Research Impact magazine.

Swinburne program is creating business strategies aimed at helping Australia’s small- and medium- sized enterprises (SMEs) make advanced products and add revenue streams through selling additional services.

In the age of Industry 4.0, manufacturers have been moving towards smart service provision and manufacturing using artificial intelligence, data technologies, and the Internet of Things, noted Associate Professor Nico Adams, Director of Swinburne’s Factory of the Future (FoF). These changes will increase global GDP by approximately 14 per cent, or US $15 trillion, by 2030.

In this environment, Australian SMEs — which account for nearly 90 per cent of the country’s manufacturers — will be asked to make to big changes.

“In the future, SMEs may not offer just a physical product,” Professor Adams explained. “For example, an air-conditioning manufacturer might move from selling just a physical ‘reverse cycle’ to adding an offer to keep a house at a certain temperature all year, as an ongoing service.” This, he said, will allow smaller businesses to compete more with ‘bigger fish’ based on value proposition.

“In Australia, there are about 5000 top-tier manufacturing companies connected to the world’s supply chain. We’re targeting companies who aim to be the next 5000.”

In development with the Federal Government since early 2019, FoF can help business test ways to move toward future industry. Here, SMEs can work with the Advanced Manufacturing Industry 4.0 Hub and the Industry 4.0 Testlab to devise tailor-made strategies for incorporating advanced technologies.

As of late 2019, the Hub has interacted with more than 100 businesses. Four are currently working on a more detailed strategy, noted Professor Adams.

“Ultimately, we de-risk the implementation of new Industry 4.0 technology, through collaboration,” he explained.