Inaugural I4AMF identifies industry priorities

Convened by the Australian Industry (Ai) Group, the inaugural conference of the Industry 4.0 Advanced Manufacturing Forum (I4AMF) was held on 7 August. The event was attended by over 160 delegates from business, research, education and training, unions and government.

The I4AMF builds on the work of the former Prime Minister’s Industry 4.0 Taskforce in promoting collaboration between government and industry in Australia and Germany on Industry 4.0, including initiating a collaborative approach to the development of global Industry 4.0 standards.

Conference delegates heard from, and engaged with, an outstanding line-up of presenters, including Jens Goennemann (Managing Director, AMGC) who is a member of the I4AMF Executive Council. Presenters discussed current and future developments in Industry 4.0 and strategies to transform Australia’s manufacturing industries and build global competitive advantage.


Future Priorities for Industry 4.0 in Australia

One of the objectives of the I4AMF was to map future priorities for Industry 4.0 in Australia and provide policy recommendations to governments on key workstreams. According to Megan Lilly (Head of Workforce Development, Australian Industry Group), several priorities were identified.

“Delegates participated in strategic discussions at concurrent breakout sessions aligned to four workstreams. The first workstream was Technology Applications and Digital Business Models. This focused on primary barriers and challenges to successful Industry 4.0 uptake in Australia, such as a lack of understanding around return on investment. It also looked at the primary accelerators for successful Industry 4.0 uptake in Australia, such as collaboration, particularly business to business collaboration.”

”The next workstream was Industry 4.0 Standards. Workstream members considered a standards roadmap focusing on areas of competitive strength and strategic priorities for Australia, as well as gaps and opportunities for Australia’s leadership and participation internationally. It also explored the development of a guidance document for an Industry 4.0 self-assessment framework.”

“The future priorities identified by the Cyber Security workstream included connecting with the Security of Networked Systems German counterpart, and expanding partnerships with Innovative Manufacturing CRC, AMGC and their Manufacturing Academy and others to collaborate on issues surrounding cyber security.”

“And finally, the Test Laboratories, Future of Work, Education and Training workstream highlighted a number of key areas of action, including the need for a Federal Government led Industry 4.0 Advanced Manufacturing Strategy to progress report recommendations; co-creation of education and training across the entire continuum, from VET to Higher Education and lifelong learning; and the need for industry, government, education and training organisations, unions and peak bodies need to work as a team to fast track Industry 4.0 uptake and initiatives, and ensure standards developed allow for interoperability across supply chains nationally and globally,” said Lilly.


Industry 4.0 In Australian SMEs

During I4AMF, it was noted many SMEs are implementing Industry 4.0 measures, without realising or labelling them as such. And, while more than half of SMEs are aware of Industry 4.0, less than 10% has a well-defined digital strategy within their overarching strategic plan.

Lilly believes that Australian SME manufacturers can ensure that their businesses are ready to capitalise on the benefits offered by Industry 4.0 and advanced manufacturing processes.

“I think the main thing to understand is that Australian SMEs are all in very different places within their Industry 4.0 journey—and that’s ok. Companies need to work with the relevant government agencies, such as AMGC and the Innovative Manufacturing CRC, as well as leverage the government’s supporting initiatives, such as the Entrepreneurs’ Programme. And they need to strategically plan their way forward, without comparing themselves to others. Everyone’s journey is unique—Industry 4.0 is all about letting that uniqueness flourish. There is no prescriptive model,” said Lilly.

“A highly skilled workforce will be imperative to the uptake of Industry 4.0 processes by Australian SMEs. Every conversation we have around Industry 4.0 or digital transformation always highlights the importance of skills. There is a national imperative around preparing and developing skills now and into the future—developing skills for this new world of work. We still have a lot to do in this space.”

A report will be compiled summarising the outcome of the I4AMF. “The report and policy recommendations will go to government. The Forum will then actively progress the recommendations with government and other relevant stakeholders to ensure momentum and action. The government has been very receptive and keen to receive the report and develop initiatives based on the recommendations,” said Lilly.


About the I4AMF

The I4AMF is a collaborative forum of industry leaders from: Ai Group, Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre, AustCyber, Australian Manufacturers Workers Union (AMWU), Engineers Australia, Innovative Manufacturing CRC, Siemens, Standards Australia, Swinburne University, and SAP, supported by the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science.

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