Industry 4.0 is here and manufacturing stands at its centre. Using transformative technologies that now connect the physical world with the digital world, manufacturers can offer highly customised products to enhance the customer experience.
New forms of human-machine interaction, as well as advances in artificially intelligent technologies, give manufacturers better connectivity between their customers and supply chains, as well as more flexibility to produce differentiated products to meet consumer demand.
However, the amount of technological advancement that once occurred over a number of years is now happening in a fraction of that time. As technologies continue to accelerate and disrupt, the great differentiator won’t simply be a matter of quality or cost but how quickly one company can innovate over another.
According to Austrade, over the next 20 years Australia’s manufacturing industry will evolve into a highly integrated, collaborative and export-focused ecosystem that provides high-value customised solutions within global value chains. The sector will focus on pre-production (design, research, and development) and post-production (after-sales services) value-adding, sustainable manufacturing and low volume, high margin customised manufacturing.
To enable this vision, Australia’s manufacturing sector will increasingly rely on sensors and data analytics, artificial intelligent technology, 3D printing, and virtual reality solutions.
CADPRO Systems has identified five key technology trends for Australian manufacturers that will emerge over the next five years.
1. Generative design
Generative design is software technology that lets manufacturers create highly optimised designs to meet pre-determined goals and constraints. Using shape synthesis algorithms and multi-physics performance analysis in the cloud, the software automatically generates thousands of design options from a single idea.
This has huge potential for the Australian manufacturing sector, where one single idea can result in literally thousands of iterations in product design and capabilities. It can also lead to spin-off products that allow manufacturers to enter new markets.
2. Additive manufacturing
Commonly known as 3D printing, additive manufacturing directly connects the digital world with the physical world by developing physical objects through depositing materials in layers based on a digital model. This technology is used to create literally anything from prototypes to produced products including engine parts, eco-friendly buildings, and medical implants. Additive manufacturing can incorporate new materials and integration that supports product innovation while reducing manufacturing cost and waste. It allows for much greater customisation of products, which meets the growing need for personalised, just-in-time manufacturing.
3. Internet of Things
The Internet of Things (IoT) continues to be a top manufacturing trend due to its ability to seamlessly connect electronics, software and sensors to support communication between devices. This enables smart services that use real-time data gathered from internet-enabled devices on production facilities, transport fleets, networks, grids and more to provide specific services for design, production and delivery. Through IoT, advanced manufacturing software connects devices, gathers relevant data, and sends it to a centralised management console where business intelligence software converts the information into insights to drive better decision-making, or automatically updates manufacturing processes based on pre-defined rules. This helps to automate production and quickly overcome issues such as labour shortages.
4. Robotics and automation
The use of robotics and process automation, powered by artificially intelligent (AI) technologies that have machine learning capabilities, is becoming key to manufacturing operations. AI and robotic automation is perhaps the biggest economic opportunity that Australia has over the next 30 years. It is by far the largest source of productivity growth and could potentially add up to $2.2 trillion in value to the Australian economy by 2030. Due to the cost savings and efficiency gains from robotics and process automation, the manufacturing industry could achieve significant benefits from this technology. For example, automated workflows reduce human errors caused by repetitive tasks, which supports the efficient production of high-quality finished products, even for small-batch manufacturing. This allows manufacturers to deliver consistent, positive customer experiences.
5. Data analytics software
Data has become core to doing business for all industries across Australia, including manufacturing. For example, data allows businesses to accurately measure what customers want and determine how customer demand will evolve over time. Advanced manufacturing software helps manufacturers seamlessly link data insights, processes and resources to meet customer needs. This improves plant efficiency, enhances the customer experience, and reduces manufacturing costs.
Australian manufacturers have realised that customer experience now defines their industry, and they must take up the challenge of meeting increasing demand for high-quality, more personalised products on much tighter production schedules than have been experienced in the past. This involves the adoption of intelligent, automated technologies that make the business of modern manufacturing much easier, while delivering a consistent and enhanced customer experience.
To learn more about technologies and other forces shaping manufacturing in Australia today, read the Five forces shaping the future of Australian manufacturing whitepaper.