After many years of industry stagnation, manufacturing is experiencing a rapid resurgence, spurred by global supply chain issues that emerged during COVID-19.
The Australian government is investing heavily in this sector through its Modern Manufacturing Strategy that aims to help manufacturers scale up, improve competitiveness, and build more resilient supply chains. The government has identified six manufacturing priorities:
- Resources technology and critical minerals processing.
- Food and beverage.
- Medical products.
- Recycling and clean energy.
Agile manufacturing is now considered critical to national resilience and a vital part of the nation’s response during times of crisis. However, manufacturers seeking to enter the market, or aiming to grow, should consider three key factors that may impact the rebirth of manufacturing in Australia:
1. Structure for the future
Australian manufacturers cannot rely on traditional manufacturing methods, as those methods are now largely redundant. Technology and consumer expectations have changed manufacturing forever. The industry will continue to evolve as new technology emerges, and consumers continue to demand individualised, just-in-time products. Therefore, manufacturers need to plan and structure their organisation to be highly adaptable to technological change and shifts in consumer demand, not only for the current environment but also for the next five to 10 years, which is likely to include the next technological revolution.
The most successful manufacturers have a high focus on new technologies, research, and development. They are built on an agile business structure, using technology that can quickly adapt to market demands, which may include the need to completely change product lines. Technology also lets them rapidly scale up and down in accordance with consumer demand. For example, 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 frees up manufacturing workers to focus on high-value activities while maintaining optimum production levels.
2. Access to a skilled workforce
Australia has a nationwide challenge of a lack of skilled manufacturing workers who are competent in using new manufacturing technologies. While the government is seeking to address this issue, there is also an opportunity for the Australian manufacturing sector to work closely with the education sector now to build a future-ready ready workforce. This includes providing guidance to the education sector on the technologies and business approach that Australian manufacturing will take over the next decade.
A future-ready manufacturing workforce would be equipped with specialist skills that include the ability to identify new market opportunities, and manage prototype development and version control, as well as the ability to gather and analyse business insights throughout the product lifecycle using digital systems. Importantly, they would have skills that let them use collaborative technologies to identify opportunities for improving efficiencies and driving innovation through the production line.
The shift from mass production to flexible manufacturing to meet the needs of instant consumer demand is helping to reduce manufacturing waste. However, considering Australia’s strong and ongoing commitment to environmental sustainability, manufacturers will be under continual pressure to demonstrate and maintain environmentally sustainable practices throughout the production lifecycle. Smart services and flexible manufacturing address this need by providing real-time insights into manufacturing processes, and allowing for fast, easy changes to the type and quantity of items being made. This reduces raw materials inventory, consumes energy only on demand, and improves machine efficiency, which also reduces overall production costs.
Digital manufacturing that enables smart services, automation and flexibility, is the future for Australian manufacturing. However, investing in new technologies is only a small part of the equation. Manufacturers must capitalise on all the benefits of advanced manufacturing solutions to maximise their return on investment, while meeting the needs of the new consumer market.
To learn more about new manufacturing technologies and the forces that are impacting Australia’s manufacturing industry, read the Five forces shaping the future of Australian manufacturing whitepaper.