Home-grown AI innovation for manufacturing excellence



Australia has a rich history of industry and manufacturing thanks to an abundance of natural resources, economic prosperity, high levels of education and geographic isolation which necessitated local production of goods. But the recent decades have shone the spotlight on the challenges to the industry from reliance on global supply chains. Net zero targets compound the challenge of how we create and manufacture locally. 

As the Government looks to bolster the manufacturing sector with increased funding support for home-grown initiatives whilst looking to decarbonise, there is no greater opportunity at present than in industrial AI technology. PwC predicts that AI could contribute up to $US15.7 trillion to the global economy by 2030, providing a significant opportunity for companies across a range of sectors worldwide. 

Currently, Australia is lagging on this opportunity. The Kingston AI Group is a collaboration involving 14 academics from eight universities, along with the chair of the not-for-profit Robotics Australia Group, the peak body for robotics in Australia. It points out that we are a net importer of AI technology, noting that Australia stands to miss out on $35.7 billion in gross domestic product (GDP) per year should it fail “to introduce AI systems to world standards in key industries”.

The potential gains from home-grown industrial AI are not limited to economic; there is also enormous untapped potential for sustainability gains that can accelerate Australia’s shift to a net zero economy. These opportunities will be highlighted at the upcoming Beyond 1% Summit in Sydney, an event that will explore how Australia can embrace key technologies and innovate to do more for long-term sustainability over and above reducing the 1% of global emissions the country is responsible for. 

Putting manufacturing AI into practice locally

While there’s work to do, green shoots are emerging. One example of a local AI development with global benefits for manufacturing is at Automation Innovation, a medium-sized business in Melbourne’s south-east.

In collaboration with Siemens, the 16-year-old company recently developed a new method for cleaning glass bottle moulds – a process that had not changed for 50-100 years and typically taken the bottling industry between one and five hours. After 6800 hours of research and development, an automated laser was developed to complete the cleaning process in just three seconds. In addition to saving time and resources, the new system eliminates harsh chemicals and reduces the use of raw materials – enabling resource efficiency and reduced energy usage.

Another example of early AI adoption in Australia comes from BlueScope Steel, which implemented Siemens’ Senseye Predictive Maintenance software. Senseye Predictive Maintenance utilises AI and machine learning to automatically generate machine and maintenance worker behaviour models. The integration of generative AI will help streamline human-machine interactions, making predictive maintenance faster and more efficient. For BlueScope, Senseye is more than a tool, it’s a catalyst for organisational change, accelerating efforts to scale knowledge sharing across global teams, support an ambitious digital transformation strategy, and bolster sustainability goals through more efficient maintenance measures.

Scope of opportunity

These examples provide a taste of the scope of applications for AI in manufacturing and the potential to increase sustainability. The sector, by its nature, is primed for automation due to the sheer breadth of potential uses – from process control, to quality control and predictive maintenance. As we race towards net zero, AI can also help optimise resource allocation, enhance energy efficiency, and reduce waste, a must for manufacturing businesses.

Those companies who take a lead on developing in-house use cases not only stand to reap these benefits, but also have an opportunity to export their use cases globally.

To hear more about how Siemens automation expertise can assist you to reach your business and sustainability goals, join us at the Beyond 1% Summit from July 3-4 in Sydney.

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