Today @AuManufacturing launches working smarter with data – our new editorial series. In the first of our series we ask the question – what is digital manufacturing – and you can read that story here. But first, Peter Roberts sets the scene.
2020 was the year when the penny dropped for Australia’s manufacturing competitiveness.
Despite all the talk about world-beating science and world-leading industry, Australian manufacturing was starkly revealed by the Covid-19 pandemic’s supply chain interruptions as failing to cater for the essential needs of the nation.
Australia faced the truth and saw that while we still boast islands of excellence – such as CSL, the world’s largest biotechnology company – manufacturing industry has shrunk around them, swamped by a sea of imports.
Today manufacturing turns over around $100 billion a year and we suffer a balance of trade deficit in manufactures of upwards of $100 billion. To meet our needs locally, manufacturing would have to double in size with all that extra production going to the domestic market.
But it is not just size where we have fallen behind.
A worrying lack of competitiveness that has brought this import-dependence about is seen in Australia’s ranking in the World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Competitiveness Report.
We slipped two places to number 16 in the world in the latest report, not so much because our standards are slipping, but because other countries such as Singapore, which beat out the United States to be the world’s most competitive nation, have passed us on the way up.
And other nations are still pulling ahead.
Australia ranked inside the top 10 in only two of the twelve ‘pillars’ that make up the WEF Global Competitiveness Index – ‘macroeconomic stability’ and ‘product markets’.
Australia’s weakest pillars were for our ‘labour market’ and ‘innovation capability’.
Ai Group CEO Innes Willox, who coordinates data collection for the WEF, said: “Despite a small improvement in 2019, Australia’s lowest rankings are in infrastructure and ICT adoption, where we trail both China and Russia.
“This…indicates we need to sharpen our ICT infrastructure and develop our digital skills to ensure Australia can take advantage of the fourth industrial revolution.”
That revolution is made up of a number of interlocking technologies – additive manufacturing, Artificial Intelligence, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT), virtual reality and augmented reality (VR and AR), and the manufacturing software solutions that support them.
All of these have one thing in common – collecting, handling, analysing and working smarter with data.
National policy globally has similarly recognised digitisation – working smarter with data – as the new global battleground.
The German Government’s National Industry Strategy 2030 focuses on strengthening key enabling technologies such as digitisation and artificial intelligence, as well as key industries such as battery cell manufacturing which are vital for manufacturing competitiveness.
Singapore’s plans include national programmes in emerging technology areas such as robotics adoption and additive manufacturing, as well as efforts to commercialise research.
Australia’s own national response, the federal government’s modern manufacturing strategy rests on four, similar pillars.
Of its 13 sections one is backing digital transformation with a $1.3 billion Modern Manufacturing Initiative to transform manufacturing businesses, a $107.2 million Supply Chain Resilience Initiative, and an extra $52.8 million for the Manufacturing Modernisation Fund to unlock business investment.
Key focus sectors have been identified around resources technology and critical minerals processing, food and beverage, medical products, recycling and clean energy, defence, and space.
While we can criticise the quantum of Australia’s response, its focus on digitisation and on digital skills is is the right one and the one @AuManufacturing focuses on in our latest editorial series launched today – working smarter with data.
We launch the series today by asking the question – what is digital manufacturing – and you can read that story here.
@AuManufacturing is indebted to our editorial series sponsor Fusion5, without whose support this series would not be possible.
Fusion5 is a leading Australasian business solutions leader.
The company’s expertise and solutions include Enterprise Resource Planning, HR/Payroll, Customer Experience, Customer Relationship Management, Digital Enablement, Enterprise Service Management, and IT Infrastructure.
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