The opportunity for Australia’s manufacturing sector
Andrew Dettmer, National President, Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Unions said that the manufacturing sector’s transformation to digital production will benefit from all of a worker’s existing skills – and then some.
“I would argue, for example, that the skills inherent in hand and power tools are just as relevant to the digital workplace,” he said.
“One of the attractions of the digital environment is the possibility of a return to artisanal production, where workers or teams of workers are responsible for the carrying out of all the functions needed to form a complete component or item, such as a car.”
Dettmer, who is also a board member of TAFE Queensland, said that although many Australian workplaces are yet to completely adopt Industry 4.0 principles, it’s critical that any conversations on what will be implemented are a cooperative process.
“We’re not quite there yet in terms of this collaboration – and we can learn a lot from the German model,” he said.
“In the digital environment of the future, we’ll see engineers, programmers, designers, tradespeople and production workers all involved in the making of the Industry 4.0 workplace.
“And for that to take place, unions, employers and governments have to create and develop a new way of working together so that the thoughts and ideas of all engaged can be brought to bear,” Dettmer said.
Engineers play a critical role in industrial transformation
“The expert voice of engineers in the current situation is something we've seen in demand globally,” said Dr Bronwyn Evans, Chief Executive Officer, Engineers Australia.
“And rightfully so, when it’s conversations about our economy as it stands now and what it will look like in the future,” she said.
“We’re now seeing government stimulus measures focus on infrastructure as part of plans to boost economic recovery – infrastructure being another sector reshaping through digital transformation.”
Evans, who is chair of the Building 4.0 Cooperative Research Centre in Australia, said what’s critical in ensuring the right skills are developed for any sectoral transformation is the embedding of lifelong learning in professions.
“Digital skills and a data skills set aren’t necessarily things that people come to straight away,” she said.
“Some of the ways we’ve been tackling this is through accessible learning offerings, such as micro-credentialing.”
Evans is also spearheading efforts for global recognition of Australian engineering qualifications.
“We’ve been working with our counterparts in Germany to set up the right framework to let the engineering profession work across boundaries,” she said.
“International physical mobility, when it can happen, is also very important.”
Global partnerships are key to driving solutions to global challenges
The impact of the current situation and its unprecedented acceleration of the digitalisation of business has meant a focus on global partnerships to solve challenges, according to Professor Frank Wagner, Head of Strategic R&D / Cooperation, Fraunhofer IAO and Incoming Dean Industry & Enterprise, University of South Australia.
“It’s easy to make global collaboration happen – it's no longer about where you’re located but more the time zone of your partners, whether they be in Brazil, Australia, Asia or the Americas.
Wagner’s role at Fraunhofer IAO takes on this global lens, working to bridge industry and universities.
“We’re focused on finding new ways of collaboration, new ways of the digitalisation of industry as well as new ways of working in a post COVID-19 landscape,” he said.
“But in addition to the digitalisation of factories, there are so many other sectors where there are opportunities for future global partnerships, such as in food, energy and health.
“What’s important is that it’s not just about developing the technology – but it’s also getting ready for its adaptation across other sectors,” Wagner said.
Cybersecurity underpins the success of Industry 4.0
“We rely on digital infrastructure, and the data that it carries, for almost everything we now do in our ‘cyber/physical world’,” said Michelle Price CEO, AustCyber – Australian Cyber Security Growth Network.
“When we look at it from a workforce perspective, and drawing on the deep analysis we’ve undertaken at AustCyber, we do need more skilled people within the Australian economy to guarantee trust in our digital infrastructure and the integrity of that data,” she said.
“When we look at the skills challenge around cybersecurity, the size of the challenge is not insurmountable.
“But I do believe it does underpin the future success of Industry 4.0.”
Price said AustCyber has been working with its partners over the past three years to develop resilient and robust pipelines of skills needed across key competencies.
“It’s all about collaboration, but perhaps what's more important is also building on the collaboration that has already started, not just in Australia and not just in Germany, but globally,” she said.
“We need to work together to drive the development of the skills needed – and this should be from the top down and to the bottom up.”
Story: Karen Matthews