In one of his first speeches, Australia’s new industry minister has failed to acknowledge the importance of one of the biggest transformations to hit industry in decades: Industry 4.0
A few weeks ago I took issue with the Federal Government’s apparent inability to recognise the importance of the Internet of Things to agriculture. In Government gives agricultural IoT short shrift I pointed that its new white paper on the competitiveness of Australian agriculture, made only passing reference to IoT, widely tipped to have huge potential to transform agriculture.
The same apparent lack of recognition is evident in the government’s approach to the application of IoT to manufacturing. This is an enormous portion of the IoT ecosystem – Industry 4.0. It was invented by the German Government which is pumping billions into the technology. As I’ve reported, the Chinese Government also has a huge focus on Industry 4.0, which it calls Internet+.
Entire regions will be impacted
The Boston Consulting Group says: “Industry 4.0 will make it possible to gather and analyse data across machines, enabling faster, more flexible, and more efficient processes to produce higher-quality goods at reduced costs. This in turn will increase manufacturing productivity, shift economics, foster industrial growth, and modify the profile of the workforce—ultimately changing the competitiveness of companies and regions.”
According to a Deloitte report on Industry 4.0: “The widespread adoption by manufacturing industry around the world of information and communications technology is now paving the way for disruptive approaches to development, production and the entire logistics chain. … Commentators use the term ‘Industry 4.0’ to refer to a fourth industrial revolution with four main characteristics: … The vertical networking of smart production systems, such as smart factories and smart products, and the networking of smart logistics, production and marketing and smart services, with a strong needs-oriented, individualised and customer-specific production operation.”
Half of German industry’s investment in Industry 4.0
For its report Industry 4.0: opportunities and challenges of the industrial internet PWC surveyed 235 German industrial companies and said: “Respondents expect that the digital transition will lead to a significant transformation of their companies that will require considerable investment. They estimate the share of investments in Industry 4.0 solutions will account for more than 50 percent of planned capital investments for the next five years. German industry will thus invest a total of €40 billion in Industry 4.0 every year by 2020.”
So when our newly appointed minister for industry, innovation and science, Christopher Pyne, delivered an address to the Australian Technology Network’s Advanced Manufacturing Forum you would expect him to make more than passing reference to Industry 4.0, say something its importance to Australian manufacturing and what the government is doing to encourage its adoption.
You’ be wrong. Pyne never mentioned Industry 4.0, IoT, IoE or M2M. Not even once. The nearest he came to any mention of specific advanced manufacturing technologies was when he said: “Talking of advanced manufacturing, the emergence of robotic, 3D printing and similar disruptive technologies creates both opportunities and threats.”
Pyne can hardly be blamed. When he gave the speech he’d held the portfolio for less than 10 days – he was minister for education and training in the Abbott Government – but his department/advisors/speechwriter really should have been sufficiently across what will be one of the biggest transformations of industry in a generation – not for nothing does its name acknowledge it as the fourth great industrial revolution, the original industrial revolution, assembly line manufacturing and factory automation being the first three.
Hopefully under tech-savvy Turnbull awareness of the importance of major technological developments will gradually improve throughout the government and the bureaucracy.