Driving Australia’s digital future

Leading industry experts across the manufacturing, logistics, infrastructure and energy sectors met in Melbourne to discuss the opportunities that digital transformation will provide for Australia.

Digitialize, an annual conference organised by Siemens, was held at the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) this year. The theme this year was ‘unlocking the potential’ and featured a line-up of global and local industry experts.

The four topics of the day were workforce of the future, Industry 4.0, intelligent infrastructure and Australia’s Energy Transition.

Chairman and CEO of Siemens Australia Jeff Connolly, kicked-off the day with a lively discussion about what Industry 4.0 is. Sporting a new pair of Adidas sneakers, he spoke of the potential that Industry 4.0 will provide for localised manufacturing.

“Years ago the main concern for manufacturing was the cost of labour, so you looked for the cheapest place to manufacture. With Industry 4.0, companies will be able to produce products at the point where they will be consumed, significantly reducing transport and logistics costs,” Jeff said.

Jeff’s sneakers had been customised to showcase the Siemens brand, with the trademark three strips in Siemens-style green. “Industry 4.0 will allow for personalisation and customisation. Products like my customised sneakers can be produced at the same cost as 1,000 batch products. This is a very exciting prospect for Australia.”

The four topics of the day were workforce of the future, Industry 4.0, intelligent infrastructure and Australia’s Energy Transition.

Gaining competitive edge with Industry 4.0

According to Jeff, the potential of the fourth industrial revolution doesn’t stop at product personalisation and customisation. It will change everything. “The way we work, the way we learn, the way we make things and the way we use our planet will all change.”

Industry 4.0 provides major opportunities for businesses to improve their competitive edge. “Historically there was a huge amount of engineering discipline going into product releases, everything needed to be 99.9 per cent right before going out to market. Then it didn’t take long for businesses to copy. But with the ability to design and iterate fast, you can go from concept to reality very quickly, gaining a serious competitive edge,” Jeff said.

Even the MCG has the potential to gain from the concepts at the heart of Industry 4.0. Using the European example of the Allianz arena in Munich, Jeff explained the ways in which Industry 4.0 is helping to maintain the highest quality of grass on the pitch. “There are sensors underneath the grass which monitor light, temperature, weight and humidity 24 hours a day. This data is then used to keep the grass at its highest quality at all times.

The benefits to be realised don’t stop at grounds maintenance either. “What does an AFL shirt have to do with Industry 4.0?” Jeff asked. Every AFL player could have a sensor in the back of their shirt, monitoring 100 per cent of their movement. This includes body temperature, sweat and breathing. “This data means that after the game you can work out what went wrong, and adjust diet and training regimes accordingly. All of these capabilities are a product of Industry 4.0”, Jeff said.

Workforce of the future

With endless opportunities, Industry 4.0 is set to transform many industries. For another presenter, Innes Willox, Chief Executive at Ai Group, Industry 4.0 provides Australia with the opportunity to have a thriving logistics industry.

“To walk the road to Industry 4.0, organisations will need ambition, to cultivate innovation at every level, collaboration, robust technological infrastructure a rock-solid approach to cyber security and new skills,” Innes said.

Siemens, Swinburne University of Technology and Ai Group have established a pilot programme to improve Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) skills, the pilot includes a range of topics including Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things (IoT).

“The pilot has been very successful and is a project that gets to the heart of what’s needed for a workplace of the future,” Innes said. The importance of preparing a workforce of the future was an idea that resonated throughout the day, with the importance of skills and training coming up in all sectors.

Siemens has been doing some significant work in this space and Innes said the collaborative pilot programme with Ai and Swinburne will reinvent apprenticeships in Australia. The qualification is the first of its kind and is designed to meet the particular needs of Industry 4.0.

Data and how to use it

A central aspect of Industry 4.0 is data. According to Jeff, data itself isn’t valuable. The question is, how to unlock it?

“Organisations shouldn’t be collecting data alone, they need to make sense of it and then work out what they want to do with it,” Jeff said.

“Data is being described as the oil of the 21st century. Ninety per cent of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years and 5.5 million new ‘things’ get connected every day. However, the value is in being able to refine that crude data and turning it into usable business information. This requires sophisticated platforms that simplify and enable the process. It also requires skilled people coming through the system – which is what this facility and the partnership is all about,” Jeff said.

Early adopters

The Siemens event also provided an opportunity for early adopters of Industry 4.0 to showcase their success. Siemens Business Development Manager Leonie Wong spoke about the success that local distiller Brogan’s Way has found with using Industry 4.0 principles.

A logistics Industry 4.0 success story was presented by Dulux Australia. Brad Hordern, General Manager Supply Chain at Dulux, talked about the new $165 million warehouse facility at the Merrifield factory site in Melbourne’s north.

This facility is highly automated and, according to Brad, includes the most advanced paint manufacturing technology and innovation. “This new facility was an exercise in precision,” he said.

The factory is the largest coatings factory in Australia and New Zealand and Dulux has purchased 17 hectares of land to allow for expansion. “With an investment like this, we wanted to do it right. We knew it would be a multi-decade investment so we wanted to design for the future,” Brad said.

The factory houses around 70 employees and just under 40 are operators, demonstrating its highly automated functionality.

According to Brad, economies of scale no longer apply in the same way they used to. “There still is an aspect of it, but customisation is expected now. That’s one of our points of difference and now we can do variations that we couldn’t’ do before. We can be very competitive on the high-volume stuff but also with the small customised orders. But the important thing is the quality. With the automation upgrades every product we produce has the same precision level,” Brad said.

Breakout session facilitator David Hegarty, Managing Director at APS Industrial called the Dulux Merrifield case an important success story for Australian warehousing, logistics and manufacturing. “There is something we can all learn from this great example and I hope you all recognise the benefits that can be made from adoption of Industry 4.0 techniques.”