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How Industry 4.0 is progressing in Australian businesses

Companies collaborate on the use of cyber-physical technology

Source: Siemens

In Australia, there has been a flurry of Industry 4.0 activity with consultation and collaboration between Government, peak industry bodies, and key industry players and innovators.

The impact of Industry 4.0 is expected to be significant. The key benefits will be productivity gains and improved competitiveness. But there are challenges to be addressed for industry to successfully transition to being highly digitalised. Australia's digital competitiveness may prove to be a challenge. In the World Economic Forum’s 2014 Global Information Technology Report, Australia was ranked at only 18th for overall network and digital readiness, with business usage, economic or social impact and affordability pulling the ranking down.

However, progress is being made. Businesses are collaborating to learn, develop more automated processes, successfully use advanced materials, and augment their capabilities with external expertise.

Industry 4.0 for competitive edge

Sutton Tools have embraced collaboration. Being one of the first Australian enterprises to participate in the “i-Manufacturing” internet-enabled manufacturing hub set up by the collaborative network, META. Then joining the Advanced Surface Solutions Facility (ASSF) and housing it’s world class tool coating machine, the Innova.

The expertise developed in these collaborations feeds into Sutton Tools manufacture of HSS and carbide, standard and custom cutting tools.

More than ten years ago Sutton Tools was prompted to transform itself by a foray into global markets, and the discovery that these markets demanded more than the company had to offer. Sutton Tools now has large markets in Europe and Asia, and the company has turned to digitalisation to keep competing with the best in the market.

Sutton Tools is actively taking on the challenges of Industry 4.0. Experimenting with low cost, DIY technology solutions, capturing and understanding the effect of small process changes, and capturing and using data to optimise use of the machines. The successes of this low-cost approach have included; sharing engineering data with remote stakeholders using cloud-based software with machines serving live data to wiki web pages. And overlaying a sensor network onto legacy machines to create a web-based production analysis board.

Sutton Tools technology manager Steve Dowey told the Australian Advanced Manufacturing Council that “It has been an interesting journey, and we are continuing it. But it is not as straightforward as it appears to be.“

Cost, security and skills are key challenges. He also discovered the volume of data, the amount of traffic, what to do with the data, and the data network needs to be carefully considered.

Transforming the automotive industry

Inspired by the need for technology-driven solutions in the automotive repair industry, Tradiebot Industries, will use automation to rapidly repair previously unrepairable plastic car parts.

Tradiebot Industries Founder Mario Dimovski says this will be done by inventing various aspects of what will be a world-first automated system which will revolutionise repairs of plastic components. It will use 3D printing technology, robotics, and complex materials to address issues ranging from material wastage to complex and restrictive design, and the limited availability of skilled labour.

Partnerships in the industry will help the new technology become the new normal. David Marino, CEO of the 45-site high quality repair specialist S.M.A.R.T Repairs says “We look forward to partnering with them to train and develop the next generation of automotive technicians.”

Dulux : A factory of the future arrives

The largest coatings factory in Australia and New Zealand sits on a 17 hectare site north of Melbourne. The purpose-built facility is state-of-the-art, using advanced automation and digitalisation. By 2019, Dulux will have invested A$165 million in its development and optimisation.

Commissioned in late 2017, the factory can produce approximately 100 million litres of paint each year. It is also capable of efficiently and economically producing a batch as small as one pallet or 100 litres of paint.

Specialty paint batches are now 1/50th of the size Dulux was previously able to produce and automated production processes have reduced small batch production time by more than 85%. From the order system through the manufacturing execution system, process control system, and testing to the filling and packaging line, everything is under digital control.

Manual process interventions are now rare compared to the 75,000 per annum in the past. Consistent high-quality paint is ensured with repeatable, accurate paint recipe production and minimal wastage.

The complex factory and it systems were developed by four main vendors in collaboration with Dulux. The technology being used not only providing manufacturing flexibility and efficiency, but also features that support continuous improvement.

Paperless production with electronic records ensures compliance and provides monitoring, tracking, and traceability as well as speeding up review and improvements. A virtual reality platform on the process water system can be accessed from a notebook or tablet in the field. It allows individual pieces of equipment to be labelled with maintenance records and data sheets, and maintenance processes, and emergency scenarios can be tested and practiced without potential damage.

During construction, the simulation platform was used for comprehensive testing and virtual commissioning of the plant’s automation applications and provided a realistic training environment. Allowing the factory to reach full production 50% faster.

Kevin Worrell, Project Director, Dulux Australia told Siemens’ customer magazine “We wanted to make sure that our new factory would be future-proofed to allow us to respond quickly to the latest trends, create new business opportunities and remain at the leading edge of paint manufacturing well into the future.”

Industry 4.0 in Australia

Australian companies are demonstrating that using Industry 4.0 cyber-physical automation concepts can be undertaken in many ways. Collaboration is proving to be a way to access and build knowledge and experience reducing the risks that accompany innovation. From German-Australian Cooperation on Industry 4.0 in the areas of ...

  • reference architectures, standards and norms

  • support for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs)

  • Industry 4.0 Testlabs

  • security of networked systems, and

  • work, education and training

... to first movers like Sutton Tools who are sharing their story at industry events, no-one is tackling the challenges alone.


World Economic Forum, The Global Information Technology Report 2014 Rewards and Risks of Big Data (2014), 2018 Half Year Results 17 May 2018


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