Technological advances are transforming manufacturing in every industry across the globe.
Today, your cars are fitted with automated anti-collision systems and lane assist safety features, drones deliver food to your doorstep and robots vacuum your homes and mow your lawn.
Where do we fit in? Our researchers help businesses explore how advanced digital solutions can improve their systems. Then, we build innovative technologies for manufacturing which are digital at their core. These include everything from novel, cutting-edge manufacturing processes using digital twins to software tools that deliver revolutionary artificial intelligence (AI) into industrial design challenges.
More than meets the eye: digital manufacturing in practice
At its heart, digital manufacturing is the marriage of traditional manufacturing processes with the transformative power of digital technology. We're tapping into the incredible potential of digital tools to optimise, enhance, and boost every aspect of the production process.
However, manufacturing is faced with countless challenges and barriers to scale up to digital adoption. These include the cost and disruption of digitising equipment in production and logistic operations. This is particularly true for setting up connected networks of Internet of Things (IoT). The IoT allows physical devices embedded with sensors, software, and other technologies to 'communicate' over the internet. They can then share data, insights, and even collaborate on tasks, making our factories smarter and more efficient.
We're looking into ways to use current IoT technologies to make it easier and cheaper for Australian manufacturers to go digital. The solution would enable existing manufacturing sites and legacy equipment to be transformed inexpensively into digitised smart environments. Built-in data security and fault tolerance would be further integrated with intelligent systems.
The new digital manufacturing skills in demand
But with all this focus and attention on automation and digitisation, there is an obvious white elephant in the room. Even among trained research staff, people are concerned robotic automation of these industries would "Take away jobs".
This pervasive misconception is just that, a misconception. In our experience, robotics complements our human expertise and input, rather than replacing it.
However, it’s fair to say that the skill sets required in research and manufacturing are evolving. They do differ from those needed in traditional laboratories. Staff with coding skills, understanding of machine learning methods and strong hands-on engineering competency are increasingly valued.
Digitised automation gives manufacturers a leg up
The benefits of investing in digital manufacturing are considerable. Take a traditional manufacturing plant as an example. To digitise a factory, one can start by creating a digital counterpart, or "twin", of a specific manufacturing step. This digital representation allows manufacturers to run virtual tests and simulations. By doing this, they can quickly identify and address issues. With the help of machine learning and advanced controls, they can then make adjustments to enhance the production process.
Manufacturers can also start implementing further automation technologies. Robotics, human assistive cobotics, intelligent sensors, exo-skeleton devices, augmented vision cameras, machine learning and AI can improve the performance and reliability of production. Robots can be programmed to perform repetitive or physically demanding tasks such as assembly or welding. Human workers can then focus on more complex and creative tasks.
Digitised automation involves the integration of digital technologies into the manufacturing process. IoT networks and data analytics enable businesses to track and analyse production performance in real-time. Live dashboards with notifications and warnings can help to identify and address issues quickly, improving product quality and reduce waste.
Costs and benefits of digital manufacturing
One of the most significant benefits of digitisation and automation is the ability to customise products at scale. By using digital tools, manufacturers can customise production lines to produce different or bespoke products. This allows businesses to respond quickly to changing customer demands and preferences. This in turn increases customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Products may also become "intelligent" and able to communicate performance stats and operational faults back to the manufacturer. The benefit to customers? Providing real-time data that generates predictive maintenance and automated upgrades of software.
While the digitisation of manufacturing offers a competitive advantage and long-term business sustainability, an investment in building an innovation culture is required. Additionally, technology and employee training is key.
Manufacturers should collaborate with their innovation colleagues and plan strategically to invest in the right technologies. Meanwhile, they need to also employ skilled workers and train experienced employees to work alongside new technologies.
Shaping the future of manufacturing
We are committed to driving the adoption of cutting-edge technology in Australia. We possess a wealth of expert knowledge and capabilities drawn from extensive industry research. Partnering with businesses in the manufacturing and digital sectors, we collaborate on addressing barriers and challenges.
We are particularly keen to partner with innovative manufacturers and SMEs who deliver high-value solutions to emerging future industries. Collaboratively, we can explore and unlock the latest advancements in digital technologies. This allows us to optimise production processes, reduce costs, and increase productivity to drive innovation and competitiveness in the global marketplace.
Our end goal? To enable Australian manufacturers to remain competitive in today's rapidly changing landscape.