Thriving in Industry 4.0: How 3 Providers Are Leading the Charge with Inventive Digital Solutions

Claudia Reiners
April 22, 2021

Thriving in Industry 4.0: How 3 Providers Are Leading the Charge with Inventive Digital Solutions

4bf428ed6af9ff680b7ac8b24b046f3d?s=50&d=mm&r=g Claudia Reiners
Head of Strategy

The urgency for a digital workforce is more critical than ever.

By the first light of 2021, it was clear enough to see we’re truly in the deep end.

The tides of digitisation are rising fast, propelled by pandemic shockwaves. Meanwhile, the old approaches have grown too tattered to keep us afloat.

So how do we keep our heads above water?

Industry demands the opportunity to embrace these transformative technologies and improve the future workforce’s digital literacy.

And it’s up to education providers to lead this digital charge.

The opportunity to make waves with Industry 4.0

Demand for digital literacy means that organisations must adopt new strategies and commit to implementing digital skills across the workforce.

There is a glaring educational gap here — most employers show great concern about their workers’ future and whether they will have adequate digital skills to keep up.

The vocational education and training (VET) system has the opportunity to fill this gap. Provider/organisation partnerships could be the first step towards creating a clear strategy to address future skills needs across workforces.

Digital skills are a crucial element, set to revolutionise the “rapidly emerging global digital economy”. According to the NCVER, digital skills encompass:

  • Digital knowledge — Theoretical comprehension and understanding.
  • Cognitive knowhow — Logical and inventive thinking in a digital environment.
  • Practical knowhow — Application of digital tools, like security systems and software.
  • Competence — Ability to adapt and implement digital understanding in new environments.
  • ‘Digital’ attitude — Values that the workforce must learn and demonstrate in a new digital world.

Want to know more about digital literacy and Industry 4.0?

But where do providers even begin to build Industry 4.0 into their training? It’s tricky, especially when so much surrounding Industry 4.0 is foreign to us.

Larger providers are a perfect source of inspiration. They have already begun taking steps towards improving their own digital competency, and have paved the way for smaller providers to help them begin exploring Industry 4.0 opportunities.

Here are three providers already embracing the unknowns of Industry 4.0.

Swinburne University

Swinburne University identified a gap brought on by the fourth Industrial Revolution. There was an industry push for better connectivity across the manufacturing sector to support Australia’s industrial future.

The university developed the Manufacturing Futures Research Institute to meet an evolving workforce’s needs and boost agility within the manufacturing industry.

The purpose of the hub is to promote “enormous production, efficiency dividends and improvements in quality of life and environmental outcomes” via “cyber-physical smart factories, where machines communicate and cooperate with each other and with humans in real-time”.

Swinburne “acts as a conduit between research and industry” by delivering world-leading expertise around advanced manufacturing integration in the global value chain.

Swinburne Industry4.0 hub scaled

The university has identified a gap brought on by the fourth Industrial Revolution. There was an industry need for better connectivity across the manufacturing sector to support Australia’s industrial future.

Swinburne uncovered its unique position as a core changemaker for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) fighting to keep their heads above water in a competitive, new age industry by zeroing in on new and emerging technologies.

By nature, SMEs do not have departments that deal with digitalisation technology, so they are reliant on global enterprises to support their supply chain. This is where universities like Swinburne play a key role because you offer resources such as your Factory of the Future and the Advanced Manufacturing Industry 4.0 Hub and make that available as a playground to help these SMEs adapt in a way that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to.

Dr Dominik Rohrmus
Head of the Manufacturing Systems research group at Siemens Corporate Technology

Swinburne’s Manufacturing Futures Research Institute is one of several research institutes that are centred around the digital economy, including:

  • Data Science Research Institute
  • Iverson Health Innovation Research Institute
  • Smart Cities Research Institute
  • Social Innovation Research Institute

These institutes advocate for collaborative research across the university by partnering with industry, government, community and not-for-profit organisations and feeding these future-forward findings back into industry and course offering.

RMIT University

RMIT University has recognised that robust, inclusive partnerships between industry, government and the education sector are what businesses need to scale up and begin moving towards a digitised future.

Taking a similar approach, RMIT has partnered with global industry leader Siemens to create its Industrial Digital Innovation Hub.

Also centred around manufacturing, the hub is set to drive Industry 4.0 workforce transformation by encouraging fresh ways of thinking and Australasia collaboration to transform industry standards and processes.

RMIT Industry4.0 hub scaled

The pandemic’s disruption to industry has revealed a “paradigm shift in manufacturing, industry production, products and business models” and shone a light on the call for closer partnerships around “co-design, co-investment and co-delivery of transformational programs for the changing industrial environment and economy.”

According to RMIT’s Future of Work in the Digital Economy report, the future of the manufacturing sector will combine existing workers’ skills, as well as technological advancements such as:

  • Returning to artisanal skills — A digital environment encourages the return of artisanal production where workers hold onto the responsibility of undertaking all of the necessary steps needed to build a complete item.
  • Learning from each other — More cross-collaborative efforts will help to encourage better-streamlined processes to help organisations adopt Industry 4.0 principles.
  • Developing new ways of working together — The future’s digital environment requires unions, employers, and governments to come together and create a new way of working to ensure all Industry 4.0 ideas can be brought into effect.

Digitalisation has no borders, and we have to learn how our economy can participate and thrive and be resilient in global economy. This requires new ways of thinking, new ways to collaborate and new skills across the entire spectrum of the workforce. Digitalisation technologies and skills are critical to Australia’s prosperity in this new world.

Jeff Connoly
Siemens Australia Chairman and CEO

NUW Alliance

The NUW Alliance is the joining of four leading Australian universities into a ‘Multiuniversity’ — an Australian-first single entity set to deliver “22nd-century education, training and research in Western Parkland City”.

The Alliance is comprised of:

  • The University of Newcastle
  • UNSW Sydney
  • The University of Wollongong
  • Western Sydney University
NUW alliance hub scaled

This new arrangement stems from a recurring theme seen across both Industry 4.0’s solutions from Swinburne and RMIT. By combining forces, education providers can work together to create better thought out solutions in a more efficient way.

The Multiuniversity will offer an industry-driven course offering that spans across a range of STEM-related subject areas, such as:

  • Engineering
  • Aerospace
  • Advanced manufacturing
  • Defence

Post-pandemic, the research and development capability of the NUW Alliance can play a pivotal role in driving innovation-led economic recovery and helping create the home-grown jobs and industries envisioned by the Federal Government.

Professor Ian Jacobs
UNSW President and Vice-Chancellor

Born out of the pandemic, the Alliance aims to triumph over the challenges COVID-19 surfaced, with “research, innovation and educating the next generation of professionals” leading the way forward towards a digitised future.

What we can glean from these big players

We understand that these moves are made by large-scale institutes backed by millions in funding. Smaller providers don’t have the luxury of kicking off an Industry 4.0 initiative with grounds to compete with these kinds of projects.

But that doesn’t mean smaller providers are left to wade in the shallow waters. One notion these examples have in common is the demand for an environment that facilitates a modern approach to collaborative education and research.

Providers have a unique opportunity to come together with industry, government and subject matter experts and establish their own research project at a smaller scale.

We’ve seen this idea reinforced by other emerging trends over the past months. Blue-tech skills, work-based learning, micro-credentials and lifelong learning all require workforce, educators and industry to band together to deliver solutions that support workforce digitisation.

Don’t be afraid to get your feet wet.

Use these big initiatives as stepping stones to help inspire projects for your own Industry 4.0 readiness.

Improve your competence in digital skills training, and funnel that back into your training packages to promote a world of digitised learning — one where we can all keep afloat.

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Claudia Reiners
Head of Strategy
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