The New Zealand Government has been urged to create a new policy platform to promote Industry 4.0, the next iteration of manufacturing enabled by the Internet of things.
Commenting on the launch by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment of a new report Beyond commodities: Manufacturing into the future, Kim Campbell, CEO of the Employers and Manufacturers Association, said: “Most developed countries are embracing Industry 4.0 and its enablers such as 3D printing, artificial intelligence and the internet of things. New Zealand needs to be engaged in this process and a new policy platform is a vital next step in this process.”
The MBIE has hailed the report as “the most comprehensive on New Zealand manufacturing to be published in a decade.”
Economic development minister David Parker said the report showed the huge diversity of manufacturing in New Zealand but also identified a number of challenges for manufacturers, including difficulty finding skilled tradespeople and a lack of scale relative to international competitors.
In his foreword to the report Parker said the most important trend identified in the report was the move beyond commodities into value-added goods, differentiated through innovation, quality, brand and service.
“The report highlights several key trends. The future of manufacturing will be increasingly digitised and automated as Industry 4.0 technologies become more common. Manufacturers are also increasingly wrapping their products in a range of value-adding services to create a competitive edge in the market.”
The report said Industry 4.0 would see ‘smart factories’ of the future fully digitised. “Intelligent software will be integrated with automated machinery to manage everything from inventory and customer orders, to manufacturing processes, to scheduling maintenance and ordering spare parts.”
It said the adoption of Industry 4.0 was likely to lead to fewer, but more highly skilled, manufacturing jobs over the longer term. “These jobs will be safer as robots can undertake more hazardous tasks. This has implications for employees, who may need training or upskilling, and for the skill sets that employers will need.”
For New Zealand manufacturers it said Industry 4.0 was both a threat and an opportunity.
“Industry 4.0 technologies have the potential to make the type of short run, customised production that New Zealand manufacturers specialise in more efficient and therefore more profitable.”
However, “These technologies will also improve the flexibility and profitability of competitors, particularly large scale manufacturers that may be better able to fund the capital investments needed.”
The report said many organisations profiled in it were already investing in capital and in the organisational know-how to use Industry 4.0 effectively.
However Computerworld was able to find only one specific reference: Fisher & Paykel subsidiary Production Machinery Ltd (PML), described as “a supplier of ‘smart factory’ solutions, primarily to the appliance manufacturing industry,” and which has worked with Callaghan Innovation on Industry 4.0 initiatives.”
The report said: “PML has a strong alignment with Industry 4.0 – the digital transformation of manufacturing technologies. PML is constantly looking to integrate digital technologies into the company’s production equipment. PML’s strategy is to continually drive towards true smart factories – where it offers value to the customer.”