Advanced manufacturing is currently defined by the Australian Government as “any manufacturing process that takes advantage of high-technology or knowledge-intensive inputs as an integral part of its manufacturing process”. I couldn’t agree more, but it seems we are more focused on developing cheaper gas than we are on developing strategies that will increase the potential of our advanced manufacturers as described above.

A starting point would be to recognise that manufacturers across the developed world succeed not because they make certain products, but because they have invested in manufacturing technology, adopted sophisticated manufacturing methodologies and process techniques. They typically use a combination of three factors to remain competitive: advanced knowledge, advanced processes and advanced business models.

But this is not new news. According the World Economic Forum’s Readiness for the Future of Production report, Australia is a “high potential” country for this type of future production. Key opportunities and advantages are arising for Australian manufacturing from increasing amounts of investment in digital technologies, but also from the integration of these new technologies into an increasing range of the manufacturing processes and supply chains. Manufacturing workplaces increasingly rely on technologies, methodologies and techniques (what we refer to as TMTs) to deliver highly complex products and solutions.

The Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre (AMGC) was established in 2015 as a key plank of the Australian Government’s Industry Growth Centres Initiative. Funded by the Commonwealth, its goal is to drive innovation, productivity and competitiveness across Australia’s manufacturing industry. Its most recent Sector Competitiveness Plan stated: “Manufacturing is transforming, so we need a new definition to accurately measure who we are and where we need to go. Our research presents a real opportunity for Australian manufacturers. It shows that we have huge growth potential if we can emulate and adopt the advanced manufacturing characteristics of advanced knowledge, advanced processes and advanced business models”. Another tick for TMTs.

The latest CSIRO report on Advanced Manufacturing – A Roadmap for unlocking future growth opportunities for Australia – identified a number of growth opportunities and enablers. It highlighted the fact that: “Sustained growth in the sector will require proactive investment and translation of enabling science and technology. Combinations of sensors and data analytics; advanced materials; smart robotics and automation; 3D printing; and augmented, mixed and virtual reality are emerging as key enablers of future growth.” Tick for TMTs and the need for early adoption.

The Prime Minister announced the establishment of the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission (NCCC) on 25 March 2020, and its renaming to the National COVID-19 Commission Advisory Board on 27 July 2020. This name change reflects its strategic advisory role in providing a business perspective to Government on Australia’s economic recovery. In its new role as an Advisory Board, the Commission will be concentrating its efforts on supporting the Government’s plans for Australia’s economic recovery and getting as many people back into jobs as quickly as possible.

It should be noted that the NCCC submission and recommendations to the Commonwealth were presented as a draft in June, and have not been publicly responded to by the Government as yet. Many industry leaders have publicly commented on the lack of transparency around the NCCC submission and process, and have had to rely on leaked documents to have an appreciation for what the Commission is trying to achieve.

AMTIL made a submission to the NCCC in May this year that included a total of 21 recommendations, noting that Technology Dissemination (TD) programmes are an effective way for Government to provide the intensive knowledge transfer and support that private sector industry needs to expand into new technologies, methodologies and techniques. One of our recommendations was to commit $15m over five years to a National Technology Dissemination Programme. We will continue to engage with the Commission to seek a response to our submission.

AMTIL has recently undertaken a number of surveys, workshops and video conferences with our members regarding an industry-led technology diffusion project, and we have a strong commitment for a three-to-five-year, persistent, consistent approach to encouraging the early adoption of manufacturing technologies and the uptake of management methodologies and process techniques. We strongly believe we have the support to undertake a project of this scale, and are currently in discussions with Ministerial and Government Departments to match the industry commitment. We encourage the Commonwealth to support this initiative, which is in line with a number of reports that have been generated in recent times.