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Transforming Australian manufacturing: preparing businesses and workplaces for Industry 4.0

Automation Robotics Manufacturing Employment forecasting Skilled workforce Innovation Industry 4.0 Future of work Australia

While Industry 3.0 focused on the automation of single machines, functions and processes, Industry 4.0 (the ‘fourth industrial revolution’) encompasses end-to-end digitalisation and data integration of the value chain: offering automation, machine-to-machine and human-to-machine communication, rapid technological improvements and full scale digitalisation in manufacturing using Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) platforms.

Industry 4.0 is poised to deliver growth and change, with digitalisation and smart automation expected to add 14 per cent (US$15 trillion) to global GDP gains by 2030. However, in order to grasp these opportunities, businesses must transform themselves and their workforces to thrive in this new environment. Whilst some Australian manufacturing businesses have begun this transformation and are seeing the benefits catalysed by the fourth industrial revolution, the majority are only starting to understand how they can integrate these technologies into their business and transform their workforce to engage in new ways of working.

Australian manufacturing businesses urgently need a ‘call to action’ to understand why they must invest more in their workforces, research and technology to thrive in the next industrial revolution.  This report identifies how the Australian manufacturing industry is changing as a result of Industry 4.0, and the ways in which manufacturing businesses and workforces must adapt and evolve.

These findings are based on research and consultation and have been shaped by domestic and international best practice. They emphasise the need for changing workplace culture and norms, new skills and knowledge for the manufacturing workforce, investment in research and innovation, and the need for businesses to become skilled collaborators. This report aims to provide practical information and advice for all stakeholders that will play a role in encouraging and facilitating the transition of Australian manufacturing businesses and workers towards Industry 4.0. This includes Commonwealth and State governments, industry, unions and peak employer bodies, and education/research institutions. Each of these stakeholders need to be made aware of their role in an environment of Industry 4.0 principles and practices, the benefits of adopting new technologies, the risks of inaction, and practical steps as to how they can encourage manufacturing businesses and workforces to thrive in the fourth industrial revolution.

Progress in the advanced manufacturing industry in Australia will be economically beneficial to the Australian economy as a whole. As argued by Dr Jim Stanford, “Manufacturing carries a strategic economic importance out of proportion to its absolute size.” Therefore, support for Australian manufacturing businesses to make this transition is of critical importance.


  • Commonwealth Government to facilitate the development and release of a manufacturing Industry 4.0 strategy.
  • Develop a new online portal that provides consolidated and easy to access information on government incentives and programs for manufacturing businesses.
  • Establish hubs for Industry 4.0 commercial manufacturing activity focused on priority industry sectors.
  • Continue to remove barriers between Vocational Education and Training (VET) and Higher Education in Australia’s tertiary education system to facilitate collaboration opportunities and seamless learner pathways.
  • Establish a workforce transformation leadership program.
  • Create funding and accreditation models to support lifelong learning, reskilling and upskilling throughout the work lifecycle.
  • Enhance the integration of manufacturing business supply chains through strategic procurement. workforces must adapt and evolve.
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