With billions of dollars expected to be outlaid for automation in the coming years, it is crucial the Australian Government gets its National Robotics Strategy right to capitalise on the nation’s rich resources and become a global leader in the sector.
According to the International Federation of Robotics, the number of automated jobs increases 14 per cent every year, backing results from a recent survey conducted by global management consulting firm McKinsey, which revealed automated systems will account for 25 per cent of capital spending over the next five years for many companies.
According to Precedence Research, the global industrial automation market size reached US$196.6 billion in 2021 and is anticipated to surpass US$412.8 billion by the end of the decade.
This rapid growth in the market size of industrial automation over the coming years shows the literal goldrush underway, but could Australia be missing out?
As the old saying goes, it is the people selling shovels and boots who are guaranteed to succeed in any gold rush and right now we are in the midst of a global boom in automation. Australia has all the ingredients to not only be selling the shovels but also making the handles and shovel heads.
Maximising Australia’s resource potential
Australia's vast renewable energy potential is a crucial resource as global industries look to transition towards net zero emissions, there is a significant opportunity to leverage our access to low-cost, clean energy through solar combined with battery storage.
This advantage extends beyond environmental concerns, as increased automation is reshaping the manufacturing landscape. Countries' ability to provide low-cost clean energy will determine their competitiveness as manufacturing centres, surpassing the traditional reliance on cheap labour.
We also have an abundance of raw materials we should be using to create components that can be turned into automation solutions, and not simply exporting them overseas. We have the rare earth elements for the magnets, lithium for batteries, high-purity alumina for high-performance electronics and optics, silica sands for computer processors and photovoltaics, and iron to turn into more exotic materials for mechanical hardware required in robotics.
However, this will require investment in research and development, building the necessary infrastructure to support the sector’s efforts, and the right policy in place to incentivise industry to build up our sovereign capabilities and domestic supply chain.
ANCA has already seized opportunity in this space, recently launching the ANCA Integrated Manufacturing System (AIMS) automation technology, which can help companies combat rising costs and address the growing skill shortage. AIMS utilises smart automation to streamline production and replaces the need for human operators to carry out routine tasks, allowing them to be upskilled to perform more critical and complex tasks.
By leveraging robotics and automation technologies, manufacturers can achieve higher operational efficiency, improved product quality and cost savings, and, ultimately, stay competitive in the global market
Australia at a crossroad
The National Robotics Strategy must focus on building sovereign capability, leveraging low-cost clean energy, transforming the transport sector, and expanding export opportunities to position Australia as a global manufacturing powerhouse, while allaying public concern about the rise of machines in our daily lives.
Concerns about how robots will replace people in the workforce must be addressed in a way that includes not only integration but also the development of an Australian robotics industry. While it is true some jobs may be lost, it is also true new opportunities will arise.
The Government's strategy needs to focus on highlighting that Industry 4.0 is not only about replacing jobs but changing jobs. Automation will take over some of the more dangerous and menial jobs, freeing up workers to focus on more complex and rewarding tasks.
This will lead to increased job satisfaction and higher wages, as workers are able to move up the value chain. The Government’s focus must be expanded to include supporting, servicing, installing, and commissioning robotics and automation.
There needs to be an apprenticeship pathway for people to re-skill into this workforce, and it must be an appealing career path. This is particularly important in industries where low-skilled workers may be replaced by robots.
The National Robotics Strategy needs to set safety nets for those who are displaced and support them to transition to new roles. The transition of the workforce must be managed carefully and provide support to those who need to re-skill or up-skill to ensure a smooth and equitable transition to the new economy.
A more comprehensive strategy
For Australia to be developing its own robotics solutions and systems, it will need a more comprehensive strategy than Government currently appears to be envisioning, one that includes the entire supply and value chain.
This will require a significant investment in capital expenditure, which is often seen as risky by companies, but this is where Government needs to show bravery in its policy and show more long-term thinking to help de-risk private investment.
This could include interest-free loans for companies to digitise or automate production, as well as support from Government to facilitate improved collaboration between industry and research bodies, creating new opportunities to drive investment in the sector and help Australia remain globally competitive.
With the global automation gold rush underway, Australia has the potential to become a leader in the sector by capitalising on its rich resources and fostering innovation. By prioritising research and development, investing in infrastructure, providing incentives for industry collaboration, and supporting workforce transition, Australia can position itself as a global powerhouse in advanced manufacturing.
ABOUT LUCAS HALE
Lucas Hale is part of the Global Strategy team ANCA CNC Machines. With more than two decades experience in robotics, machinery and automation, his expertise and industry insights help drive the company’s product development strategy.
His passion for technology and the future of automation makes him the perfect fit for a technology leader like ANCA that is constantly investing in developing the next generation of products.
Lucas joined ANCA in 1999 as an Analyst Programmer and has since held various leadership roles in both engineering and marketing and has a Bachelor of Digital Systems (Robotics) from Monash University
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