Australian ‘factories of the future’ offer glimpse of Thailand 4.0 potential


IMCRC CEO David Chuter with other invited guests at the Business Briefing in Bangkok, Thailand in June 2019

Every day, in Thailand and in my home country Australia, we are hearing that the fourth industrial revolution is upon us. Industry 4.0 refers to digitalising value and supply chains – integrating in real time people, machines and things.

Business executives, policymakers and academics are talking and thinking about the real and imagined benefits that digital technologies – such as the internet of things and artificial intelligence – can deliver to our economy. It will change the future of work and society.

Unlike industrial revolutions of the past, the significance of Industry 4.0 is being recognised as it unfolds. Now is the time firms, governments and research institutes must seize the opportunities it presents, or be left-behind.

To ride this industrial 4.0 wave, businesses should focus on how to use technologies to create value for their customers rather than only focusing on what the technologies do. Turning data into information is one thing but turning it into money is what counts. And if you apply digital to a broken thing, all you will get is a digital broken thing. Digital itself is not the solution, but with innovative business models and strategies driven by ambitious leadership, transformational opportunities have never been more possible.

Australia, unlike countries such as Thailand and Germany, does not have a specific macro and government-led 4.0 strategy, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t seized the digital opportunity. Australia’s digital services and goods are now our fourth largest export.

Australia’s approach, as with most of our industry policies, has been to create an enabling environment to foster the growth of a digital industry and encourage organic adoption of the technologies by other sectors. The Australian government established an Industry 4.0 Advanced Manufacturing Forum that brings together industry groups, universities, labour unions and policymakers to discuss how to catalyse innovation and the uptake of Industry 4.0. My organisation, the Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (IMCRC), is one of many actors to do just that, specifically in the advanced manufacturing sector.