POSTED: 25 Jul, 2023
The Australian Cobotics Centre just gave evidence to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Resources as part of the ‘Developing Australian Manufacturing’ inquiry.
Centre Director Jonathan Roberts, Postdoctoral Research Fellow Melinda Laundon, Research Program co-Lead Jared Donovan and B&R Enclosures Managing Director Chris Bridges-Taylor answered the committee’s questions around cyber security, increasing the manufacturing workforce, training and skilling of staff and barriers to adoption of advanced manufacturing.
- Collaborative robots need to work alongside people and that can be complex to establish. Changes to the workplace design, processes etc. may be required and often SME’s don’t have capacity to take on this level of complexity. This is where support is required and ARM Hub (Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing) is a great example of how this could work.
- Engaging with young people early (from grades 7-9) to encourage a career in manufacturing is key. Manufacturing is not dull, dangerous or dirty anymore. It can be interesting, future focused and varied. STEM teachers, parents and schools need to be aware of the career possibilities and ensuring career pathways and programs are there.
- When implementing new technologies, B&R Enclosures found they had the most engagement and interest from staff when they introduced technology that people used in everyday lives – e.g. iPad. The next thing they wanted was certification of their new skills that could be taken with them to another job.
- We need to see the robot as a tool and not as a replacement for people. Research into the impact of robots on jobs is sparse but anecdotally the use of robotics in manufacturing has increased the human workforce due to the expansion of the business. We work with people who are highly skilled in their area, and they use their expertise to co-design a solution that supports them in their role instead of taking over their role.
- The male dominated sector has implications for talent. It is vital there is investment in industry and research partnerships to specify the reasons why women aren’t choosing or being retained for manufacturing careers. There are effective and targeted strategies at the state and sector level (e.g. Weld Australia‘s Women in Welding program) but not a nationwide strategy. VET, Higher Education and Government need to collaborate with industry to encourage women into manufacturing careers.
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