Cobots, digitalisation of manufacturing and autonomous systems – these are familiar terms to people involved in advanced manufacturing.
Smart manufacturing is a central concept of Industry 4.0 where information and data exchange facilitate the switch from manual to automatic processes.
In Australia, this transition is actively taking place in shipbuilding, too.
A world-class digital shipyard 30 minutes north of Adelaide is in the pipeline for the Hunter Frigate Class Program, however, it is the recently established collaboration hub, size 11x11 metres that will be the first step in this transition.
As a research satellite for the future Osborne shipyard, the newly created hub at Tonsley will be the base for implementation of the advanced technologies transformation project financially supported by the Innovative Manufacturing CRC (IMCRC).
Opening its doors in October last year, the collaboration hub is up and running with ASC shipbuilding employees already working alongside their Flinders university colleagues.
In the joint facility, where SMEs will be invited to collaborate, researchers and engineers with different skill-sets and backgrounds tackle a two-fold task: technology and the human factor.
Professor John Spoehr is a pro-Vice Chancellor of Research Impact at Flinders University and has led the establishment of the Tonsley Manufacturing Innovation Hub.
He has been a strong supporter of the collaboration hub and is one of the pioneers of workplace transformation in the face of technological change.
“The team will be addressing a range of human factors associated with the successful uptake of new technologies in the workplace and the pursuit of the Industry 4.0 agenda in Australia”, said professor Spoehr.
He says that researchers will focus on accelerating the uptake of advanced manufacturing technologies in shipbuilding in Australia and fast-tracking its insertion into the Hunter program.
Ivor Richardson has always been intrigued by working in the defence sector.
He joined BAE Systems as a Project Manager and is now a part of the Research and Technology (R&T) team with the Hunter program.
Ivor believes that digital technology is forcing a change in the industry, including the way people work and collaborate on projects:
“The idea behind it is to develop a state-of-the-art shipyard"
"I am really excited for what’s going on in this space. For the large projects, like the Hunter Class Frigate Program, it’s a huge step forward, where you can link everything to one digital space and have much better control over your processes”, said Ivor.
Focused on research and trialling advanced manufacturing technologies, the R&T team will also develop training plans and curriculum for training institutions.
“we want to bring industry along on that journey"
Ivor explained the broader purpose of the hub:
“It will identify where the gaps are in implementing the Industry 4.0 technologies for application in the shipyard and what training programs are required to develop the Australian supply chain with the view of sustaining a Continuous Naval Shipbuilding program.”
Key findings from the research and trials will be accessible to Australian SMEs for the benefit of the wider manufacturing sector.
“The idea behind it is to develop a state-of-the-art shipyard, where processes, as well business operational models, are modernised. Moreover, we want to bring industry along on that journey,” said Ivor.
While the digital shipyard at Osborne is not the finish line but the enabler for higher productivity and quality, the entire transformation process is a joint marathon for the industry that will underpin our commitment to strengthen sovereign capability.