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Key enablers for building the capability of defence manufacturers include intellectual property and advanced technologies

Intellectual property (IP)

Creation, ownership and access to IP are critical enablers to developing Australian domestic Defence capability and viable export capability. Pursuing more home-grown innovation and Australian-owned IP in defence capabilities allows Australian defence manufacturers to move beyond integration, assembly and support activities for the ADF to high value manufacturing of unique exportable products.

Industry 4.0 and advanced technologies

Manufacturing innovation is closely linked to the concept of Industry 4.0 and the modernisation of business models, processes and products. Broader industry consultations conducted in developing this road map identified that adoption of Industry 4.0 and advanced manufacturing in defence logistics, distribution and production operations could deliver significant benefits in terms of building agility and tailored customer-centric products.

Internationally, countries are already embedding emerging technologies into warfare systems and equipment to improve their performance and reduce maintenance costs. Some examples include image recognition to enhance search tasks and natural language processing applications to assist military planners with Requests for Information.

Many planned Defence capability investments include those that require Industry 4.0 technologies, such as remotely piloted or autonomous systems, and innovations that apply machine learning, cloud adoption, and rapid manufacture to Defence priorities.

The rapid push to remote and digital solutions during the COVID-19 crisis has highlighted an opportunity for the defence industry to streamline operations.[26] Continued implementation of these technologies and growth in digital maturity can further enable businesses to win Defence contracts and over time scale‑up, while managing the complexity of the sector.

Defence manufacturers require higher levels of security systems to protect their operations from threats. In particular, the industry has a higher risk of cyber attacks due to the sensitivity of their projects and operations.

Transformative technologies such as robotics, sensors, big data analytics and artificial intelligence provide the opportunity for defence manufacturers to upgrade their operations and protect themselves against cyber attacks.

The widespread benefits of adopting transformative technologies like Industry 4.0 technologies into manufacturing business operations include:

  • Better connectivity between customers and supply chains through real-time access to production information, logistics and monitoring.
  • Greater flexibility for businesses to produce differentiated products and services to tap unmet consumer demands, compete in global markets and capture emerging opportunities.
  • Improved quality management and production, for example by using a digital twin (a digital model of a physical product, process or system) to help optimise performance.[27]
  • Improved sustainment outcomes through large scale data collection on equipment performance, including the ability to predict and prevent operational issues.
  • Enhanced workplace safety, production and improvements across the entire value chain.[28]

While adoption of these technologies provides significant benefits to all businesses, it is particularly beneficial for medium-sized businesses that can leverage these productivity gains into furthering additional leading-edge research and defence capabilities.

Funding available

The Modern Manufacturing Initiative is now open for food and beverage manufacturing projects that meet eligibility under its Translation and Integration streams.

Footnotes

26 Australian Defence Magazine, How Covid-19 re-shaped defence industry, 28 September 2020, accessed 24 February 2021.

27 Sage Automation, Bringing Industry 4.0 technologies to the Australian Defence Industry, 1 August 2019, accessed 11 February 2021.

28 Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources, Industry 4.0, 8 December 2020, accessed 22 December 2020.

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