The Government has pledged $6.2m in operating costs and $0.6m in capital funding for an Industry 4.0 demonstration network with up to two smart factories that it says will help employers make sure they are ready for the future.
Industry 4.0 is the next iteration of manufacturing enabled by the Internet of Things. The budget papers said the money would provide funding for an Industry 4.0 demonstration network consisting of a mobile industry showcase, a network of Industry 4.0 site visits and up to two ‘smart factories’, all available for visit by those interested in learning about Industry 4.0 technologies and concepts.
The move follows the government being urged in 2018 by the Employers and Manufacturers Association (EMA) to create a new policy platform to promote Industry 4.0.
Following the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment launching, in April 2018, a report Beyond commodities: Manufacturing into the future, EMA CEO Kim Campbell said: “Most developed countries are embracing Industry 4.0 and its enablers such as 3D printing, artificial intelligence and the internet of things. New Zealand needs to be engaged in this process and a new policy platform is a vital next step in this process.”
The report said Industry 4.0 would see ‘smart factories’ of the future fully digitised. “Intelligent software will be integrated with automated machinery to manage everything from inventory and customer orders, to manufacturing processes, to scheduling maintenance and ordering spare parts.”
It said the adoption of Industry 4.0 was likely to lead to fewer, but more highly skilled, manufacturing jobs over the longer term. “These jobs will be safer as robots can undertake more hazardous tasks. This has implications for employees, who may need training or upskilling, and for the skill sets that employers will need.”
Budget digital initiatives
The budget provided no further details of the Industry 4.0 initiative. It is part of the government’s goal of “Building a Productive Nation” by “supporting a thriving nation in the digital age through innovation, social and economic opportunities.”
“The Government wants New Zealanders to thrive in the digital age.” The budget papers say. “This requires industries and businesses to innovate and adopt cutting-edge technology that offers productivity and job benefits. It also means New Zealanders will need to acquire new skills to take advantage of the opportunities in the changing job market.”
In support of this the budget promises a new $300m venture capital fund to help fill the ‘capital gap’ for New Zealand firms that expand beyond the early start-up phase.
The fund will use $240m of contributions earmarked for the New Zealand Superannuation Fund between 2018 and 2022 and $60m from the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund’s existing assets.
Callaghan Innovation’s Industry 4.0 focus
The government’s innovation agency, Callaghan Innovation has had focus on Industry 4.0 for several years and operates an Industry 4.0 Hub providing a range of information on the topic.