Year in review: manufacturing stories that shaped 2017

manufacturing stories that shaped 2017

Augmented reality on the rise. Goodbye 457 visas.

Sophie the robot granted citizenship.

Look at the headlines from the past 12 months and one thing’s for sure: it’s been a year filled with surprises. (And we thought 2016 was shocking!)

Just before we rewind and look at some of the year’s biggest stories for manufacturers, here’s how to improve your supply chain efficiency in beverage manufacturing. Now that’s bound to improve your year!

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So now let’s rewind and look at some of the year’s biggest stories for manufacturers:

Cobots, social robots and Sophia

All sorts of robots have been hitting the headlines in 2017, but none more than Sophia. Created by Hong Kong company Hanson Robotics, Sophia is one of a new robot technology generation guided by sophisticated artificial intelligence. While beguiling audiences worldwide with her jokes and charm, she was granted citizenship rights by the government of Saudi Arabia.

Then, in November, everyone’s favourite humanoid citizen announced she wants a baby (it’s worth remembering that she isn’t pre-programmed with answers, but responds using machine learning). Inevitably, Sophia has ignited a media frenzy around whether robots will lead to job loss. We took a different perspective in this article, exploring whether they can lead to job growth.

So, are we ready for the next generation of intelligent automation? At AUSPACK 2017, robotics featured at a larger number of stand demonstrations than ever before. But it was collaborative robots, or “cobots”, that stole the show. Manufacturers of all sizes were interested in how they can benefit from cobots, which are designed to allow many repetitive factory tasks to be automated safely and flexibly. But the expo also highlighted that Australia and New Zealand are still lagging behind Asia when it comes to adopting cobots. (This blog looks at how social robots are being used in consumer-facing environments globally.)

New Birch & Waite facility showcases Industry 3.5

The new $13.5 million facility for premium sauce and dressings company Birch & Waite opened in Revesby, Sydney, in August. While it features some Australian-first technology, what’s really exciting about this facility is that it demonstrates how mid-tier companies can invest in innovation by scaling up their production facilities in stages. The new facility has built-in flexibility to meet future automation and expansion, making it a working case study for “Industry 3.5”.

What is Industry 3.5? If Industry 3.0 was about computing and automation, and Industry 4.0 is about connecting IT (information technology) and OT (operational technology) systems across the whole business, Industry 3.5 is the step in the middle. It enables manufacturers to delve deeper into existing plant data to enable better decisions. This is also known as information-driven manufacturing (iDM) – a topic Matthews Australasia’s Trent Munro discussed at the Australian Institute of Packaging’s conference, held alongside AUSPACK. Missed it? Read all about it in our article. (You can also catch up on what you need to know about Industry 4.0 and a manufacturer’s practical guide to the technologies driving Industry 4.0.)

Augmented Reality is about to “change everything”

It’s official – augmented reality (AR) is going to change everything. At least, that’s according to Apple CEO Tim Cook and just about every other Silicon Valley tech genius. AR is the technology that overlays virtual images and information onto the real world. During the company’s fourth-quarter earnings announcement, Cook said, “Simply put, we believe augmented reality is going to change the way we use technology forever. We’re already seeing things that will transform the way you work, play, connect and learn.” No surprises that the tech giant is accelerating into the future with an AR headset, which it hopes to bring to market by 2020.

Not to be outdone, in November, retail giant Amazon (who recently moved into Australia) began debuting software tools for virtual reality and augmented reality.

Want to delve deeper? Read about what virtual reality and augmented reality mean for manufacturers in our article.

Push for convenience brings new opportunities and challenges

The demand for convenience continued to push packaging into new realms in 2017. In The Future of Flexible Packaging to 2022, researcher Smithers Pira forecast that the flexible packaging market will grow during 2017-22 at annual rate of 4.1% to 33.5 million tonnes.

At the same time, vegetable industry body AUSVEG found that the push for pre-cut veggies is affecting how shoppers perceive vegetable freshness. Research suggests that package formats developed for convenience and ease of use are also the formats that consumers expect to have the lowest shelf-life.

Suppliers and manufacturers need to understand millennials

Millennials might be growing up, but they continued to hit the headlines in 2017. The Nielsen Australian Millennial Report stated that, over the next five years, Millennials (aged 18-34) will account for food and grocery retail growth of $6.1 billion. The food and grocery retail market share of Millennials will jump from 7% to 17% by 2021.

But more importantly, the research highlighted an urgent need for suppliers and manufacturers to understand this group, what they want and their behaviours. For example, the report showed that almost two-thirds will actively look for organic cues (62%) and sustainably sourced (60%) products, while half actively seek out environmentally friendly products when grocery shopping. On average, Millennials have access to 11 connected devices in the home, which means brands need to be visible and consistent across multiple platforms if they want to engage this group.

This advice was echoed by 31st Second strategy director Taby Taylor-Ziane at PKN + Food & Drink Business “Future Unpacked” LIVE. (Did you miss this year’s event? Our wrap-up has the highlights.)

But it’s not only the future of shopping that Millennials are reshaping; they’re also reshaping the workforce and manufacturers need them more than ever, as we discussed in this blog.

Manufacturing jobs most affected by Turnbull’s clampdown on 457 visas

In April, the Turnbull Government announced it was abolishing the 457 visa, with the changes coming into effect in July. In its place, the government introduced two new temporary skills shortage visas with an “Australian first” approach to skilled migration. As Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull said, “We will no longer allow 457 visas to be passports to jobs that could and should go to Australians.”

Of the 216 occupations removed from the visa list, manufacturing was among the most affected according to an ABC report. This is based on the number of 457 visas granted in 2015-16.

It was a big year for Matthews Australasia too

We had our fair share of news stories in 2017 too. Our Managing Director, Lester Nichol, took out the Industry Professional of the Year Award at the inaugural 2017 Packaging & Processing Innovation and Design Awards (PIDA).

Then, in July, after 23 years with the company, I took the helm as CEO. (I’m also Chairman of the Australian Packaging & Processing Machinery Association (APPMA).) Meanwhile, Lester continues to provide guidance and support as Chairman.

Continuing the celebrations, in August we won two awards at PACE’s Zenith Awards in the Best Network Implementation Category for our serialisation solution for Camperdown Dairy International, and the Manufacturing Control Category for our integrated inspection solution for egg packaging.

And in case that’s not enough, we also started building our brand new office at the Caribbean Business Park – more on that in 2018.

Best of the rest

What are the headlines you’ll remember from 2017? What’s changed for you coming into 2018? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Matthews has large resource library full off highly informative case studies, whitepapers, presentations we’ve done to industry bodies, infographics for manufacturing, articles from our thought leaders, vids showing solutions in action, lots of detailed of brochures and more! And its all free to download!

Image credit: iStock / Rasica

Mark Dingley
Mark Dingley is Chairman of the Australian Packaging and Processing Machinery Association (APPMA) and is the CEO at Matthews Australasia. With 20+ years of experience in the product identification industry and the wealth of knowledge gained from working closely with industry associations in developing and implementing standards & best practice, Mark is able to assist manufacturers with a range of issues from getting real-time visibility of their production line, improving automation, establishing quality assurance using machine vision to selecting the best fit technology for coding and labelling applications. Mark Dingley's LinkedIn Profile
Mark Dingley

by Mark Dingley

Mark Dingley is Chairman of the Australian Packaging and Processing Machinery Association (APPMA) and is the CEO at Matthews Australasia. With 20+ years of experience in the product identification industry and the wealth of knowledge gained from working closely with industry associations in developing and implementing standards & best practice, Mark is able to assist manufacturers with a range of issues from getting real-time visibility of their production line, improving automation, establishing quality assurance using machine vision to selecting the best fit technology for coding and labelling applications. Mark Dingley's LinkedIn Profile

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