‘Delivery science’ is a new model for industry

Christian Ruberg

With more than a century of experience and significant multidisciplinary expertise, CSIRO occupies the important and niche space of research translation in the Australian research ecosystem. Change is a necessary constant as CSIRO continuously strives to be at the cutting-edge of science and to support industry with the latest technological developments. 

CSIRO’s current focus is designed to address six national challenges:

  1. Enhance the health of Australians through preventative, personalised, biomedical and digital health services
  2. Achieve sustainable food security through new AgriFood products, technology and innovation for Australia
  3. Help safeguard Australia from threats (terrorism, regional instability, pandemics, biosecurity, disasters, and cyber- attacks)
  4. Enhance the resilience, sustainable use, and value of our natural and built environments, including by mitigating and adapting to the impacts of climate and global change
  5. Build competitiveness, sustainability and security, nationally and regionally, of our energy and minerals systems and resources while lowering emissions to net zero
  6. Help create Australia’s future industries and jobs by collaborating to boost innovation performance and promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) skills

Working towards solving these national challenges, CSIRO focuses its sizeable capability on matters impacting today, tomorrow and well into the future.

Researchers also feed into a series of Missions that involve collaboration, working both within CSIRO but also across industry and government, to tackle ‘the big things that really matter’. Examples of Missions include, ending plastic waste, future protein, towards net zero and minimising antimicrobial resistance. 

CSIRO’s future science platforms, enable scientists to look to the future and conduct ‘blue sky’ exploration and ‘horizon 3’ research where impact may not be felt for 5,10, or even 20 years. Examples include: Quantum technologies, immune resilience and revolutionary energy storage systems. 

CSIRO’s work with industry partners ranges from startups to multinationals. At the ‘startup’ and small to medium enterprise (SME) end of the spectrum, we offer accelerator programs, funding support through CSIRO Kickstart, testlabs and ‘maker-spaces’, and access to multidisciplinary science and tech expertise. 

A recent example is work we did across our biomedical manufacturing program with Indigenous company Secret Harvest to investigate a native plant known for its healing properties. 

At the bigger end of town, CSIRO’s work with Boeing spans 34 years and more than 250 projects. CSIRO has been awarded Boeing’s supplier of the year four times. Together CSIRO and Boeing have advanced innovation in production efficiency, factory safety, analytics, platform systems, cybersecurity, space sciences, advanced materials and direct manufacturing.

The advanced digital manufacturing space is benefiting from broad and extensive academic contributions from universities, industry growth centres, and commercial solutions from global scale businesses. Though, levels of new technology adoption vary significantly across Australian manufacturing. 

While many areas of digital manufacturing technology are capably delivered by the market, there are market failures in emerging advanced and integrated technologies that play into CSIRO’s strengths, for example:

  • Artificial intelligence algorithms to facilitate advanced product design (AI4Design) – generative, evolutionary and optimised design outcomes
  • Augmenting the Robotic Operating System (ROS2/ROSella) with advanced computer vision, sensor integration, managing uncertainty with FactorGraphs, fast reliable creation of supportable complex code
  • Embedded intelligence mesh networked devices, including secure by design fault tolerant and privacy preservation for manufacturing logistics
  • Automated tool path programming for robotic metal additive processes, including remote asset inspection and repair
  • Model-based engineering, process control, scenario modelling and digital twinning
  • Computer vision incorporating movement analytics and situational awareness

Improving ‘delivery science’ outcomes

Collaboration: The total ‘delivery science’ capability stack is complex and relies on strong inter-disciplinary and even inter-sectoral collaboration. While we all benefit from engagement and contributions to numerous peak industry bodies and technical societies, it is proposed that the truly effective collaboration tools have not yet been realised.

Australia’s cultural trait of individual self-reliance may also be a barrier to collaborative activities to develop our technology-based industries.

Nevertheless, peak industry bodies such as the Internet of Thing Alliance Australia, Australian Manufacturing Technology Institute Ltd, Australian Industry Group, and Robotics Australia Group, are important channels for sharing and exchange of knowledge, and need to be supported while effective innovation eco-systems are being developed by our ambitious innovators.

Innovation delivery models: While there are several useful innovation delivery models, such as the Technology Readiness Levels, the Commercial or Investment Readiness Indexes and the Innovator’s Canvas, these merely monitor progress without providing specific guidance on activities to achieve outcomes.

The marketing model of creating awareness, interest, desire and finally conversion is also useful in facilitating innovation.

An essential element of delivery science is mutual innovation-capability development so that both sides of the relationship prosper: the ‘demand side’ (including industry domain knowledge) must be matched to the technically feasible science solution ‘supply side’.

National and organisational strategy: Setting priorities is another area of importance. In addition to being assisted by industry-level and organisation-level competitive advantage strategy, the conventional wisdom of addressing ‘low hanging fruit’ needs to be challenged.

Low hanging fruit can be a quick way to deliver success, however in many cases the commercial value is equally modest. A Pareto Front can be useful to reflect on priorities by plotting ‘ease of delivery’ and ‘value of the opportunity,’ and thereby creating a portfolio of opportunities.

Allocating time for strategic considerations: Some of our recent industry engagements have highlighted the importance of the basic core capabilities for managing day-to-day challenges. Manufacturers are grappling with energy costs, labour availability, skills shortages and supply chain issues.

These manufacturers are also about to face looming regulatory and global challenges like net zero, sustainability and circular economy demands. Basic skills for leading teams, efficient problem-solving and decisive decision-making remain very important.

Cultural reflection, risk aversion or greater ambition: Commercial risk and loss of capital is a front of mind concern for many businesses and organisations. Experience seems to show that many of our large domestic companies are risk averse and can be slow to adopt new technologies. Second tier organisations and principally family-owned companies seem in many cases to overcome these barriers. 

The co-investment model seems also to be a good mechanism for businesses to take the leap into Industry 4.0. Being bold, investing in knowledge and knowhow, and accepting failure as having intrinsic value (adopting real options valuation methodology), coupled with shared collaborative investment, are suggested as important enablers of success.

Some engineers and scientists can also be overly risk averse. A case in point being the pushback around the idea of “selling the sizzle before you have the sausage” – overselling an invention before it is fully realised.

There is, in contradiction, a need to create early awareness, thereby accessing timely feedback from the marketplace to guide research priorities. Being bold in aspiration is proposed as a ‘secret sauce’ in successful innovation.

Conclusion: In conclusion, the two key elements of successful innovation at scale that would benefit from further development and reinforcement are: 

– Facilitating broad industry-wide collaboration, sharing ideas, failures, and successes

– Mutual innovation-capability development. 

Building the research sector’s understanding about the challenges of business so great ideas move from the lab bench to the marketplace and establishing effective innovation culture in organisations will see ‘delivery science’ prosper. 

Finally, in order to reflect on the philosophical delivery of science and technology into our manufacturing sectors, we can consider the insights from our most successful practitioners and exporters. 

What is advanced manufacturing?

Here are some reflections from some of Australia’s most successful leaders. These reflections are taken from What is advanced manufacturing? The experts have their say – Manufacturers’ Monthly. 

It’s about ideas and more

Bruce Grey, former managing director, Advanced Manufacturing CRC, and current director on several boards (October 20, 2015)

“Prior to 2000, manufacturing generally referred solely to the production of goods. Today, manufacturing is about ideas, products, processes and services.”

It’s about looking well beyond the factory floor

Andrew Stevens, chairman, Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre 

“You can’t segment the asset codes to list those industry components that make up advanced manufacturing. Advanced manufacturing is about high value, it’s about a very broad, full value chain scope, and it’s certainly well beyond what happens on the production floor, so to speak.”

It’s about delivering value

Pat Boland, co-founder, ANCA 

“It’s a very difficult definition, really. To me, advanced manufacturing is where you’ve got really very high value-adding. So, you’re delivering a whole lot of value beyond just the basic material cost of whatever you’re manufacturing.

It’s about information

Herbert Hermens, CEO, Keech Australia (May 28, 2015)

“Advanced manufacturing is centred on sharing information, and making sure information flows right through the whole production chain. This is absolutely key. It is not necessarily talking about a unique and dynamic change in manufacturing, it just means a process development. And that’s the key.”

“Manufacturing done in a thoughtful way – and making sure everyone’s involved in the process.”

It’s about non-traditional manufacturing

Professor Roy Green, Dean, UTS Business School

“Advanced is meant to distinguish new forms of manufacturing from traditional ones, which are often based on volume, on routine manufacturing, on large facilities and in non-complex products, in many cases. Whereas advanced manufacturing is characterised by knowledge intensity, it’s integration with a services ecosystem, with the virtual world, through the internet of things and the internet more generally. It’s increasingly digitised.”

It’s about asking the right questions

David Hodge, managing director, Plastic Forests

“If you’re going to be advanced, you’ve got to be in front of the pack, and being in front of the pack means you’ve just got got ask a better question. And if you can ask a better question and you can solve an existing problem better, and better than anybody else globally, well then, you’re going to be at the front.

It’s about both the product and the process

Jeff Connolly, CEO, Siemens Australia

“Many people associate manufacturing with fixed production lines and what goes on within the four walls are manufacturing: static, old views. Access to the world to communicate and able to participate in what’s going on offshore with advanced products and advanced manufacturing techniques.”

It’s about technology enabled by chemistry

Ross Pilling, managing director, BASF Australia and New Zealand

“Chemistry is the critical enabler, the ultimate enabler, behind both of these complex, advanced technology, advanced manufacturing operations.”

It’s about knowledge, specialisation and global markets

Professor Goran Roos, an academic, businessman, consultant, and member of South Australia’s Economic Development Board

“An industry that has very advanced knowledge, a high export share, high growth and high profitability.”

Christian Ruberg is the joint program leader for CSIRO’s Future Digital Manufacturing initiative, which includes emerging Industry 4.0 technologies. He has a family background in toolmaking and a 30-year career in robotic automation systems development, integration and commercialisation. He is a volunteer director of the Robotics Australia Group, and Chair of the IoTAA Manufacturing workstream. His career mission is to advance Australian manufacturing through technology and innovation.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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