Sometime in the late 1700s, mainly in England, steam power and river-based paddlewheels began to substantially improve industry productivity.

Prior to this, all of the serious heavy lifting was done using human or animal power. Finally, fields could be ploughed, and coal could be moved at a faster pace.

The methods of harnessing these power sources spread across industries and across the world.  It was the Industrial Revolution.

In the mid-19th century, it all changed again. The introduction of technologies such as the telegraph and long-distance rail connected the world and accelerated modernisation.

This opened up new job opportunities and boosted trade, tourism, and prosperity.

Around this time, the adoption of electricity as a power source transformed industries and societies.  It was another Industrial Revolution, version 2.

Fast forward to last century and we witnessed the invention and proliferation of the personal computer. Integration of computer technologies changed the way airlines operated, how warehouses were organised and even how our traffic flow was controlled.  

The Industrial Revolution changed the world.

Everything became much faster, less labour intensive and more profitable.  That was the third Industrial Revolution, or Industry 3.0, in the naming convention borrowed from software product releases.

Now, in 2022, we are well into the next transformation, Industry 4.0.

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With all of the previous developments and technologies now highly advanced, it is the information generated by them that is transforming our industries, our societies, and our everyday lives.

Industry 4.0 all about using data to improve efficiency, automate tasks and integrate systems.

Just think about your own activities.  It is quite likely that every day you consume, produce, interpret and apply massive amounts of data.  Yes, you.

Through your smart phone, computer and television, or when you go to the supermarket and scan the QR code at the entrance, then later scan your items and pay with the tap of a card, phone or watch. 

A remote sensor on a Tasmanian dairy farm.

All of the data you produced at the supermarket goes instantly to the cloud where it is combined with millions of others, to be processed and used to continuously improve efficiencies for both business and customer.

The supermarket can use the information to manage stock levels, automate ordering from suppliers and minimise waste. For the consumer, self-checkout saves time and also frees staff up to do other tasks, such as preparing orders for on-line shoppers.

In Tasmania, as we all proudly know, we produce a huge range of top-class items for export to the rest of Australia and the world. Food and beverages, heavy machinery, pharmaceuticals, timber products, and clean energy, and more. We do it all so well.

Tasmanian producers have achieved high growth rates and increased their market share using the tried and tested methods that have proven successful for years.

Data is an increasingly vital ingredient in successful primary production.

Most of these businesses are reaping the benefits of the last waning days of Industry 3.0, but clouds are forming on the horizon.

With the rest of the world now getting hot-wired to share data between thousands of devices, and to optimise the use of this data to improve efficiencies and competitiveness, it is only a matter of time before Industry 4.0 comes knocking on our door by way of the balance sheet.

We have expertise and know-how in Industry 4.0 right here in Tasmania, and we can train and educate our workers and businesses to be future-ready.

Tasmania is in a prime position to stake its claim in the high-value export markets of the coming decades, but businesses will need to seek out information and get on board with Industry 4.0 to maintain success into the future.

Tasmania is primed to be future-ready.

About Professor Tim Finnigan

Professor Tim Finnigan is an engineer and entrepreneur with a keen interest in Industry 4.0 and the benefits it can bring to Tasmanian business. He is Head of the School of Engineering at the University of Tasmania.

View Professor Tim Finnigan's full researcher profile