Tim Gibson, Director, Operations at the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre (AMGC), which has been tasked with undertaking the feasibility study, told Built Offsite that a series of industry workshops held across Australia from late September to early October had indicated the principles underpinning the venture.
“Automation and digitalisation have emerged as critical themes informing the introduction of greater manufacturing capability to the construction sector. In the recent industry workshops we held across Australia, we fielded interest from a range of attendees, from those coming with a traditional construction background wanting to engage with manufacturing, to those from the manufacturing field who can see the opportunities in innovative methods of construction.”
Other issues that emerged included how the current regulatory environment is struggling to keep up with modern methods of construction, which is holding back growth in the prefab sector; that there is a shifting mix of skills and adoption of industry 4.0 technologies; and “exciting new approaches are emerging to finance projects,” he said.
Gibson added that the innovation hub initiative is working in a collaborative fashion with other programmes, such as the ARC Training Centre for Advanced Manufacturing of Prefabricated Housing (CAMP.H) at the University of Melbourne. “We are very conscious of the great work that has already been done to support the prefab sector and we don’t want to reinvent the wheel. Our aim is to define and solve key challenges that will enable modern methods of construction to thrive in Australia”.
The prefab Innovation Hub was announced by Karen Andrews, Minister for Industry, Science and Technology on 16 June 2019. A requirement of the up to $2 million funding agreement with the Commonwealth was a feasibility study to delineate the requirements for the potential establishment of the hub.
At the time of the launch, Minister Andrews said the hub would support work on a wide range of buildings, and strengthen Australia’s position in the global prefabricated building market.
“This sector is starting to build significant momentum and currently represents 3 to 5 per cent of Australia’s $150 billion construction industry,” she said. “This share could grow to 15 per cent by 2025, creating 20,000 new Australian jobs and adding $30 billion to our economy.”
Through the innovation hub, AMGC can address the key findings of the feasibility study and introduce advanced manufacturing concepts to firms already operating within Australia’s prefab construction market.
Industry consultations will continue throughout November, Gibson said. “The feasibility study is a great opportunity for firms to contribute to the scoping of the innovation hub.” The feasibility study will be presented to Minister Andrews in January 2020.■