Demystifying data and AI in Australian manufacturing

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Data is the backbone of modern manufacturing processes, encompassing everything from customer preferences and supply chain logistics to throughput and product quality metrics. 

In an exclusive interview with Australian Manufacturing, Lenka Bednarikova, Telstra Purple’s Data AI Practice Lead, discussed the complexities surrounding data and automation in the manufacturing industry. 

The Telstra expert zeroed in on the importance of understanding what data and automation truly entail for the manufacturing sector, including the current gaps and barriers faced by the industry, the benefits of digital transformation, and Telstra’s role in guiding manufacturers through this journey.

The challenges 

Many companies across Australia’s industrial landscape have begun to recognise the true value of data in their supply chains, monitoring systems, and assets. However, the challenge lies in moving beyond data collection. 

An Industry Update Manufacturing Magazine survey revealed that 86 per cent of manufacturers in Australia are sitting on vast amounts of data – about half of their arsenal – without fully utilising its potential. 

According to Bednarikova, this underutilisation can be attributed to a slew of factors, including corporate siloes and the lack of actionable data. More often than not, companies simply do not have the knowledge or capabilities to extract value from the data they collect. 

A recent survey of more than 150 CIOs found that organisations that were prepared to embrace artificial intelligence cited data literacy as a major barrier. 

“Technology is only as good as the value it generates, and so it’s imperative that organisations understand the business problem they are trying to solve for, and that there is alignment in strategy across the organisation – from the boardroom to the coal-face,” Bednarikova said. 

Getting started

One of the most common industry misconceptions is that changes in technology solely propel AI adoption. When in fact, according to the Telstra expert, the success of adopting AI relies upon organisational change. 

“Organisations may have as their goal to optimise and improve efficiencies and hope that implementing AI can deliver this, but often their structures, for example, siloed operations, can hold them back.” 

Bednarikova also highlighted the critical role of integrating information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) in allowing IT teams to address the unique OT challenges related to worker safety. 

“When the organisation as a whole is on board with understanding the strategy, the value of data, and the outcomes to be achieved, then the organisation is more likely to be successful,” she noted. 

“It is for this reason that I believe having a strategic foundation with mission clarity, leadership buy-in, a clear roadmap and the right enablers are the keys to successful implementation.” 

Telstra’s role in the digital transformation journey

A robust data infrastructure and skilled workforce are foundational to Australian manufacturers’ journey to embracing industrial automation and digital transformation. 

Telstra is well-positioned to help Aussie manufacturers embrace industrial automation and become data-driven organisations. 

“Our human-centred approach to strategy design means that we put your business, and your people at the heart of any solution. We adopt a technology-agnostic approach to solution development with thanks to our partnerships with a wide range of technology vendors,” Bednarikova noted. 

Find out more at Intelligent Manufacturing by Telstra Enterprise.