HYDAC and Swinburne University of Technology have a history of training collaboration that has been mutually beneficial.
Their recent projects include the Associate Degree of Applied Technologies and a third-party agreement to jointly provide vocational education and training.
HYDAC Managing Director Mark Keen comments that HYDAC International has provided hydraulics training and application technology coaching for over 20 years.
“In Australia, we embraced this philosophy of ‘giving back to industry’ and have proudly just passed our 10 years as a local educator for industry,” Mr Keen says.
Swinburne University of Technology Manager for Engineering and Industry 4.0 programs Lei Shi comments that HYDAC is an industry leader when it comes to hydraulics and hydraulics training and that HYDAC’s ability to service customers and provide solutions and support is impressive.
Associate degree provides Industry 4.0 training
As to the way forward, Mr Shi says universities and industry have to “embrace” Industry 4.0 – which is driven by different enabling technologies because of globalisation and the digitisation era the world finds itself in.
In line with this, Swinburne University commenced an associate degree in 2017 to provide training in Industry 4.0 to promote the higher apprentices compared to the traditional apprentices from an educational perspective.
“The associate degree is a relatively new concept, with awareness and acceptance in industry not as high as traditional apprentice or traditional location-based education,” Mr Shi says.
“The higher apprenticeships also come with much more flexibility and agility than the traditional training model that is bounded by a restrictive training package, thereby limiting flexibility. This fits in with the age of digital revolution that requires an organisation’s training to quickly adapt to this ever-changing digital age and to be agile enough to compete in a global environment.”
Mr Shi emphasises that HYDAC’s collaboration with Swinburne over the hydraulic training part of the degree has been appreciated, including its provision of equipment for training purposes.
According to Mr Keen, HYDAC has invested in training equipment and facilities that allow it to teach and demonstrate the “absolutely latest” technologies.
“This is critical to courses like the associate diploma as students need to be competent in the latest possibilities. These unique facilities are then available to the university to enhance its courses."
Mr Shi cautions though that for the most part Industry 4.0 is still quite new to Australia, with many companies and individuals still predominantly concerned about how the training capabilities of HYDAC and a university will enable them to see concrete benefits on the ground.
From this aspect, he says, collaboration is required between government, universities, and industry to work together to create more tangible outcomes for industry not only in providing training in terms of Industry 4.0 knowledge and skills but also training that is “centred on working with industry in real life”.
“This will enable industry to really see the benefits of Industry 4.0 and how it is able to, for example, increase productivity to create a new business model,” he says. “So it’s really important to have this type of industry-based program, with funding support forthcoming from government.”
Mr Keen says that new educators are required to "be a mix" of traditional institutions and industry participants in order for training to be recognised by government as key to the future success of Australian industry.
Cyber physical systems at the core of Industry 4.0
Mr Shi says that a cyber-physical system is at the core of Industry 4.0 because it centres on the “two most important factors” to Industry 4.0: sensors and cyber. “We use sensors to sense the physical world and we feed that data into a cloud or remote server, and cyber is network connection and data analysis – the core of Industry 4.0,” he says.
“The cyber-physical system is important for data, for the sensor to gather data or do analytics and use technology to help a company increase its efficiency and transparency of operation. The challenge for education is how a cyber-physical system can be incorporated into learning and training and for industry how Industry 4.0 can be adopted, especially for companies that focus on return on investment and clear evidence as to how investments are benefitting a company. A nice picture can be painted but at the end of the day industry is looking for a new business model or return on investment.”
Another challenge, he says, is how to use a current system and then convert a legacy system through the application of technologies into a cyber-physical system. “That’s where company interest will be. And this definitely should be the focus of training if in-depth collaboration is desired or if government wants to push industry forward.”
Mr Keen points out that HYDAC has developed remote monitoring of systems for over a decade, thereby enabling ever-increasing data trending and analytics to be readily available to industry.
“Cloud-based solutions with intelligent interpretations are a reality today,” he affirms.
New training to meet times
Mr Shi says as a result of COVID-19 restrictions online training has become a “hot” topic. “It is promoted by industry and organisations, including universities, because of the nature of life today.”
However, he emphasises that this form of learning provides challenges for engineering because the nature of engineering courses is to focus on hands-on skills and practical components that “students need to master”.
“So that’s the most challenging aspect when it comes to the provision of online training for students in the engineering arena – however, it can be countered by creating opportunities.”
An opportunity, according to Mr Shi, would be to extend the experience of virtual reality training as provided by HYDAC to enable students to complete more practical work at home instead of attending lectures at the university or studying in a laboratory. “Technologies like virtual reality – already in use by HYDAC – and augmented reality and other Industry 4.0 technologies are enabling factors that make so many things possible from new business models to new business opportunities,” Mr Shi says.
HYDAC, Mr Keen adds, is pioneering “mixed reality” training and education solutions, ie virtual reality with a progression to augmented reality, with Deakin University Motion Lab as a partner.
“This is where students first learn and practice in a photo-realistic virtual space and then take this to the real world with augmented assistance and support for a complete learning experience. In 2021 we released the first solutions and more advanced models are planned for the coming year too.”
Mr Shi points out that Swinburne’s Department of Trades and Engineering Technologies is developing a remote learning cell system to enable students “to remote in from their home” by leaving their computers in the classroom.
“The way it works is we install the camera, microphone, and additional sensors to industrial equipment in the lab to enable them to log in remotely and watch and listen to what’s happening in the lab in real-time. They are also able to get equipment information from sensors,” he explains.
“In this way, Swinburne students could learn the practical side from home instead of having to come to class. So yes, online training is challenging for engineering students but with innovation there definitely will be opportunities to hone this for success.”
Mr Shi highlights that applied research, a “popular concept” in Europe, is not being fully utilised in vocational education in Australia.
“In applied research vocational teachers work together with students and industry on real-life projects. This means that an educational institution’s income comes not only from the training of students but also from industry projects. This makes for good current-practice teaching,” he says. He adds that there’s also close collaboration to enable teachers to bring university research, knowledge, and skill to the industry at the same time.
“Currently engineering departments are exploring this, including collaborating with a few companies. And there’s also a focus on getting government funding in the interests of creating a university model.”
Mr Keen says HYDAC takes two to three graduates each year into its internship program wherein they participate in real applications and continue their learning in deep real-world experiences, with a focus on new technology in action.
Mr Shi concedes that despite there being much “good” training collaboration between industries and companies there are “challenges” to overcome.
“Universities such as Swinburne and industrial companies like HYDAC have their respective strengths. HYDAC’s strength lies in real-life application and service to the customer whereas Swinburne’s lies in research and broader experience in providing training and education.”
Therefore, according to Mr Shi, the challenge or opportunity is how a university and company such as HYDAC can utilise the strength of both parties to constantly provide a better experience for the learner and the public.
“We at HYDAC are so proud and committed to the collaboration with Swinburne and other leading universities. The combined education experience is clearly the best and we continue to develop micro-credential and online packages to enhance this collaboration and ensure universities have access to tools and technologies that are critical for upcoming students to be ready for the industry 4.0 world,” Mr Keen concludes.