Manufacturing – one of the world’s largest industries – is in the process of being reshaped by digital influences in the design and prototyping fields.


Ever since its inception, manufacturing has been a purely physical endeavour, with product design, prototyping and creation all including tangible results and practices.

Now, as with almost everything, the digital influence is overpowering traditional practices, and businesses that react quickly are being rewarded with solutions that are more efficient and cost-effective.

Digital design solutions such as computer-aided design software has changed the skill sets, equipment and knowledge needed for companies in the manufacturing sector.

The changes aren’t just in the software, but also in the role of physical design solutions, with 3D printing removing a lot of the time and costs usually associated with prototyping​ and manufacturing.

What are the advantages of digital design?

Essentially, the advantages of going digital for manufacturing companies are the same as those observed by other industries that are being disrupted by new technology. Moving design processes into the virtual space means there is more data for analytics purposes, more opportunity for collaboration between employees and a greater emphasis on preparing for the future.

According to McKinsey & Company, the manufacturing industry is worth around $10 trillion worldwide and leading companies will be  expanding their digital horizons in the immediate future.

The firm found that optimisation and efficiency are the main aims for manufacturing businesses looking to secure digital solutions, with larger facilities providing greater opportunities for cost and time savings.

There are a number of possible roles that IT jobseekers can fill for these companies, as data analysts and software support technicians are both in prime positions to have a positive influence on the manufacturing industry as it goes digital.

How important is 3D printing?

What was once the domain of hobbyists and backyard inventors is now the precursor to a manufacturing revolution. Often when it comes to designing and protoyping new products, errors and oversights don’t emerge until a physical version is created. With 3D printing, this can be done cheaply and quickly, making it easy to go back to the drawing board if the result doesn’t meet requirements.

They’ve also already made a mark on the businesses that have adopted the technology, with International Data Corporation (IDC) finding the devices have had a 90 per cent satisfaction rate among current users.

Changes such as this could also change the make up of Australian companies. In particular, it is likely to change the number of technical professionals working within these businesses.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 37 per cent of these organisations had their IT support provided by contractors or consultants rather than in-house employees – a fact that could change as digital demands increase.