A step into the future

The 2021 EMEX tradeshow may be celebrating 40 years of New Zealand manufacturing and engineering innovation, but the event’s ‘Manufacturing Futures’ seminar won’t be looking backwards – it will dive into what’s yet to come.

Thinking big, thinking digital, and thinking into the future will be the focus of the ‘Manufacturing Futures’ full-day seminar on day two of EMEX.

Set to host the event, Callaghan Innovation has curated a line-up of speakers and topics.

“The day is to talk about where this whole space is going,” says Phil Anderson, business innovation expert at Callaghan Innovation and the event’s emcee.

“We’re wanting to encourage businesses to think big, and to showcase how they can start implementing process, product and business model changes.”

Designed to demonstrate how to get started with Industry 4.0, Anderson hopes the seminar will guide Kiwi companies into the digital world and “towards being world-class”.


Robert Blache from Callaghan Innovation’s future insights team will be one of the day’s presenters, and will explore what the next 40 years of manufacturing might look like. After showing this glimpse into the future, the focus will step back to today to look at some New Zealand companies that have already adopted Industry 4.0 technologies.

Wood Engineering Technology’s director, Tony Johnson, will share how they have developed an Industry 4.0-enabled process for turning low-value, weak wood into high-value structural lumber.

“They have a really strong vision about where they’re heading, connected devices, robotics, end-to-end processes, really getting towards being a fully data-driven company with decisions made through the data,” says Anderson.

“We’re not saying they’re quite there yet, but they certainly are this really neat story of a New Zealand company running at Industry 4.0 technologies to design scalable world-class manufacturing.”

Otago-based United Machinists’ chief executive Sarah Ramsay will also share how their ‘factory of the future’ started with a goal to display live KPI data in the workshop, to now using automated scheduling, live real-time production weblinks for clients, and a multidisciplinary team, systematically removing bottlenecks.


Helping Kiwi companies embrace Industry 4.0 and introducing them to the tools available to do so will be the focus of the day, says Anderson.

“We will have myself and Sue Bradley, general manager of Industrial Design at Beca, talking about government support and initiatives that are happening at the moment.

“There is an Industry 4.0 network that has been created in partnership with Callaghan Innovation, EMA (Employers and Manufacturers Association) and Beca. Sue and I are going to talk about the support that’s there for companies to get on the road.”

Kevin Flint, general manager at Tauranga-based Oasis Engineering will then share the steps his company took to reach where they are today.

“Oasis’ story is quite interesting as well,” says Anderson.

“They will explain how embedding a culture of continual improvement through Lean has created the bedrock from which to launch into digitisation, and how it’s actually a really good way to understand as a company what is value and what is waste.

“Once you get that part sorted – the manual processes, the culture – then what we’re saying is it’s a good time then to start overlaying the digital parts that make sense as well to help with that continual improvement, which is what Lean brings in.”

With their strong process and culture base, Oasis Engineering is now connecting machines, adding sensors and cameras, and using data to drive its decisions.

“It’s showing how to get there, and how you can start. They are a great example of how a business can start and then accelerate adoption of advanced technologies to create value. We want people to be inspired.”

Callaghan Innovation and 20 Kiwi companies attended the 2019 Industrial Transformation Asia-Pacific trade show to learn about Industry 4.0 technologies redefining the industry.


The second half of ‘Manufacturing Futures’ will focus on smart products and new business models.

Callaghan’s Ross Pierce will draw on his 25-plus-years’ experience in innovation leadership and product development to share how the digital world creates new opportunity.

“We then bring in Mark Taylor, CEO of Framecad, who has an innovative business model where connected roll forming machines combine with world-class software to create a recurring revenue stream,” says Anderson.

“Digitally-enabled machinery has actually opened up this new business model for him, and it is providing amazing value to his customers. So, that is a bit of inspiration – with big thinking, here is what you can achieve.”

Ben Bodley, founder and chief executive of Teknique, will also dive into the world of artificial intelligence and computer vision.

“It’s getting companies to think about how they can incorporate smart technology into their existing product suite and imagine what their products could look like in the future,” says Anderson.

“Thinking big and thinking digitally, can effectively open new revenue streams and connect long-lasting value to a customer.”

But before building a new product, Anderson says companies need to make sure it is something their customers are going to love.

“Before you even begin something, have you really connected with your customers to make sure it’s something they want you to build?”

Presenters, including Callaghan Innovation’s Shane Dooley and vice president of product at software business Dexibit, Pip Gilberts, will give examples and techniques of how to connect with customers and how in doing so, long-lasting value will be created.

“Start with the business value and let the technology flow in behind,” says Anderson.

“There is a whole bunch of tools that we will touch on over the day of how companies can just crack on with it right now.

“It’s actually not rocket science – you don’t have to be afraid of it, of getting started, of putting foot forward.”