By Dr Troy Coyle, CEO HERA
As we know, Industry 4.0 is characterised by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and cyber-physical. It’s a fundamental change that calls for the heavy engineering industry to embrace new technologies into their business models for productivity gain.
The challenge can come with knowing when and how to do this, and a focus area for HERA is to help our industry understand and seek the improvements and changes enabled by Industry 4.0 technology. HERA hosts the national centre of excellence in Fabrication 4.0, the Fab4.0Lab, and is leading Aotearoa’s largest research project on Construction 4.0, supported by a $10.3 million MBIE Endeavour-funded grant.
Part of industry leadership in Industry 4.0 adoptions includes the creation of various clusters of like-minded organisations, and Holger Heinzel, HERA’s senior engineer – advanced manufacturing, has been leading the mahi to support our Industry 4.0 Innovation Cluster members.
A recent series of webinars included a 14 September session (both on-site, at the HERA Fab4.0Lab in Manukau, and online) on the impact of welding consumables on productivity, with a focus on maximising efficiency and minimising costs. The attendees were joined by Jeff Meale, the owner of Weld I.T. based in Onehunga, who brought his 40+ years of experience in welding and fabrication to discuss how changes to welding processes can unlock higher levels of effectiveness and economic viability across projects in a diverse range of New Zealand industries.
The session underscored the important role of equipment, consumables, and well-trained personnel in the shop floor environment and emphasised that productivity improvement is rarely a secluded effort – mirroring the holistic approach of the Industry 4.0 assessment.
On 28 September our online ‘Robot Welding Workshop’ explored the opportunities and challenges of robot welding as an established technology, its effect on workflows, and what can be done to help members and the industry harness this technology effectively. Now that the scope of robotic welding has been significantly expanded, including through improved hardware and software capabilities and the growth of AI, HERA is helping to make the technology more accessible for the heavy engineering industry, so members can explore its transformative potential.
The workshop gave an overview of recent developments and the state of the art in robotic welding, and identified the training requirements for technicians, engineers, and operators to ensure the industry has a skilled workforce capable of harnessing the full potential of the technology.
In addition, if you are interested in benefiting from Industry 4.0 in your manufacturing company, an Industry 4.0 readiness assessment is a great place to start. It will not only give you feedback on your current state compared to other similar companies, but, more importantly, will identify opportunities for improvement.
The assessment is based on the Smart Industry Readiness Index (SIRI), a globally recognised set of tools, frameworks, and metrics designed specifically for manufacturing. HERA is an accredited provider of these assessments, and funding is currently available through Callaghan Innovation’s Smart Factory Assessment initiative.
We are encouraging others to join the Industry 4.0 Innovation Cluster group so they can be kept abreast of future exclusive webinars to stay ahead of the innovation curve. For more information on the Industry 4.0 cluster or the Industry 4.0 assessment, please visit http://www.hera.org.nz/industry40/ or contact Holger Heinzel via firstname.lastname@example.org, 09 262 4755.
Dr Troy Coyle brings more than 20 years’ experience in innovation management across a range of industries including materials science, medical radiation physics, biotechnology, sustainable building products, renewable energy and steel. She is a scientist with a PhD (University of NSW) with training in journalism and communications.