Benefits of full automation, digitalisation and IoT connectivity with Rittal

Rittal’s innovative hygienic design solutions are engineered for high hygiene zones, but they are part of a larger industrial automation ecosystem that food and beverage manufacturers can leverage. By streamlining the panel building and switchgear system engineering process using industry-leading software, EPLAN, and implementing Edge data centres to store their own data as close to the source as possible, Rittal customers are enjoying the benefits of full automation, digitalisation, and IoT connectivity.  Read more


Keep up with the rapidly evolving industry technology

Open IIoT is encouraging food and beverage manufacturers to get onto Industry 4.0 or risk falling behind the competition. Balluff sales manager Jim Wallace told Food and Beverage Industry News that Industry 4.0 concepts were critical when it came to making informed decisions about the production process.   Read more

A smart flexible approach to automation

A revolution is like a wave. It builds over time and gains continuous energy before finally reaching the shore. Some might go as far as to liken Industry 4.0 to a tsunami rather than a wave; it started off slowly since its inception in 2011 but has since then gained massive momentum, disrupting the industry as we know it.

While the pros far outweigh the cons, the concept has given way to terms like the Internet of Things (IoT), smart sensors, cloud analytics and more, thereby striking uncertainty into the hearts of manufacturing leaders.

For SMC Corporation, certainty comes by embodying a restrained approach to Industry 4.0. The Japanese head quartered company follows the management culture of investing in proven technologies rather than jumping into the unknown.

Today, SMC offers a full suite of industrial automation solutions ranging from pneumatic and electric actuators to fluid control products and airline equipment, as well as sensors and switches.

Where it All Began
Dr Henning Kagermann, Dr Wolfgang Wahlster and Dr Wolf-Dieter Lucas delivered a speech at Hannover Fair in Germany in April 2011 which would have great impact on the industry in years to come. For these three scientists there was little doubt that the future was here, and that it was digital. They were quoted saying: ‘The digital finishing of production plants and industrial products through to everyday products with integrated memory and communication capabilities, radio sensors, embedded actuators and intelligence software systems, creates a bridge between virtual ‘cyber space’ and the real world. This will be achieved through the synchronisation of digital models and the physical reality.’

The Challenges Faced
Jozef Ceh, digital transformation and Industry 4.0 manager at SMC Corporation ANZ said that factories now have more sensors, more data and more connected devices than ever before yet so many people still battle to understand Industry 4.0’s true value.

SMC has identified four common challenges faced by our customers. These are pertinent across the globe and are split into four categories, namely: physical challenges, time and value challenges, executive challenges and human challenges.”

Physical challenges: These typically revolve around the need to reduce the size of products, its weight and the consumption of energy in the production process. These improvements have the added benefit of reducing the demand on compressed air systems.

Time and value challenges: These include the need to increase productivity and throughput. Having more workers carry out low-skilled repetitive tasks instead of value-added tasks should be of concern to all companies. Here, customers express the need for more intelligence in their plants.

Executive challenges: This refers to managers and leaders’ ability to make decisions based on the information available to them. Being able to refer to real-time data instead of quarterly management reports proves to more valuable in ensuring effective decision making.

Human challenges: This relates to technology skills shortages – something that has created a discrepancy between the skills that industry needs and the skills that new graduates possess. Additional factors to consider is the usability of equipment and software.

Introducing Smart Flexibility
SMC’s answer to the hype around Industry 4.0 is to take a practical approach by helping its customers to derive real value from their digitisation journey. “This approach is known as Smart Flexibility.  It encompasses flexibility in industrial networking, flexibility in e-maintenance, flexibility in machine adjustments and smart energy efficiency,” said Ceh.

SMC’s technological innovations span everything from air leak-detection systems and speed controllers to wireless fieldbus systems and actuator position sensors. 

Digital Journeys around the World
Tapping into trends from around the world, SMC has highlighted several key regions where they have been active in helping customers embrace change. They share their digital journeys with the world:

Eastern Europe: The automotive industry is a key focus area for Central and Eastern Europe. Here, we’re seeing demand for increased accuracy and throughput. Welding cell applications and Hall Installation Plate (HIP) systems are used to distribute various media, including cooling water at low and high pressures. It’s important to monitor these variables – if the cooling water is too hot, or the flow is insufficient, the quality of the welding spot won’t meet the required standard.

A key solution to this is SMC’s wireless fieldbus which eliminates the need for cabling. In cramped and tight spaces, especially on robotic arms, it can be difficult to run cabling to electric actuators or sensors located on the grippers at the end of the robot arm. Doing so not only limits movement but it causes wear and eventual failure of the cabling. By using a wireless system, the customer can collect sensor data wirelessly while reducing complexity.

Italy: Most of the SMC customers in this region are industrial original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) – they’re generally small to medium businesses operating in the automotive, packaging, plastics, food and beverage, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and machine tool sectors. Because customers export over 75 per cent of their goods outside Italy, one of the biggest challenges they face is competing in a global market.

SMC has overcome this issue by offering pneumatic and electrical actuation systems that can overcome variability in many complex applications. What’s more, they’ve developed sensors that allow this functionality to be applied to existing pneumatic systems, giving us even greater control of this previous analogue technology.

Germany: Climate control is a big focus in the German market and places demand on product categories such as climate control solutions, chillers and pneumatic as well as electric actuation components.

SMC has setup demonstration labs to showcase the latest technologies. These cover everything from predictive maintenance and IO-Link connectivity to condition monitoring and intelligent software. While it is true that many of these technologies have been around in one form or another for the past 20 years, it’s important that  people are educated on the digital benefits it offers.

To conclude, Jozef says: “We strongly urge customers not to change for the sake of changing but rather to adopt a philosophy of flexibility and map out a transformation journey. Smart Flexibility is designed to make the most of technological innovation in a way that delivers practical results to our customers. We take a flexible approach to our customers’ digital journey.”

Report says cost putting off investment into digital in manufacturing

A new RMIT report on Australian industry’s digital future reveals widespread hesitation to embrace game-changing technologies for fears of cost.

The Demystifying Industry 4.0: Helping SMEs lay the tracks for Australia’s digitalisation express train white paper has just been launched by RMIT University. It follows in-depth interviews with over a dozen executives from SMEs and larger companies across Australia and ongoing engagement with the local advanced manufacturing sector.

Industry 4.0 (i4.0), the fourth industrial revolution, uses technologies such as AI, big data and cloud computing to provide up-to-date information for better decision making.

No industry sector or business will escape the impact of I4.0. The disruptive changes are already happening and are escalating rapidly

RMIT University’s Dr Ben Cheng, who led the project, said fear of cost and feeling overwhelmed with the complexity of linking older and newer technologies into a single data stream was still holding many local SMEs back despite the massive potential to be realised.

“The businesses we talked to mostly assumed Industry 4.0 implementation was inherently costly and therefore only within reach of large, cashed-up corporations,” Cheng said.

“Contrary to these perceptions, transitioning to I4.0 technologies doesn’t necessarily require major investment – there are more affordable technologies, such as data analytics, that can return significant value when expertly deployed within a manufacturing enterprise,” Cheng said.

The White Paper suggests that getting started in transitioning to i4.0 technologies, even at an entry-level, can yield direct bottom-line benefits and pave the way for higher returns as a business’s level of data maturity grows.

The further along the I4.0 journey a business travels, the greater the value generated: from just seeing more data all the way to systems self-optimising.

“For low-profit margin manufacturing operations, in particular, staying agile and with or ahead of the game is crucial. The potential impacts of incrementally increasing the efficiency of mechanical and human resources, cutting costs and reducing waste cannot be understated.”

The key requisites for success in transitioning to i4.0 technology, as outlined in the white paper, were a commitment of top management, a deep understanding of one’s own business and the potential and desired level of transformation; and having a clear implementation strategy.

Start by getting your head around your data
Cheng said many companies were struggling to get their heads around what the most relevant data was and extracting value from it.

“That deep understanding of your own business includes understanding what data you currently produce, or potentially could produce,” he said.

“Before investing in I4.0 solutions, a business needs to develop a specific understanding of which data is most essential to capture, who within their organisation will use it, and how that data can be presented to these people in meaningful ways that meet their needs.

Developing an I4.0-savvy workforce is an important step in making the right decisions at this stage. The white paper outlines the value of partnering with universities to get PhD researchers working on projects, or hiring recent university graduates, as ways to tap into the next generation of digitally savvy engineers.

Cheng said taking a business towards I4.0 doesn’t have to happen overnight, that it was more of a journey.

“However, there is still a need for timely action, particularly if competitors are already gearing up and introducing I4.0 technologies,” he said.

“The I4.0 express train is leaving the platform and playing catch up if left behind could be costly. It is important to be on that train and to keep moving forward as quickly and strategically as possible.”

Industry 4.0 delivers opportunities to manufacturing in 2020

2019 was another interesting year for the manufacturing sector. Competition and cost cutting forced manufacturers to operate more efficiently and as a result, the industry turned to Industry 4.0 for its long-term benefits.

More than a fad or buzzword, Tim Keech, Sales and marketing director for SMC Corporation says that Industry 4.0 is here to stay, and it’s set to have a major impact on the industry in 2020.

“Manufacturing has become increasingly competitive. We’re competing both locally and on an international front where many manufacturers are already advanced in the implementation of IoT (the Internet of Things) solutions,” said Keech. “Australia should leverage the benefits of implementing Industry 4.0 solutions to remain competitive.”

Keech notes that challenges around cost reduction, energy savings, compliance with environmental initiatives, effective supply chain management and stringent health and safety standards can be alleviated through the implementation of Industry 4.0 technologies.

READ MORE: SMC’s smart thermo-chillers for peace-of-mind

“Some of the most recent challenges addressed by Industry 4.0 solutions is meeting the evolving expectations of consumers, such as immediate access to products and services and access to more detailed information about the products. Smart manufacturing helps to meet this demand and we see this trend continuing to grow and influence production in 2020.

“With changing technology comes a change in job skill requirements. Both production and people need to evolve at a rapid pace. “We need people who can interpret and utilise the data which Industry 4.0 will bring. This is one of the major challenges facing the industry,” said Keech. “This skill can only come through on the job experience, making it critical for STEM undergraduates to be closely aligned and integrated with industry.”

Developing talent
SMC has been evolving not only as a business also as an employer. The company has a keen focus on upskilling and developing their workforce to meet the needs of the changing economy.

SMC has developed a Cadet Program to attract and retain talent. “Through much-needed skills transfer, we are training technical people in sales, operations, logistics and administration to ensure they have a comprehensive overview of the business. These cadets are earmarked for future roles in the business and will be highly adaptable to changing economies,” said Keech.

In addition, SMC is placing more engineers in the field of energy savings and has been setting up digital transformation departments. “Our clients look to us to provide them with insight into automation trends. As a multinational with over 60 years’ experience, we draw on global expertise and skills to ensure that our local teams are trained up and ready to add value.”

Security and IOT
Keech believes that no one company is immune to cyber security threats and that these continue to have major implications on business. “Fear of such risks may initially hamper the appetite for investing in Industry 4.0 technology. It is however a matter of educating customers with industry proven solutions and processes that are available to limit exposure and protect their business.”

The challenge of our environment
Keech notes that shrinking resources, climate change and power hikes continue to affect business. “We cannot ignore this factor. It puts pressure on the supply chain and impacts our ability to compete – both locally and globally. Drought conditions continue to affect our farmers and we are now finding that reduced access to reliable water is having similar impacts on the mining and manufacturing industries.”

Supporting Australia’s 2030 climate change targets, SMC’s energy saving efforts remain active and continuous. “Many manufacturers are starting to realise the hidden costs of compressors running inefficiently throughout their plants. The recent success of SMC with several multinational manufacturers demonstrated real savings at the compressor.”

According to Keech, SMC’s team of engineers work closely with customers to meet their energy saving mandate. “We have the ability to identify areas of savings, from something as simple as identifying excessive leakage through to optimising the pressure and flow through the use of regulators, boosters and more.”

“2020 promises to be an interesting year but manufacturing is gearing up for the changes that are required to remain competitive,” said Keech.

SMC provides 4.0 solution for New Zealand-based manufacturer

Residing in Hawkes Bay, Hawk is a proudly New Zealand-owned and operated company. Sustainability is at the heart of the organisation and as a moulded fibre packaging suppliers, all of its products are made from 100 per cent recycled paper.  Its packaging solutions are used for, among other things, apple trays in the horticulture industry.

“Our paper is deliberately sourced from kerbside collected recycling paper. We don’t use any nasty bleaches, pigments, biocides or toxic chemicals in our manufacturing. Our products are recyclable and compostable after end use,” said David Styles, engineering manager of Hawk Packaging.

“Our facilities are located in the centre of the largest apple growing region to ensure minimised transport requirements and a lower carbon footprint,” Styles said.

Innovation for an innovative company
With this unique approach to business, energy savings remains a fundamental focus and partnering with like-minded suppliers is key. As a preferred supplier and in collaboration with East Coast Automation, SMC offered an innovative solution to a problem that was hindering Hawk’s production processes.

READ MORE: One cable solution for automation in processing factories

Area sales manager for SMC in New Zealand, Dirk Siekmann explained that a fault in a stacker robot designed to stack bundles of finished products on top of pallets was causing downtime. “An intermittent fault in the control of this particular robot was instigated by a communication cable failure. The robot had seen its fair amount of wear and tear after years of rotation and bending”.

Out with the old, in with the new
Working together with East Coast Automation, SMC recommended their recently launched Wireless Fieldbus System, EX600-W. The EX600-W met the brief to deliver on time, on spec and on budget. “The installation was simple, and the solution was the perfect match for this particular application” said Chris Robertson, director of East Coast Automation.

Answering to the call for more robotic applications the EX600-W is currently being used extensively in the packaging industry, and the response from the market has been overwhelmingly positive.

According to Siekmann, this decentralised solution is EtherNet/IP and PROFINET compatible, can withstand electric noise and is suitable for harsh, industrial environments. “This wireless fieldbus system can manage both digital and analogue signals, as well as pneumatic products – making it a flexible solution for all applications”.

The EX600-W was designed to make robotic applications easier. The EX600-W is small and light weight, fits onto the robot head, has minimal wiring, offers remote control and fault finding, among other features.

“The EX600-W uses the 2.4 GHz ISM frequency band and every 5 msec frequency hopping. The noise resistance design makes it even suitable in welding environments,” says Siekmann. “We are pleased to say that we have a happy customer.”

APS eyes long-term partnerships as key to help industry move forward

APS was born on March 1st, 2018, a time seen by the company as when it provided industry with a new choice by consolidating what can at times be a fragmented market. It brought a range of high-visibility brands in the industrial low- and medium-voltage electrical and automation space under one roof.

Headed by industry leader Lloyd Thomas (chairman – APS Group) and David Hegarty (managing director – APS Industrial), APS came into being when two companies were acquired – Ramelec and HiTech Control Systems. Thomas and his board then quickly set about putting national distribution deals in place with highly rated global manufacturers such as Siemens, Rittal and Weidmüller.

Siemens has a leading global market share, but less so in Australia. It was the apple in Thomas’s eye when he thought about putting APS together.

Building on that, APS then signed national distribution deals with a range of other German companies including the aforementioned Rittal and Weidmüller. Other brands under its umbrella include KATKO and Epcos (TDK). In Hegarty’s words, APS has become a “one-stop shop for industrial automation and power distribution needs”. As if to reiterate the point, Hegarty is also clear on what APS has to offer the market.

READ MORE: APS Industrial strengthens commitment to Queensland with branch relocation

“The advantage we bring to local customers is that not only do we sell quality products but the breadth of our portfolio is so impressive,” he said. “Our global manufacturing partners produce an incredible number of products and that’s what we give the local market access to. We are giving consumers a large choice in one place.”

APS is here for the long game, and doesn’t consider itself an overnight success, despite its rapid rise in the industrial electrical space, said Hegarty. He also knows the direction the company is heading is the right one. He feels that the sooner the industry can appreciate the benefits of Industry 4.0 and commence their digital journey, the better for all companies participating in the Australian industrial ecosystem.

“I was at the Siemens Digitalise 2019 in Brisbane, and it is clear a key challenge that the industry is going to face is getting started on their digitisation journey,” he said. “There are already early adopters paving the way, and there are going to be more examples of this over the next six months where companies are willing to take a step from what they are currently doing manufacturing, product and process wise. They’ll say, ‘we’re on the cusp of something big here and we are going to take these first steps to go down the path of digitisation and are ready to commence our journey. It takes courage, but we are going to do it because this is how we will survive and thrive. We have to’.”

Siemens invest billions of euros globally on research and development and the whole idea of Industry 4.0 and smart manufacturing, said Hegarty. They are leading the way and that APS can exclusively help bring this to Australia is a unique point of difference for him.

“Take a brand like Siemens – when all of your products are from the same manufacturer you get unrivalled communication and integration capability – power distribution, automation, motor control – everything comes from the same manufacturer and are all connected,” he said. “Nobody else can offer this. In terms of what industries that suits, manufacturing is obviously a big one, as well as mining and utilities who are the ultimate beneficiaries of this performance and data visibility. Switchboard builders can see the benefits, as well as wholesalers and contractors. For the end user, it ultimately means they can manufacture more efficiently, have less downtime, and experience gains across their operation that are currently unattainable. Our manufacturing partners are also at the pointy end of Industry 4.0. This should provide the local market with a lot of faith in terms of what we can offer and help them achieve.”

Hegarty also said that APS will now give local manufacturers more of a choice when it comes to industrial, electrical and automation gear. He knows it will take time for consumers to get to know the company, but is confident that what they have to offer is something unique.

“We want to be in the conversation and we want the industry to understand the full benefits of Industry 4.0,” Hegarty said. “The suite of products, the communication abilities of digitisation technology are what are important and we want to be a trusted partner in that space. Within the next few years we will have proven our offerings to industry, and they will consider us a trusted advisor and partner.”

APS is seen as a relatively new player in the market, but its already having an impact on the industry. This is proven by not only the increase of staff since inception (it has almost tripled), but also by the amount of investment it has put into bricks and motor.

“In September 2018, we moved to a brand-new national distribution centre in Melbourne,” said Hegarty. “And that allowed us to dramatically increase our stock holdings and invest in expanding our team. In August this year, our Queensland office also moved into a new facility, to do the same.”

Although still only young in terms of being in existence, it is the experience it has behind it at management level that will make APS a long-term player in what is an increasingly competitive market.

Are you ready for the next revolution? Prepare your people for the Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0 is here now and threatening to disrupt your business. It’s not too late to prepare; start with your people and up-skill them for an integrated, automated manufacturing supply chain.

You’ve probably heard the term “Industry 4.0” bandied about – the fourth industrial revolution, the next thing you need to worry about. An automated, integrated and augmented smart factory sounds great in practice, but what does it mean for your people, your bottom line and the future of your business?

One of the biggest fears about Industry 4.0 is the impact it will have on your workforce; if machines are supplementing your people, that’s great for the bottom line, but what about the uncertainty around job security and the skills that will be needed for the future? The jobs most at risk are simple, repetitive tasks like pick-and-pack and clerical or admin roles.

As the research director for the service robotics market at IDC, John Santagate reminds us,

“Just because you can automate something, it doesn’t mean you should”.

Creative and time sensitive decisions will still fall to your people and currently, robots aren’t well equipped to do things like climb stairs or cope with uneven surfaces.

One thing is certain: the potential of Industry 4.0 is under-realised in Australian industry. If harnessed correctly, there is the possibility of improving operations, maximising the potential of your people, and achieving better collaboration across the supply chain.

You will need to create certainty within your teams that their jobs are secure and there will be a future for them with your company, but potentially in a different role. Take the time to educate them with skills that can be developed alongside technology.

And believe it or not, but jobs are increasing – Amazon grew their warehouse workforce with over 100,000 employees in 2017 and followed with similar increases yearly. Utilise the power of your workforce by helping them learn how to operate new technology and maintain it so they can grow with your business as technology becomes more integrated.

Identify where your organisation is lacking in skills and make it part of your five-year plan to recruit in those areas, or help your existing employees up-skill. The Australian Industry Group found in a 2018 report that 75 per cent of Australian organisations face skill shortages when recruiting for automation, big data and AI. There’s a shortage of graduates in this area, so you may need consider executive programs to support the growth of your people in these areas.

Another key skill to maximise the opportunity of Industry 4.0 is the ability of your people to move beyond the technical skills of their day-to-day jobs. Deloitte in a report published in May 2017 identified that 75 per cent of future jobs will require soft skills such as teamwork, critical thinking, curiosity, adaptability, and persistence. There’s no degree for creative problem solving, so this is something you will need to support your people with; learning on the job or going to training and short courses to help them upskill.

And this is just the people side of the fourth industrial revolution. Your people are going to be the best return on your investment, but what about technological investment and getting your head around machine learning, AI, automation, and all the other buzzwords?

To help you navigate the complex world of the next industrial revolution and what it means for your manufacturing supply chain, the ASCI2019 conference on September 17 to 19 brings together leaders in the Industry 4.0 movement and the innovators who are pathing the way to the future supply chain. Business managers will have the opportunity to fully customise your own agenda with two days of high-quality content from more than 60 speakers.

Challenges and opportunities of Industry 4.0 the focus of AUSPACK conference second day

Expert insights on how companies can get on board the fourth industrial revolution were among the highlights of the second day of the AUSPACK 2019 conference being held in Melbourne this week.

According to John Broadbent, founder of Realise Potential, businesses which are slow to adopt Industry 4.0 and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technology will risk being left behind.

Broadbent told the audience that early adopters of this technology will find themselves at a significant advantage once the rest of the industry catches up, while those who delay their uptake will struggle to keep with the pack.

“The longer you kick the can down the road, the bigger the gap becomes,” he said.

According to Broadbent, the nine main use cases for Industry 4.0 and IIoT technology are asset tracking, automation, predictive maintenance, safety and security, smart buildings, customer engagement, data intelligence, product-as-a-service, and agile design processes.

The utility of properly gathering and analysing business data is huge, says Broadbent, and can save businesses time and money,

“How would you feel about sitting in your car with no dashboard, windscreen blacked out, rear view is where you were thirty days ago, and the managing director is in the passenger seat asking are we there yet? You wouldn’t drive like that, but people run their businesses like that all the time,” he said.

Broadbent later facilitated a panel comprising Paul Barber of Lighthouse Systems, Michael Parrington of Pact Group, Richard Roberts of the Open IIoT industry group, and Alan Spreckley from ABB, to discuss practical implementation of Industry 4.0 systems.

Spreckley said one major barrier to adoption of Industry 4.0 is change-aversion in businesses.

“People in general have a resistance to change. They feel too comfortable with where they are and what they have,” said Spreckley.

Broadbent argued that there is never a “right” or “wrong” time to invest, and that businesses need to get on board and constantly update themselves.

“The right time for continuous improvement is always,” said Broadbent. “It doesn’t matter when you’re doing well or not doing well.”

According to Roberts, one crucial early step in embarking on an Industry 4.0 project is forming partnerships, either internal or external, to ensure your business has the skills needed to operate the new technology.

“If you don’t have that expertise, you can look to bring it in, or you can seek out other experts in the area,” said Roberts.

Parrington agreed, saying seeking external help is one way Pact has tried to overcome the skills gap.

“We try to understand what we don’t know, and where we’re not skilled we bring people in,” said Parrington.

According to the next speaker, Peter Hern from Universal Robots, while Industry 4.0 is connecting machines through the utilisation of data and internet connectivity, Industry 5.0 will involve humans and machines working collaboratively.

Hern pointed towards the “cobots”, or collaborative robots, which are produced by his company, as emerging examples of Industry 5.0 practices. Hern emphasised that the developments in automation and robotics shouldn’t lead to fears that human workers employed in manufacturing will be replaced. On the contrary, providing robotic helpers can make existing jobs more productive, safe and efficient.

“What we find is that the human-robot collaboration is actually 85 per cent more productive than humans or robots alone,” he said. “It’s not about replacing human employees – it’s about helping them to do their jobs and stay involved in the process.”

Cobots that are specifically designed to work alongside humans, and according to Hern, can offer benefits such as increased productivity, lower costs, improving quality, boosting innovation, competitive advantage, and reshoring of manufacturing. They also free up human workers from repetitive, dull, dangerous or mundane tasks to focus on jobs that can bring more value to the company.

“Those who are slow to respond risk losing business to others who will embrace the future of manufacturing,” warned Hern.

SMC Pneumatics explains benefits of getting on board with Industry 4.0

Japanese-based SMC Pneumatics knew that in order to future-proof its business it needed to get on-board with Industry 4.0 especially with the push towards automation.

“Five years ago, the managing director of SMC brought me in to reposition the business post the mining industry moving from greenfield to brownfield,” said SMC Pneumatics’ Australian and New Zealand director of sales and marketing James McKew.

“We needed to move from a capital investment phase to a maintenance repair and overhaul phase. We saw the mining boom come off quite considerably until about late last year. What I don’t think SMC contemplated was the car industry going away so quickly in Australia,” he said.

Luckily for McKew and SMC Australia and New Zealand, the route a Japanese-based company takes differs from that of a traditional western industrial enterprise. It is this support and direction that McKew sees as the starting point for the growth the company has seen.

READ: SMC to showcase its new Industry 4.0 technologies at Foodtech Packtech New Zealand

“In hindsight, it was quite exciting because the leadership in Japan, fundamentally our founder, said ‘go back to Australia, get your team together and tell me what you need to reposition the company so it stays on a growth trajectory’, as opposed to the alternative,” said McKew. “The western philosophy would have been, ‘well your major market is going down, make sure you resize your business and make it profitable’. The Japanese philosophy was, ‘you tell us the investments you require to target and access new markets and based on your representations we’ll look at making those investments’. So we did.”

And has there been a pay off? Absolutely, said McKew. While the mining industry was off the boil, SMC aggressively targeted those businesses from the OEM and end user side with the multi-site operators. Its market share over the past three years has gone from the low 40s, percentage-wise, to 51 per cent. And it is in growth in every single market in Australian and NZ. The last two-year financial results for SMC have been the best in a decade, according to McKew. The company is now on a trajectory to be the biggest it has ever been in the industry.

Which brings us back to Industry 4.0, smart factories and making sure that a company is future-proofed when building new plant, machinery and the automation aspects.

“I think educating people is what makes automation an easy sell,” said McKew. “I think everybody in manufacturing – ourselves included – is tasked with asking themselves ‘how will our future look and what technology do we need to drive it?’. You are future proofing. We also need to talk about the benefit of big data and being able to intimately understand our businesses at a granular level. So the question is asked – how can we chart our future based on those two things with massive improvements in efficiencies and substantial improvements in understanding things at a granular level? We look at the different pieces in our business and how they align with the best possible operation result.”

This brings us to the next aspect of Industry 4.0 that has been mentioned and really gets McKew animated. Big data.

“When going down the big data path it is being able to understand intimately – from a data capture perspective –  what your employees in the field are doing,” he said. “How does that correlate to a fantastic result? By capturing the data and analysing its correlation to results, you can get extraordinary performances from your people in field service or field selling.

“I think big data support in manufacturing is going to lead to a rejuvenation of the sector. When you look at the investments being made in the advanced manufacturing sector, I think there is finally a light that has gone on in government that says manufacturing creates more value through supply chain than just about any other industry including financial services.

“The growth in manufacturing is economically sound. If you look at the investment that the federal government has put behind the advanced manufacturing growth sector initiative, and the fact they are rolling their sleeves up and actively wanting to promote manufacturing, it is showing everyone where it creates value.”

McKew is also optimistic about the traditional manufacturing and primary industries within Australia, some of which have struggled over the past few years. He believes that Australia has to play to its natural resources. The sector has to acknowledge that food is just as much a part of this as minerals are.

“I even think that the current conversation around the ban of live exports is a positive for Australia,” he said. “The ban is good for Australian manufacturers in that, in my opinion, it will result in jobs for Australians in Australia.”

Speaking of jobs, doesn’t all this talk of Industry 4.0, robotics, automation and a slew of modern manufacturing processes mean less jobs for the traditional Australian working man and woman?

“A protein processing plant can’t run with lights out,” said McKew. “You still need people, so everything is not fully automated. It’s around how you employ people and those people – particularly in automated plants – are being paid better rates because they are in a more sophisticated role.    What I’m talking about is initially opening and expanding plant.”

McKew is also optimistic about the next few years for the Australian manufacturing sector. He believes Australian industry needs to be more aggressive, and not towards the low-cost labour markets in South-East Asia, but against more traditional industry rivals.

“I am very positive for the next two to three-year outlook. You’ve got to formulate your strategies properly,” he said. “They’re not Disneyland, but they’re not Luna Park either.  You have to be realistic about how far out you can look. We are expecting positive momentum in the manufacturing sector, especially the food, robotics, mineral processing, building products and aggregate. What we are also seeing a lot of is automation in large warehouses. I think for Australia there is an opportunity there because at the moment, a lot of that technology is coming straight in from Germany. There is no reason that Australian automation companies cannot deliver those solutions. Designed, built and delivered in Australia and New Zealand. Germany is a high-cost country.

He believes that Industry 4.0 is about keeping high-cost labour countries in play and believes that what people forget about Australia being high cost is that the country also produces high-quality goods.

“It’s all well and good to malign the manufacturing sector – the costs are what they are – but we are high quality,” said McKew. “There is nothing that comes in from Germany or Japan that Australia can’t do as well. I think in the presence of an automated warehouse, that knowhow and expertise is a combination of Australian and New Zealand engineering and manufacturing, and componentry from Japan and Germany. World-class solutions can be deployed in Australia and New Zealand.  We’re having bigger conversations in Australia about manufacturing and quality. The reason we are having these conversations is because manufacturing is important to so many Australian families who can rely on it for employment. We are committed to the sector and are committed to manufacturing across the five locations we manufacture in Australia and New Zealand.”

ESM Australia helps businesses keep costs down with modular software systems

In the modern Australian manufacturing environment, it is important to manage costs.

With stiff and cheap, competition from overseas markets, having a competitive edge is important if you want to run a successful processing business.

The old adage, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it” remains as true today as it’s ever been. But measuring some processes in food accurately can be difficult.

Some use manual paper-based logging or performance metrics, some use a hybrid system of paper-based and digital and a growing number are using new technologies to capture data automatically, directly from process machinery and smart sensors.

Connecting these systems and managing their data is not without challenges.

Almost all manufacturing enterprises have different plant from different vendors and there are generally and various control system vendors, makes, models and communications protocols to deal with.

And once you have the data, then what?

The rewards can be immense.

Once production data is available to management, operations and maintenance, productivity can be measured and fine-tuned.

This is where the new monitoring and control platform, Ignition, comes into its own. With the Internet of Things (IoT) and Industry 4.0 making their footprints felt on the Australian manufacturing landscape, the Ignition platform is designed to help connect, collect, and harness process data to implement positive changes within the food processing industry.

“Ignition is a great connector of things,” said Glen Fry, managing director of ESM, an Australian distributor and gold-certified integrator of Ignition.

“It makes an ideal platform for the Internet of Things because of the interconnectability and scalability it offers. Ignition is a very open design, yet incredibly secure,” he said.

“Ignition connects to nearly any field device such as PLCs from all major automation vendors, variable speed drives, or an obscure IoT enabled sensor. It doesn’t really matter what it is. We are able to get that data easily and cost-effectively then store, analyse, and visualise.”

Once the data is in the standard SQL database, Ignition provides powerful tools to format and display data either in real time, or historical trends.

The best insights can sometimes come from areas you don’t expect.

Modules that provide machine-learning and AI-based data analytics to carry out some predictive analysis are available, and those tools can give users insights into data they were not going to see just by looking at it due to the large volume of data available.

Ignition is a modular system, so it can be catered to a company’s individual needs. Fry said his company will help a customer decide what parts of the system is best for them. Best of all, the system is hugely scalable, with the typical installation providing unlimited device and data connections, and unlimited users, for one cost.

“We work with the client to scope their requirements concisely up front,” he said.

“It means that we need to get a good insight into what their business is doing so that we can help pick the right metrics to measure. Results only come from the client taking those actions. It’s the visibility of that production process that allows people to make changes that drive those yield improvements.”

One local customer told Fry implementing changes based on the data the Ignition system highlighted offered up a net saving of “around seven percent” on running the plant.

That sounds like a lot, but tightening productivity, and quality is much easier when you have a tool like Ignition to help identify problem areas.

When the business is turns over more than $100 million, those savings get put into perspective pretty quickly, said Fry.

“For that particular project, we implemented a full visualisation and manufacturing execution system for [its product] and that has been a large-scale process,” said Fry.

“Apart from the obvious costs savings, it’s given the clients a much greater insight into their business.”

And that is the key to the whole Ignition platform.

It is designed to cut out the hassle of dealing with the different variety of vendors’ plant and machinery used in the manufacturing process. It allows for the monitoring and reporting of how the plant and machinery is working without having to go to each individual piece of equipment and find how it is running.

“Ignition helps to paint a picture of where your problems are,” said Fry.

“The important part about that is that we can measure in real time the productivity, quality or availability and the downtime of machinery in a production environment,” he said.

“By looking at those variables we are able to devise OEE [Overall Equipment Effectiveness]. What that does is give us not only real-time data but also provides us with historical data.

That data has huge potential, too, because we can look at the productivity of a line – month-on-month or product-on-product and understand whether the plant’s performance is getting better or worse.”

Fry is also at pains to point out the one other differentiation between Ignition and most of its competitors, which is the pricing structure.

“With many other systems you’ll need to buy more client licenses, more tags, more development licences. With Ignition’s standard unlimited licencing model, if you want to connect another section of plant or add 20 users, it costs no more than the engineering to design the pages.

“That can be an enormous saving and with some companies those extra fees legacy SCADA system impose can be a huge pain point,” said Fry.

SMC to showcase its new Industry 4.0 technologies at Foodtech Packtech New Zealand

As the global innovation race continues, the continent looks to it manufacturers to advance innovation, unlock new opportunities and to ultimately accelerate the economy.

This is evident in the food and packaging industries, where SMC has been working on its new Industry 4.0 technology.

SMC has a clear strategy and the technology to help implement Industry 4.0 solutions for all its customers.

Today it’s all about faster and more flexible processes and plants to ensure sustainable, increased production and reduced costs.

READ: Potato company partners with SMC to bring field to fork while saving energy

The company will be showcasing its latest Internet of Things (IoT) solutions for the food and packaging industries at this year’s FoodTech PackTech event in New Zealand.

SMC has also developed a state-of-the-art training system to further enhance the skills of maintenance teams for optimised productivity and maintenance scheduling.

The SIF-400 is SMC’s latest training system which looks to simulate a production line using IoT technologies.

Training can be conducted at the company’s training facilities or on-site and it allows maintenance team to get hands-on with the latest technologies in a safe and controlled environment.

SMC Digital transformation leader and electronic platforms manager Jozef Ceh will be featured as a guest speaker at FoodTech PackTech and will be talking about Industry 4.0.

Industry 4.0 brings with it a host of jargon and uncertainties.

The feedback from customers in the past when attending Industry 4.0 talks is that at the end of these, they still aren’t too sure of how to approach Industry 4.0 practically and how to incorporate it into their environment.

The team at SMC will be at FoodTech PackTech to discuss industry 4.0 with ease.

The event is at the ASB Showgrounds in Auckland from the 18th to 20th of September.

SMC delivers automation solutions worldwide.

It offers more than 12,000 basic products with over 700,000 variations.

SMC supports a practical approach to Industry 4.0

With advances in technology, industrial manufacturing is moving ahead at breakneck speed.  Machines are becoming more efficient due to cutting edge developments in automation that bring both improved performance and versatility. This combined with the development of intelligent robots means that smart machines are no longer a distant vision in the future.

According to Jozef Ceh, Electronic Platform Manager for SMC Australia | New Zealand the Industry 4.0 buzz is often confusing for customers. “We all know we have to get on the Industry 4.0 trend but how to do it practically is often the question. After some seminars and workshops I have encountered customers who are just more frustrated with all the jargon and talk when a practical approach is required” comments Jozef.

“That is where SMC comes in. We are simplifying it and helping our customers in practical ways to navigate through this sea of Industry 4.0 information – we offer products that are Industry 4.0 ready” adds Jozef.

Using advanced sensors and cloud computing, the internet of things can connect every phase of the production process to keep equipment operating at capacity, tracking any issues through the product life cycle including just-in-time maintenance and logistics. Today, these advances have been grouped together and are commonly referred to as Industry 4.0 – the next industrial revolution.

Along with the name, Industry 4.0 has generated a host of new terminology which Jozef says their experts are happy explain in more detail – these include:

  • Digital Production
  • Smart Service World
  • Automation
  • Real-time feedback
  • Big data
  • Individualization of products
  • Shopfloor Management
  • Batch size 1
  • Internet of things
  • Man/machine interface

To accelerated innovation through tailored services, SMC offers integrated product and system solutions. We help our customers create innovative solutions that add value to their business.

SMC can assist customers with the following:

  • support during the initial concept/planning stage
  • provide individual product and system concepts incorporating the latest technology
  • help optimise and modernise your plants

The outcome for the customer will be:

  • reduced lifecycle costs
  • lower operating costs
  • competitive advantages

Evolution through innovation

SMC is firmly committed to meeting the needs of our customers and we regard Industry 4.0 as the continuous and innovative development of both new and, in some cases, already existing SMC solutions and technologies.

With just a few small steps, it is already possible to successfully produce positive changes and take your first steps towards Industry 4.0.

Despite continuous developments in the manufacturing sector, manually operated valves still have their place in production. While many plants look to significant upgrades and welcome more flexible solutions, manually operated valves still provide significant benefits and are still relevant for certain applications. These hard working, robust valves offer control, durability and cost savings. “This is part of the practical advice customers can expect from SMC. We understand that it is an integration of what you currently have with where you want to be, and we can assist customers with selecting the best path for this implementation” concludes Ceh.