An Auckland manufacturer has come up with a way of measuring productivity it hopes will benefit New Zealand Inc.
At a glance
A solution that’s enabling one Auckland factory to become more productive could benefit the whole New Zealand manufacturing sector.
When Avondale-based manufacturer Mastip went looking for digital answers to its productivity questions, it discovered that Industry 4.0 is often more talk than action in this country.
Mastip makes hot runners, a specialist tool used for injection moulding of plastic products. It supplies companies making everything from plastic containers to automotive parts and mobile phones, and the global market for the tools is booming.
It has been gearing up to take advantage of this growth, investing up to $2 million in new manufacturing technology over the last 18 months.
But it knew it wasn’t producing as efficiently as it could.
“We had a long-running view through purely financial indicators that our productivity was relatively poor, which is a systemic issue for New Zealand. But then there was a big black hole as to what the reasons for that were,” CEO Marc Michel says.
Callaghan Innovation’s Advanced Manufacturing team worked with Mastip and Beckhoff Automation to come up with a way of measuring what’s happening on the factory floor and relaying that back to staff in real-time.
“The payoff is a huge step forward for us in understanding what productivity looks like, how we can consistently measure that across a range of processes, and how we can represent that to our manufacturing team so that they understand,” Marc says.
Mastip is not aware of other Kiwi factories using a similar system, and it’s not keeping its learnings to itself. It hopes the knowledge can help other manufacturers and improve New Zealand’s lacklustre position in global productivity rankings.
A dashboard on a 50-inch screen now gives staff at Mastip’s Avondale facility a view of how each of the factory’s CNC machines are operating at any one time.
There can be any number of reasons why a machine is not running at full capacity, from tooling changes to inefficient scheduling. Having this information in a repeatable and highly visible way helps Mastip’s planners make better decisions about routing work through the factory, Marc says.
“Now they can start to see which machines are suited to which jobs. We’ve already increased efficiency by making changes to our family groupings of machines and products.”
Setting up the system was no easy feat. It meant applying a modern digital solution to equipment that ranged from 15-year-old legacy machines through to the latest intelligent gear. “The challenge was how to even physically get the data - and Beckhoff’s skill and hardware was crucial to solving those challenges - then once we found a solution to that, how to represent it to people,” Marc says.
Mastip installed digital interfaces and data loggers to all machines and then daisy-chained them into a network PLC acting as database server outputting to an SQL database. Then it needed an integrator to design what to do with it. “This was a big data project. We had no experience in dealing with big data.”
This is where Callaghan Innovation came in. The Advanced Manufacturing team designed the software that interpreted the data, and then visualised that on a dashboard so that staff could understand what was going on.
“We have continued to learn and optimise the dashboard parameters and the factory team are right on board, they’re very excited about it,” Marc says.
Callaghan Innovation has been an essential partner on the project, and a bonus to working with the Government’s innovation agency was the opportunity to help other New Zealand companies, he says.
“Effectively what we’re doing together is developing solutions to benefit New Zealand Inc, because we’re more than happy to share what we’ve learned across this project,” Marc says.
Ivo Gorny, Callaghan Innovation’s Team Leader Electrical, says they’ve had interest from other companies, and a Mastip-style solution can be applied to all kinds of factories.
Other datasets can also be overlaid, he says.
“For instance, if your production process is spinning yarn, humidity in the air can have a huge impact on the quality of the product, and this is something you can measure.
“Bringing online and real-time data into the mix gives businesses a competitive advantage,” Ivo says.
Mastip has engaged with Callaghan Innovation in a variety of ways, gaining R&D Project and Growth Grant support, learning Lean process improvements skills, attending events such as the Manufacturing and Design (MaD) conference, and visiting Callaghan Innovation’s additive manufacturing learning lab (AddLab).
“Mastip’s appetite to engage heavily with Callaghan Innovation and the wider tech community is consistent with many of New Zealand’s most successful technology companies,” Customer Manager Manufacturing and Niche Phil Anderson says.
Updated: 11 December 2018