ONE ON ONE – David Ridgway

David Ridgway is a Member of the Legislative Council of the Parliament of South Australia and the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment in the State Government led by Premier Steven Marshall. He spoke to William Poole.

AMT: What’s the current state of play for the manufacturing industry in South Australia?

David Ridgway: South Australia has a very long history of manufacturing, which is transitioning into new, more advanced industries including space, energy and future mobility, and will rely on new materials and processes to be competitive. With more than $50bn in future defence manufacturing happening in South Australia, opportunities for business have never been better

Our geographic positioning, topography, climate, long, straight regional roads, world-class manufacturing and technology have positioned the state as a leader for safe autonomous vehicles – it’s worth pointing out that Adelaide is the only city in the world to be currently trialling four brands of autonomous shuttles in public areas. Adelaide has been chosen by EasyMile as the location for its Asia-Pacific headquarters, which is being established this month, and manufacturing will commence in partnership with South Australian businesses later this year.


AMT: What are the biggest challenges facing the industry in the state?

DR: The cyber-physical Fourth Industrial Revolution, or Industry 4.0, represents several unique implementation challenges for industry. It requires targeted investment in new digital technology and engineering-based skills to support the transition towards a modern industrial economy.

A key challenge is that many South Australian businesses are small – 98% of businesses in South Australia employ less than 20 people. We are committed to helping early adopters of these emerging technologies grow their business through facilitating export and international investment opportunities.


AMT: And what do you regard as the greatest strengths of manufacturers there?

DR: Technology plays a central role in the competitiveness of South Australia’s advanced manufacturing industry, supporting innovation, driving product and service development and improving performance

There are great synergies and collaboration between research, industry and education that will enable the state to prepare for industries of the future

In emerging technologies such as photonics, nanotechnology, additive manufacturing, advanced materials, robotics and digital technology, South Australia is demonstrating significant strengths in research and development expertise. The state has a unique fusion of talent and technologies that make ideas happen and is a launch-pad for forward-thinking businesses to grow across an increasingly competitive global market.


AMT: Tell us about what the Marshall Government is doing to support and promote manufacturing.

DR: The Marshall Liberal Government is committed to building a dynamic advanced manufacturing ecosystem and strong value chains, creating an environment for businesses to grow from concept to full commercialisation.

I recently joined several South Australian companies displaying at Hannover Messe (Germany) – a great opportunity for our South Australian companies to gain exposure on the world stage. This is the first time South Australia has exhibited at Hannover Messe, and as the only Australian state to exhibit there, we’re committed to being a first mover. It is important for our organisations to connect with global partners, thereby increasing the opportunities to boost trade and investment in the state.

The Marshall Liberal Government has also supported South Australian photonics companies to exhibit at global trade show Photonics West (in San Francisco), facilitating connections between innovative South Australian photonics manufacturers and global corporations.

We are supporting companies to develop their technical capability and business systems through our new Emerging Technology Interest Groups program. With these interest groups we will build closer connections between advanced manufacturers and provide a platform for companies to share their experiences and help accelerate the uptake of new technologies, supported by leading independent expertise present in our universities.

Through our innovation hub, Lot Fourteen, South Australia is developing a dynamic start-up ecosystem with a focus on future industries including manufacturing and design.

A point about making South Australia an attractive place to invest? Our recently established South Australian Productivity Commission will facilitate productivity growth, unlock new economic opportunities, support job creation and remove existing regulatory barriers.


AMT: Where do you want to see the industry in 10 years time?

DR: In 10 years’ time I would hope that we have a dynamic and specialised advanced manufacturing sector that is really seeing the defence and space industry sectors flourish. With the billions of dollars flowing into our state for the ships and subs builds, along with the National Space Agency, I’d hope that South Australia is a national leader in space industry, satellite manufacturing, frontier materials, photonics and much more. The opportunity to develop and scale up these industries in South Australia is massive.

I’d also like to see the pace from R&D (research & development) to market significantly shortened in the years ahead and hope that I would barely recognise the industry due a flourishing innovation and entrepreneurial sector constantly transforming and reshaping the industry to keep us competitive and consistent with global trends.


AMT: Tell us about your professional background and how you ended up in your current role.

DR: I am from the south-east of South Australia and grew up on the family farm. We diversified and grew bulbs for the cut flower industry. Due to biosecurity changes it was necessary to embrace the latest technology to be globally competitive and we eventually became the biggest gladioli supplier in Australia.

This experience in both the agricultural sector and in business gave me the skills to understand pressures on business and the things our State needs to focus on to be internationally competitive. I was interested in politics and a member of the Liberal Party for a long time, and was elected as a Member of the Legislative Council in 2002.


AMT: What’s the most satisfying aspect of the job?

DR: I am a passionate advocate of South Australia. We are the perfect size with a vibrant city that has everything you need. We have magnificent natural landscapes and beaches, outstanding food and wine. Additionally, we have some true ingenuity and innovation that has come out of South Australia. It’s fantastic to be able to tell the world about what a great place South Australia is to visit, live or invest in each day.

How coolant can improve thread-turning performance

Threads are machined features that exist universally, across all sectors of industry. Despite decades of performing thread-turning operations, advances in the process continue to be made, particularly when it comes to challenging materials such as stainless steel, heat resistant super alloys (HRSAs) and titanium. An example can be seen with the development of thread-turning tools that feature both over and under-coolant, the combined precision of which serves to extend tool life, elevate thread quality and deliver the potential to run with higher cutting data. The positive effects stand out even more when machining challenging workpiece materials.

There are many machinability issues with stainless steel (ISO M) and HRSA and titanium (ISO S) materials. With regard to ISO M materials, machinability often decreases with a higher alloy content. And while chip control is fair in ferritic/martensitic materials, it becomes more complex in austenitic and duplex types. Perhaps most troublesome of all is that machining these materials creates high cutting forces in combination with built-up edge and work-hardened surfaces. The combination of these factors serves to compromise tool life.

In terms of ISO S materials, the physical properties and machining behaviour of each varies considerably, due both to the chemical nature of the alloy and the structure of the material. For instance, annealing and aging can be influential on subsequent machining properties. It is well established that chip control is challenging, while the cutting forces and power required to successfully machine ISO S materials are quite high.

Keeping cool under pressure

It’s clear that the use of coolant when machining ISO M and ISO S materials is vital. However, cutting tool and tooling specialist Sandvik Coromant is able to demonstrate that the specific way in which coolant is applied can lead to a multitude of extra benefits in thread-turning operations. The focus here is on precision; utilising jets of coolant from different directions (located close to the cutting edge) to serve specific purposes.

The technology is evident in the newly extended CoroThread 266 range of tools for external thread turning, which offer precision over and under-coolant to improve process security and maximise efficiency. Over-coolant improves chip formation and removes chips from the cutting area, supporting more secure, trouble-free machining and fewer unplanned stoppages, while under-coolant controls temperature for long and predictable tool life. This configuration of precision coolant also has positive effects on surface finish, further supporting the generation of high-quality threads, while an additional benefit of this innovative technology is that it will allow the tool to run with higher cutting data, therefore reducing cycle times.

Process stability

Along with precision coolant, process stability is paramount to ensure the turning of threads that are right-first-time. For this reason, CoroThread 266 also features the proprietary iLock interface between the holder and insert, which prevents cutting forces from causing micro-movements of the insert in the tip seat, thus promoting accuracy, surface finish and consistency.

It can even be argued that precision coolant is able to troubleshoot thread-turning issues. For instance, those struggling with chip control and surface quality issues will certainly benefit from the application of over-coolant, which promotes chip evacuation and avoids defects caused by chips. Those with dimensional issues, which are normally attributable to excessive insert temperatures (leading to rapid insert wear), will benefit from the cooling action of under-coolant. In combination – over-coolant and under-coolant – the potential gains are considerable.

During tests measuring average flank wear per part when thread-turning ISO M components, results were compared between standard external coolant and precision over- and under-coolant. Running at 40 bar (580 psi), the amount of flank wear was noticeably less upon comparing the threads turned using external coolant and those produced with precision over-coolant. Flank wear was reduced further still with precision under-coolant. As a general observation, tool life almost doubled.

Through testing it is possible to see that the use of precision coolant can offer significant gains in insert tool life. This effect has also been witnessed during numerous customer trials.

Customer trial results

One customer turning Whitworth pipe threads (G 1¼ inch (3.175cm)) on SS2333 grade stainless steel parts enjoyed a notable gain in tool life against the best competitor product. Moreover, the use of CoroThread 266, even at less than 10 bar (145 psi) pressure, meant that chip control was greatly improved, with chips no longer sticking to the component and/or tool in the same manner as previously. Chips that stick can cause surface damage to the part, or get jammed between the cutting edge and component, leading to potential insert breakage.

Another customer, this time turning UN threads (60°, 3½ inch (8.89cm), 8 TPI) on AISI 422 stainless steel workpieces enjoyed very impressive increases in both tool life and cutting speeds. Operating with high-pressure coolant, the customer reports being very satisfied with the outcome, which also offered far better chip control.

Further tests have demonstrated impressive gains in tool life when performing thread turning on 316L stainless steel parts, as well as Ti6Al4V titanium alloy.

Other materials

Aside from challenging ISO M and ISO S materials, in many cases the use of precision coolant technology is recommended in steel (ISO P) components, as demonstrated by yet another customer. Despite low pressure of just 7-10 bar (102-145 psi), a machine shop turning 1 inch (2.5cm) NPT threads (11½ TPI) on AISI 1215 unalloyed steel witnessed a significant increase in tool life.

In tests on ISO P materials, there are marked reductions in flank wear per component when comparing precision over and under-coolant at 40 bar (580 PSI) with standard external coolant application. Tests also show that, although the solution demonstrates benefits at less than 10 bar, pressures of 70 bar will provide optimum results in terms of reduced average flank wear.

Ultimately, precision coolant effectively removes heat from the cutting edge and provides the possibility to increase cutting speed and thereby achieve higher productivity, with maintained tool life. In addition, precision coolant helps to remove chips from component and tool, and improve chip formation, which in turn boosts process security.

Harnessing PhD skills to transform Australian manufacturing

The Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute’s (AMSI) APR.Intern program is making it easier for manufacturing innovators to access specialist research skills, as a new report reveals the sector is among Australia’s top PhD employers. By Laura Watson.

Released in May by AMSI and CSIRO Data61’s student-employer matching platform,, ‘Advancing Australia’s Knowledge Economy – Who are the top PhD employers?’ shows over half of PhD students are hoping to work in industry. One of the biggest factors in this shift is the lack of university-based positions. PhD graduate numbers are overtaking academic demand, with annual completions soaring from under 4000 annually in the year 2000 to almost 10,000 today. This trend has seen some of Australia’s largest business employers emerge as leading PhD recruiters.

Aligned with the nation’s growth sectors, medicine, pharmaceuticals, mining and finance join advanced manufacturing as top employers. There is also growing demand across emerging industries such as environmental services and media technology and services.

This is good news for big business and SMEs looking for quantitative, analytical and research expertise to drive advanced and digital manufacturing innovation. The scope of roles for PhDs continues to broaden, with global competition driving many firms to diversify their workforce with specialist skills across a range of disciplines.

The challenge is bridging the gap between academia and industry to produce a supply of PhDs equipped to make the transition. Australia’s economy, innovation capability and global competitiveness is dependent on the effective skilling of this workforce to apply specialist expertise within a commercial business environment.

Helping meet this challenge since its launch in 2007 as AMSI Intern, APR.Intern remains Australia’s only national postgraduate internship program. The program has refined a model that benefits both academia and industry. A significant ingredient in its success is its reach across Australia’s academic and industry communities, including strong partnerships across the manufacturing sector.

A powerful doorway between two worlds with so much to gain from each other, the program’s impact on research-industry collaboration is evident. While we are seeing a slow cultural change, universities are increasingly aware of the benefits of industry partnerships and the value of this research as a catalyst for academic success. Similarly, as the afore-mentioned report shows, industry is embracing PhD talent as an innovation accelerator.

“Platforms such as APR.Intern are critical to building pathways between academic research and industry, putting industry opportunities at reach for PhD students and helping industry access the skills they need,” says Gary Hogan, APR.Intern Director and Melbourne Enterprise Professor.

With a long history of perfect research matches to accelerate industry innovation, Australia’s only all-sector, all-discipline PhD internship program has Industry 4.0 sorted. The manufacturing sector is set to benefit from a funding partnership between APR.Intern and the Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (IMCRC). Under the agreement, 23 skilled PhD students will be matched to manufacturing innovators to help drive advanced and digital manufacturing and optimisation solutions.

“We are excited to be partnering on these opportunities to transform the sector, putting new technologies, business models and digitalisation in the reach of manufacturers including big business and SMEs,” Hogan adds.

With manufacturing projects attracting up to $13,000 in IMCRC funding support, as well as a 50% Federal Government Rebate, APR.Intern is an effortless solution for manufacturing industry seeking to harness opportunities within advanced and digital manufacturing.

“These placements bring specialised research skills to the manufacturing table while also transforming university-industry research engagement,” Hogan explains. “It is a win for all, and importantly, a boost for Australian innovation.”

Injecting $28.2m into PhD internships, Federal Government investment in APR.Intern has led to a national-scale program expansion since 2017. A significant win for both universities and industry, the scheme is part of ongoing government strategies to boost the number of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics – critical to reaching Australia’s innovation potential.

Currently, women account for 16% of the STEM workforce, and will play a key role in meeting demand for skill supply as we seek to position Australia as an innovation nation. As well as encouraging female PhD students to apply, APR.Intern is helping stimulate critical national conversation about how the innovation sector can better support gender equity to protect future capability and capacity.

For SMEs looking to advance innovation capability, the program is a gateway to specialist research capability with opportunity to work with both a PhD student and academic supervisor. The best part is the business retains the IP, and with APR.Intern there to look after everything, there is little risk and no administrative burden.

“Low-risk, high-impact, it is the perfect platform for advanced and digital manufacturing leaders to discover the benefits of engaging with skilled researchers,” says Hogan.

Engineering export success

For Dr Luke Djukic, Chief Technical Officer at Omni Tanker, the program was a no-brainer for the composite technology leader. After being matched to then-PhD student Manudha ‘Thinu’ Herath, the company was able to engineer its way into the European market.

“We were matched with Thinu at a critical time in this project,” says Djukic. “To be able to rapidly and seamlessly tap into his specialised engineering skills made a significant difference for Omni Tanker, and is one of the reasons APR.Intern is so successful.”

Now employed full time with the company, Thinu applied his specialist engineering skills to design a lightweight, safe composite tank for the transport of corrosive and high-purity chemicals, compliant with stringent European standards. As well as structural design, he developed and tested the 4,000-litre tank’s fire protection system. This was later tested in Germany and the tanks are now on the market in Europe and the USA.

“Thinu was able to offer a higher level of finite element analysis capability compared to that which already existed in the company,” adds Djukic. “This improved design process efficiency and reduced development time.”

In a world transfixed by the possibilities of technology, automation and big data, industry demand for research only continues to climb. Strengthened industry-research pathways are critical if companies like Omni Tanker are to flourish in the global market.

With increasing numbers of PhD students looking to open up their world with industry research, opening the gateway for collaboration is more important than ever. As Omni Tanker and Herath discovered, the chance to apply specialist skills to real-world challenges is transformative for all involved.

Unmatched access

At the core of APR.Intern’s success in bridging industry and research is the program’s unmatched access to industry and academia with networks across all-disciplines and sectors. The program works with all Australian universities, and with industry partners across defence, telecommunications, environmental conservation and agriculture, banking and finance, medical research and government.

As well as the IMCRC, the program has deepened its presence within the defence and health innovation sectors with partnerships to place interns through the Defence Science and Technology Group, Defence Innovation Network, Defence Science Institute and the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre. Agreements that cement APR.Intern as the leading force delivering PhDs to the commercial innovation frontline.

With PhDs supported through their placements by an academic mentor, APR.Intern is also opening doors for established academic researchers looking to engage with industry innovation. A conversation long overdue with Australia trailing OECD counterparts in research-industry collaboration.

For manufacturing SMEs and big business, opening up the world of academic research means greater capacity to lead the advancement of new technologies, working smarter and importantly the ability to compete globally. It is a slip lane onto the innovation superhighway that they can’t afford to miss.

With over 52% of PhDs set to enter industry opportunities, there is a ready supply of specialist expertise to drive innovation into the future. Programs such as APR.Intern make it easier to find the right fit for your innovation challenge.

These internships are supported by the Australian Government Department of Education and Training, through the ‘Supporting more women in STEM careers: Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute (AMSI) – National Research Internship Program’. To discover how you can open up your world and accelerate innovation in your business with APR.Intern, visit:

The sense test – How human senses are revolutionising industrial robots

As season two of the critically acclaimed TV show Westworld came to a close in June 2018, it continued to fuel a conversation around what the robot of the future will look like. While many still believe in the not-too-distant future we will have human-like robots such as those depicted in sci-fi blockbusters like Blade Runner, it will be functionality that dictates the appearance of these machines. John Young discusses how allowing manufacturing robots to see and feel is enabling them to step out of the cage.

When we think of robots, we often think of either clunky metal frames that complete menial tasks, or something so human it is almost indistinguishable to the person standing next to you. Both appearances have their uses though, whether it’s for picking, packing and palletising in a manufacturing plant, or entertaining guests at an amusement park.

Traditionally, robots have been large and noisy pieces of equipment, often posing potential safety risks to the workforce. A new breed of collaborative robots has changed this though, allowing machines to work side-by-side with human employees. This type of robot is now becoming increasingly commonplace on the plant floor, revolutionising the manufacturing process.

In a study carried out by the University of Tennessee’s Knoxville Global Supply Chain Institute, robotics was identified as one of the biggest supply chain disruptors.

Paul Dittmann, Executive Director of the Global Supply Chain Institute and author of the paper, said: “Robots have been around for more than 50 years, but they have become dramatically more dynamic in the last five. They are no longer stationary, blind, expensive and unintelligent, but can work alongside people and learn as jobs change.”

The evolution of the humble robot

One of the biggest advances in robotics is the deployment of sensors that allow robots to both see and feel. By integrating and retrofitting sensors to a manufacturing robot, it can undertake much more complicated tasks, which a human workforce may not. The IDTechEx report Sensors for Robotics: Technologies, markets and forecasts 2017-2027 predicts that the market for robotic vision and force sensing is expected to reach over $16.1bn by 2027. These types of sensors are just the tip of the iceberg though.

Drive and control technologies company Bosch Rexroth has recently released a six-axis arm collaborative robot, which uses a capacitive sensor skin to avoid collisions without making physical contact with an object. Featuring more than 120 sensors, the skin allows the robot to stop automatically at a safe speed if it senses an employee has entered its operating zone. Using a capacitive electrical field to detect nearby obstacles, the robot will continue to work once it senses the person has moved to a safe zone.

Scientists in Japan have also added the ability to smell to possible robot senses. Researchers at Kyushu University have developed a robot that can detect odours using a technique known as localised surface plasmon resonance (LSPR), which measures changes in light absorption by gold nanoparticles upon exposure to a gas.

LSPR is a collective oscillation of conduction band electrons in metal nanoparticles, excited by the electromagnetic waves of incident light. While there are robots available on the market that can detect airborne odours already, they are significantly slower at analysing data.

Taking the next steps

Advancements in both software and hardware have enabled the creation of more advanced robots featuring an array of sensors and processing possibilities. While early robots were limited to performing more menial tasks, this new range of sensors is increasing decision making capabilities with more sophisticated analysis of data.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is taking this one step further, allowing robots to learn from experiences, providing them with a far greater level of dexterity. AI software enables robots to identify specific objects, studying how they behave when picked, pushed and even dropped. This in turn impacts on how the robot will handle them in the future.

With developments in robotics showing no sign of slowing down, it doesn’t mean older models and technologies are obsolete, particularly given that regularly replacing your industrial robots can be an expensive process. Working with a supplier of obsolete parts such as EU Automation can ensure your plant remains operational and that your robot workforce is as efficient as the day you brought it.

While we may be a few years off from robots running our theme parks, there is no doubt that they are becoming more advanced by the day. With the global market for industrial robots predicted to reach $1.9bn by 2022, robots continue to drive smart manufacturing lines, making production processes more efficient and profitable for investing industries.

John Young is a Sales Manager at industrial parts supplier EU Automation.

Anthony Machine reaps benefits of quick-change toolholders

For more than three decades, Kennametal’s KM brand of quick-change tooling has been making machine shops more efficient. As customers will attest, KM provides shorter set-up times, greater flexibility, higher machine utilisation, and the ability to meet the industry’s increasingly stringent requirements head on.

One customer is Anthony Machine, based in San Antonio, Texas. Since 1946, the job shop has served a variety of industries, including oil & gas, mining, transportation and power generation. With all that precision machining experience, there’s little that Anthony Machine can’t handle. However, after the company purchased a pair of NLX 3000 1250 universal turning centres from DMG MORI – the shop’s first Y-axis, live-tool lathes – Anthony Machine’s manufacturing team was challenged with making the most of that new investment.

Kennametal Senior Sales Engineer Mark Davis was there to help. He explained to the team at Anthony Machine that the best way to reduce set-up times and maximise the new machines’ potential would be to equip them with Turret Adapted Clamping Units (TACUs) and KM quick-change toolholders.

“The TACU system supports everything from KM32 up to KM63,” says Davis. “We offer blocks for both static and driven tools, and can tool up lathes from Okuma, Haas, Mazak, Doosan, and of course DMG MORI – pretty much all of the major machine tool builders, with more coming online all the time. This makes it both easy and cost-effective for our customers to equip more than 80 models of CNC turning centres with a fast, flexible and accurate quick-change toolholding system.”

According to Daniel Goller, Manufacturing Technologist at Anthony Machine, the decision to adopt TACU and KM for the new machines was an easy one.

“Over the years, we’ve built a number of KM-equipped custom toolholders for deep boring and other machining operations on our CNC lathes and machining centers, and we use Kennametal on several of the shop’s manual turret lathes to overcome limitations with available tool positions,” he says. “On more than one occasion, we’ve earned new business because KM was able to achieve tolerances and surface finishes that others couldn’t do with conventional tooling.”

Anthony Machine’s Operations Manager Mohsen Saleh agrees: “The differences are striking. Compared to the traditional wedge and screw-style blocks that come standard on most machines, the KM-equipped TACU units are both faster and more accurate. We routinely hold tolerances of 0.013 mm, and I’m told that part size doesn’t change from one clamping to the next. The turret’s less crowded, everything’s easier to get at, and you don’t have the chatter and deflection that you often find with your typical straight shank tools and set-screw type boring bar holders.”

Davis notes: “Anthony Machine’s experience with TACU is what we’ve come to expect from KM. Considering the breadth of the platform, its accuracy, and especially its flexibility, it’s quickly become the de facto industry standard in quick-change tooling.”

Saleh summarises Anthony Machine’s recent success with a bit of company perspective: “We bought our first CNC machine in 1986. At that time, we were using a well-known competitive brand, and then Kennametal came knocking. What first struck us was their service-oriented attitude. They’ve always been willing to come in and work with us on applications, which together with the quality of their products is why they’ve since become our preferred tooling supplier. We’re always competing against smaller, lower-cost shops, and in order to continue winning new business in this environment, we have to adopt the latest in advanced tooling and machine tool technology. This is what’s given us the edge, and Kennametal is a big part of it.”

SLM Solutions names Meddah Hadjar as new CEO

SLM Solutions Group, the German manufacturer of 3D printers for additive manufacturing in metal, has announced the appointment of Meddah Hadjar as its new CEO.

Hadjar comes to the company with a wealth of international experience in product management, additive manufacturing and engineering, having spent more than 20 years in key leadership roles at US-company General Electric, with experience in the business units of GE Aviation, GE Oil & Gas, GE Power and GE Energy Management. SLM Solutions’ Supervisory Board strongly believes that Hadjar is ideally suited to lead the company as CEO, due to his breadth and depth of experience.

With qualifications in the aerospace industry, Hadjar is keen to build on his experience in GE Aviation promoting the uptake of SLM Solutions systems in this sector. His background enables him to identify the limitations of traditional manufacturing in aerospace and aviation and the opportunities 3D metal printing presents.

In a recent interview with 3D Printing Media Network, Hadjar discussed how the aerospace and aviation industries have been early adopters of the technology. Hadjar sees the role of SLM Solutions as building on the opportunities and advantages of additive manufacturing to this sector; the company’s systems can both provide series production for volume runs for commercial aviation, and build specialised parts for more limited applications required by the defence sector.

Recently Rolls-Royce purchased an SLM 500 quad-laser machine, which will provide improved product quality than was achieved with its current single laser system, as well as increased build rates.w The SLM 500 is the flagship metal 3D printer for high-volume processes and will be used by Rolls-Royce to explore applications in the aerospace sector.

With installations worldwide SLM Solutions is meeting needs in a range of industries such as automotive, medical, dental and aerospace. Its products include the SLM 125, the SLM 280 production series, the SLM 280 2.0, the SLM 500 and the SLM 800.

Austin Engineering – New robotic welder to boost efficiency and output

The commissioning of a custom-designed dual-cell robotic welding system at the Austin Engineering facility in Perth, WA, will lift efficiency, productivity and output: benefits that underpin the specialty customised designs the company manufactures for the mining industry world-wide.

For more than 35 years Austin has designed and engineered unique production and maintenance equipment including dump truck bodies, excavator buckets, water tanks and tyre handlers. Austin-designed equipment has given its customers significantly improved productivity and increased output through designs that have enhanced the operational efficiency and availability of site production equipment.

The new dual-cell robotic welding system, as well as offering the obvious advantages of modern robotic welding technology, includes features to improve overall efficiency and product capabilities. A mobile gantry carrying two six-axis articulated arm robots, each interfaced with a digital pulse welding module, dominates the system. Mounted on rails, the double gantry provides 14m of longitudinal travel and 10m of lateral travel to service the two new side-by-side production cells. Vertical travel is 2m.

The system includes both online and offline programming capabilities. Whereas the previous robot could only be programmed once the component was loaded into the cell, all necessary programming can now be completed prior to the job being loaded into a production cell.

The online/offline programming feature, combined with the system’s laser tracking feature increases arc time as the robot can weld without having to stop for any adjustments to the program or the job. An ‘out of position’ weld feature also maintains uninterrupted job progress.

“When fully operational, the new system will lift efficiency, productivity and overall capability throughout the facility,” said Geoff Collins, Operations Manager at Austin Engineering Perth.

The new robot welds marginally faster but Collins says this is only one of the production improvements the system will deliver. He emphasises that overall improvement will be a combination of a number of productivity inputs and cites the new robot’s capability to work on all products in the Austin Engineering range (the previous robot was restricted to truck floors).

“As well, access to the latest robot welding technology and software, the two side-by-side production cells, which can be loaded or unloaded without interruption to the robot’s work schedule and advance planning functionality, will all add to overall productivity improvement,” he added.

Collins said the benefits to customers will come in the form of shorter lead and turnaround times: “And that should ultimately improve their operational efficiency and productivity.”

Bunzl Safety – Harnessing business consolidation and mobility to secure success

Bunzl Safety, a subsidiary of Bunzl Australasia, offers workwear, footwear, personal protective equipment (PPE), lifting and materials handling equipment, height safety systems and technical services. With more than 60 years in the business, Bunzl Safety is a well-respected brand servicing Australian organisations in a wide range of sectors including manufacturing, mining, energy, heavy industrial, building and construction, healthcare, food processing, government and defence.

As well as providing an array of personal protective gear and onsite materials, Bunzl also offers a selection of technical services that extends the business’s safety offering to deliver a complete, whole-of-site safety solution. It offers a range of options for businesses to confirm the safety of their sites, including equipment testing and servicing, site safety assessments and hands-on education courses to ensure that all staff are proficient in on-site safety.

Bunzl Safety was acquired from Jeminex and had three separate companies which provided workwear, safety equipment, lifting and rigging products. All these three businesses were independent users of Pronto Xi business management solutions – leaving Bunzl Safety with the arduous task of running three distinct systems. This, combined with differing business rules and processes across the three divisions, created inefficiency, higher costs – and most importantly limited visibility for management about overall operations.

Bunzl Safety decided to undertake an end-to-end consolidation to align processes, aggregate data and transition the business onto one common platform.

“When the early planning for the project was underway, the company evaluated other systems,” says Carolyn Grice, Business Systems Manager at Bunzl Safety. “Ultimately our staff preferred the Pronto Xi environment and based on their previous experience, they were confident that the Pronto Software team had the necessary expertise to guide them through the complex task of aligning business processes and data.

“Also, in terms of training and getting people up to speed, Pronto Xi is easy and intuitive. It didn’t require a lot of time for new users to become confident, and that was an important factor in deciding to stay with Pronto.”

A strong technology partner makes change easier

The first subsidiary company began using the latest version of Pronto Xi within 18 months of the deployment decision – and the two remaining subsidiary companies were aligned on Pronto Xi four months later.

“Pronto Software was involved in the process the whole way through,” explains Grice. “We did an enormous amount of work to merge all the data into a single database and implement common business processes. The main challenge was linked to Bunzl staff changes during the course of the project.”

The completion of the consolidation project also marked a new phase for the organisation.

“Bunzl Safety is now in a position to undertake further acquisitions and to grow our business,” Grice adds. “We couldn’t have done that without a common ERP system that enabled consolidation and clarity – and without the assistance of the Pronto Software team at every key step along our journey.”

Gearing up a business to work

With its consolidated ERP solution, Bunzl Safety was able to seamlessly manage its safety equipment inventory across all business units. Pronto Xi gave the Bunzl Safety team the visibility they needed to ensure they always had stock to fulfil customer orders at anytime, anywhere. As well as being able to easily confirm where stock was, and how much was to-hand, Pronto Xi also delivers valuable insights about product suppliers and vendors to aid the procurement and ordering process.

Bunzl Safety has 230 Pronto Xi users spanning its back-office functions, warehouse and 50-strong field sales force – many of which often work in rural and remote areas.

“The Bunzl Safety sales team are probably one of our biggest beneficiaries,” says Grice. “They are now able to access the Pronto Xi CRM system to look up the status of orders, update customer notes and review latest activities, even when they are working remotely. This greatly enhances their credibility and enables quicker decision making.”

The customer service teams are also heavy Pronto Xi users. When responding to a sales enquiry, they are now able to enter the query into Pronto Xi CRM for follow-up and the activity is automatically registered and even available within Microsoft Outlook.

“Customer service is critical to us and Pronto Xi ensures the information we need to respond to requests is available – increasing the speed at which resolution is achieved,” adds Grice.

Third-party integrations fit like a glove

Bunzl Safety uses a number of third-party Pronto Xi integrations and aims to automate as many processes as possible.

“Our customers can now enter their orders into the Pronto Xi Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) system and it is automatically synchronised with Pronto Xi for processing and dispatch,” Grice explains. “This is a big win in terms of efficiency and speeds up our response rate. This is critical as many of our customers have staff working in high-risk situations and without the right equipment the job will stop.”

Dispatch is another key integration for the Bunzl Safety team. When an order is entered into Pronto Xi, it will query the freight system to find the best carrier for the order to its destination. The order is then processed and sent using the most appropriate freight company for its final delivery.

Bunzl Australasia, the parent company of Bunzl Safety Australia, also has its own business intelligence tool, which is integrated into Pronto Xi for reporting and planning purposes. This allows both entities to generate reports on stock, profit and loss, as well as comparative sales.

Finding safety in a hosted cloud solution

Bunzl Safety chose Pronto Cloud to host a range of applications, including Pronto Xi.

“We reviewed a number of hosting schemes but decided on Pronto Cloud because of its price-competitiveness, as well as its unsurpassed Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) solution,” says Grice.

Reliable business continuance is a major requirement for Bunzl Safety, which tests its systems regularly to make sure that if there is an outage, restoration is quick and seamless.

“Pronto Software offers us a great service – and their support team is excellent. Based on this, we recently made the decision to move all our other servers onto Pronto Cloud’s facility,” says Grice. “The Pronto Xi ERP system has created an efficient platform to enable continued profitable growth and the capacity to take on any future acquisition opportunities. For Bunzl Safety, our relationship with Pronto Software is built on the trust that when we need them, Pronto Software will be there to listen and support us as best they can.”

Safety is what Bunzl Safety does. It understands that quality safety equipment not only provides businesses with confidence to operate throughout their day but also offers a higher level of physical comfort resulting in optimised performance. By leveraging Pronto Software’s consolidated and streamlined ERP solution, Bunzl Safety has been able to deliver on its mission to bring head to toe safety to its customers in a cost-effective and efficient manner.

Smart agility, or a knee-jerk response?

Speed of response has always been critical in manufacturing. From assembly lines in Henry Ford’s era to today’s modern configuration tools, speed and efficiency have been priorities for profit-driven manufacturers. The idiom “Time is money” could be the rallying cry behind most key manufacturing initiatives — from Lean processes to continuous improvement and ISO compliance. Shaving minutes from work cycles has become paramount. But at what cost? By Helen Masters.

Now, digital technologies have put “agility” in the spotlight. The ability to react to volatility in the market place is critical. However, responding to change is not enough. Manufacturers must also anticipate future trends and strive to predict customer needs to properly prepare and adapt in advance.

While modern technology supports this approach, the continuous rush of uncontrolled change can start to resemble a dog chasing its own tail. Strategy can’t be overlooked because without meaningful objectives, speed of change can be chaotic. As more manufacturers embark on digital journeys, now is the time to pause, consider the ongoing quest for speed and put it into perspective.

A pause to consider

Any seasoned veteran of manufacturing remembers the days of apprenticeships, training programs, and job shadowing. There were no manuals, automated workflows, or timestamps on batches. But there was a big clock on the wall and foreman with a clipboard. Sometimes, an efficiency expert would be brought in, along with their stopwatch and their zeal for time studies, task analysis, and eliminating worker breaks.

It was rare that a manufacturing plant did not have motivational posters in the breakroom or banners across the entrance reminding workers of the value of safety, quality, and efficiency. The banners seldom preached “Make a customer happy” or “Innovation starts here”, because speed always trumped everything else.

Yet we were incredibly slow, by today’s standards. Technology has continuously redefined timely responses, expectations for turnaround times, and what constitutes a highly productive workday. Even B2B commerce is fast-tracked. Our smart phones, tablets, and apps give us instant gratification as we hit “Purchase” and know exactly when we can expect delivery.

But can engineers specifying custom dimensions for major industrial equipment, like generators, also expect over-night delivery? Do we want mission-critical equipment — like medical devices or mining equipment — to be fast-tracked through testing and inspections? Perhaps not. Some things shouldn’t be rushed.

Risks from over-emphasis on speed

There are certainly downsides to focusing on speed alone. We know that speed without cautionary restraints or restricted parameters can be hazardous. Giving a customer everything they ask for can destroy margins. The same is true with levels of speed. At some point, acceleration will exceed the return on investment (ROI), costing more to cut that extra hour out of delivery times than can be gained from extra sales or customer loyalty. Someone in the organisation must know where that point is, and make sure the ongoing effort to speed processes retains value and translates to more sales and bottom-line impact.

Today, we use the term “agility” when talking about pivoting toward new markets, adjusting the supply chain in response to weather patterns, and anticipating customer needs. Agility implies the ability to move quickly while retaining a firm footing and some degree of grace. It is not rushing at full speed. It is not blindly jumping on every fad. It is the difference between a racehorse running at full force out of the gate and one that paces itself to run the full race and make a powerful surge down the final stretch to win.

Diving into a new niche market or rushing to invest in a trendy product line just because you want to be there first is high-risk if you don’t pause long enough to do the proper due diligence. Technology tools that generate data and forecast trends can help simplify decisions, but they can’t eliminate the need for C-level setting of priorities and determining focus areas. Having the discipline not to chase every opportunity is essential in today’s landscape that is exploding in bursts of ideas. Not every idea or time-saving short-cut leads to greater profitability.

What level of acceleration is right?

Manufacturers often make rapid decisions that are largely automated, with complex questions streamlined into basic “Go” or “No go” choices. The challenge is knowing when to trust automation and when to route escalations to a human for sign-off or personalised intervention. Many technologies have built-in safeguards to keep “fast” answers from being wrong. For example, Configure Price Quote solutions also have limitations built-in so the user cannot exceed safety or engineering parameters.

Every manufacturer must find its own balance of agility, acceleration, automation, and constraint – to conform to its own risk attitudes and growth priorities. The main takeaway from this reflection on the merits and risks of speed is that manufacturers should step on the accelerator to keep pace with market demands — but not abandon common sense when it comes to making short cuts. A strategy is always essential, even if that means pausing the whirlwind of activities.

Helen Masters is the Senior Vice-President and General Manager – Asia Pacific at Infor.

New augmented reality safety guide sparks interest for metalworkers

Pro-Visual Publishing has released the latest edition of its Metal Manufacturing Industry Guide to Safety, produced in partnership with the Australian Industry Group, and this year’s edition comes with augmented reality functionality.

Printed in a 1m x 1m format, the Guide is designed to be displayed in a place that is accessible to all workers. In doing so it will help to aid in the promotion of health and safety and serve as a constant reminder to metal workers of potential hazards and threats that could jeopardise one’s safety in the workplace.

This year’s Guide features select topics that have been considered to be of the most importance to metalworkers. The topics this year include: manual handling for transporting materials; welding fumes and their carcinogenic effects; tips for staying hydrated; industrial deafness; and workplace traffic management.

One particularly exciting feature of the Guide is its use of augmented reality (AR) technology, allowing the printed guide to come to life through digital technology. By simply downloading the free Pro-Vis AR app, users can use their smart devices to scan over any AR-enabled content. In doing so, metalworkers can access further resources such as videos to use in induction and training workshops. Thanks to the Guide’s corporate partners, it is possible for the new edition to be distributed free to the metal manufacturing industry.

“I would like to thank all the sponsors of the Metal Manufacturing Industry Guide to Safety 2019-20,” said John Hutchings, CEO of Pro-Visual Publishing. “Their support has made it possible for the Guide to be distributed free of charge.”