Vernier– A passion for manufacturing

For three quarters of a century, the Victorian Vernier Society has provided a meeting place for those who consider manufacturing essential in sustaining a strong, vibrant Australian economy. Here the Society’s president Kerry Little takes us on a tour of its history, and its plans for the future.

In 1942, with World War 2 at its height in the Asia Pacific region, a group of Melbourne manufacturing companies formed the Victorian Vernier Society with the aim of assisting the war effort by co-operatively increasing their production. The Society quickly became a meeting place for Melburnian manufacturing people to share experiences, information and stories. Many manufacturing businesses at that time were family-owned and as manufacturing became crucial to the growing post-war Australian economy, the Society’s monthly luncheon became a gathering place for all those who believed passionately in ‘making things’.

In 2017, Vernier celebrated 75 years of existence. Despite manufacturing’s diminished role in the Australian economy, the reduced number of family-owned manufacturing businesses and the decline in manufacturing employment, the Society has remained the monthly meeting place for all those who have a passion for manufacturing. The Society still believes, perhaps more than ever in today’s globalised world, that making things is essential for a vibrant, sustainable Australian economy. The Society appreciates the nature of business is changing, manufacturing is transforming and advancing, and business leaders have more pressures on their time than ever before. Yet there is still great strength in continuity and networks, as exemplified by Vernier.

In 1938, the Australian manufacturing sector’s contribution to GDP was 19%, just short of the rural sector’s contribution of 20%. With the outbreak of war in 1939, industrialisation increased as Australia switched its resources to supporting the war effort as key industries expanded and new ones grew to produce munitions, ships, aircraft and new kinds of machinery. Machinery imports dried up as most machines were imported from England, which needed to work at full capacity just to keep pace with its own needs. To ensure the optimum use of machines and equipment, Government bodies were set up to ration and control their use. Manpower also required strict planning as people were moved around from one facility to another to maximise output. Previously male-dominated craft unions allowed women to replace men at the bench and semi-skilled workers carried out the previous work of the skilled.

In 1942, most manufacturing companies were small (30 to 100 workers) and predominantly family businesses of father and son used to an uncontrolled economy where production was geared to local needs and chosen markets. Government bodies began to operate a ‘command’ economy but shortages occurred such as in quality steels, specialty materials and modern manufacturing processes. Vernier was inaugurated in Melbourne to specifically assist in finding practical solutions to these problems using co-operation to lift production efficiency.

After the war, the late 1940s and the 1950s saw the growth of industrialisation driven by a rising population fuelled by immigration and increasing demand for consumer products. It was also a time of increased unionisation and increasing labour shortages. The Vernier Executive was instrumental in solving this problem; four Vernier executives led a mission to England to recruit 250 skilled workers, mainly engineering and foundry tradesmen and electricians whose migration was subsidised by members’ contributions. While England was equally keen to keep its skilled labour, in the end 500 tradesmen emigrated. As well as acquiring skilled labour, the Society was heavily involved in the promotion of apprenticeships and the establishment of technical education centres, from which Monash University with its strong engineering and science departments was eventually created.

By the 1960s, manufacturing had peaked at just over 25% of GDP and employed around a quarter of the nation’s workforce, but since the mid-1970s the manufacturing sector has seen a slow, steady decline as a result of sharp increases in labour costs, exchange rate challenges and the long-term failure to match productivity gains in other countries.

Australian manufacturing has become more specialised. Imports now account for about 30% of total sales of manufactured goods in the Australian market, compared with around 21% in the late 1980s. On the other hand, nearly 13% of Australian manufacturing output is now exported, twice as much as in the 1980s (though this has fallen slightly since 2001). Australia’s top 30 manufactured exports now include specialised motor vehicles, pharmaceuticals, computer components, telecommunications equipment and aircraft components, though the recent demise of the mass-market automotive industry will change this profile.

Through all these changes, the Vernier Society has managed to maintain a small but significant presence on the landscape of Melburnian manufacturing companies. While some members moved interstate and failed to build a complementary sister organisation in NSW, the Victorians enjoyed the celebration of their 50th year of existence in 1992 with the issue of a book edited by historian Geoffrey Blainey called the ‘Collective Memoir’. An extract from the book explains the ethos of the Victorian Vernier Society:

“Vernier exists not as a set of incidents in time and space but rather as an Australian spirit and a culture that has filled a room in Melbourne, once a month, for 50 years. Our spirit and culture has remained remarkably stable over time. In this way we are a negation of history; history is about change whereas Vernier is about continuity.”

Why manufacturing matters

On 5 August 2011, hundreds of tourists and space enthusiasts packed the Florida shoreline of Cape Canaveral to watch as the Juno space probe was launched. Following a near-five-year journey to Jupiter, the probe will complete 32 rotations of the gas giant, skimming within 5,000km of the planet’s cloud tops and sending back millions of pieces of information.

Each component of the spacecraft has been manufactured to extraordinary precision and assembled with infinite care at the Lockheed Martin space system facility in the US. This is not just advanced manufacturing – this is leading-edge manufacturing. When the first pictures come back, imagine not just the great thrill of the NASA scientists, but the great pride of all Lockheed Martin people who assembled the craft; the skill and innovation of the component sub-contractors who were part of its manufacture; and the pride in every American who can say “my country manufactured and delivered this marvellous piece of engineering”.

Manufacturing is not just a journey to the stars but an essential pathway to prosperity. Imagine all the spin-off technologies that have come with this fabulous piece of engineering. This is why manufacturing is so important to the success of a nation, and so important to the Vernier Society.

People watched the Juno launch on televisions and computers, read about it on iPads, listened to reports as they drive their cars, or read of it as they sat in aircraft. All of these mechanisms are the results of innovative manufacturing, but the likelihood is that none of these products were manufactured in Australia. All who are part of Vernier and anyone who has worked in manufacturing knows the pride and satisfaction in seeing what they helped manufacture being delivered to customers, whether it be aerospace parts, tankers, trucks or CNC grinding machines.

But manufacturing is declining for a variety of reasons – now Australia can not even boast of an automotive industry and Australian manufacturing is weaker for it. The Vernier Society members are determined to demonstrate that a sustaining, vibrant manufacturing sector is crucial to Australia, its economy, and its place in a globalised world.

Vernier believes passionately in the importance of manufacturing for Australia. Manufacturing is crucial to the economic success of the nation. The days of manufacturing being a major source of employment have diminished with automation and competition from lower labour cost developing countries, but it can still be a powerhouse to the economy through exporting world-class products, as demonstrated by high-cost, high-value manufacturing nations like Germany and Switzerland. Vernier’s mission is to focus on three major aspects of promoting the importance of manufacturing.

The first is to change the public perception of manufacturing. Manufacturing has changed dramatically from its Latin meaning of ‘making by hand’. Leading manufacturing companies are no longer ‘dark satanic mills’; they are modern, clean, bright, efficient places to work, where highly skilled engineers and craftsmen operate high-technology CNC machines. They are no longer ‘fitters and turners’ but manufacturing technicians. Manufacturing is no longer just a mechanical skill; it is truly mechatronic. Manufacturing takes place just as much on the CAD station or in the patents office or in the software area as it does on the shop floor. All these professions and professionals contribute to make a physical entity leave the manufacturing facility, whether it is a wind turbine, a medical product for blood diagnosis, a drone for agricultural management, or even a spacecraft. They are all tangible products that enhance modern life.

The second focus for the Society is increasing collaboration among all parties in the manufacturing space. All the academic studies show that Australia is one of the worst countries for collaboration among companies and between academia and industry. This was confirmed by Vernier’s own study program in 2014 of Victorian manufacturers. While there is a lot of talk of collaboration, there is still a long way to go – between companies and the unions particularly – when one considers how countries such as Germany have strong working relationships across all aspects. It will be interesting to see whether organisations like the Australian Advanced Manufacturing Council (AAMC) can help build a more collaborative environment and if so the Society is keen to play its part.

The third focus is on innovation. Much is said about innovation but it is too wide a subject. The Federal Government’s business.gov.au website says innovation “generally refers to changing processes or creating more effective processes, products and ideas”. Vernier is lucky to have some of Victoria’s leading companies who innovate with both new ideas and product development. Another feature of the Society is the monthly speaker program which provides a current view of innovation in leading countries and companies.

Technological advance is the lifeblood of all developed nations and as Australia makes the transition from a resources-driven economy to a more diverse economy there is a danger that the value of manufacturing to the economy is allowed to diminish. The Victorian Vernier Society, in its small way, is determined not to let that happen!

www.vernier.org.au


Philip Hayes steps down as Okuma Managing Director

Philip Hayes, Managing Director of Okuma Australia Pty Ltd and Okuma New Zealand Limited, is stepping down after a career spanning 27 years with the Okuma brand. Okuma Japan has appointed Dean McCarroll to replace Hayes as Managing Director.

Announcing his departure, Hayes commented: “It’s been a role I’ve truly enjoyed and I depart leaving a clear path for my successor, Dean McCarroll, who has held the post of General Manager at Okuma Australia since 2002. Dean will explore and continue to deliver innovative change and seek sensible progress of Okuma’s subsidiaries in both Australia and New Zealand.”

In acknowledging his new role McCarroll commented: “It’s our people that truly define Okuma, with their passion, integrity, experience and knowledge, and this becomes the hallmark of what we stand for in the market as we partner with our customers from the first meeting. In keeping with industry trends I see my role as continuing to expand the professional development of our team and to highlight that engineering in Australasia as high-tech, clean and exciting.”

Hayes, who had gained 14 years’ experience with machine tools and robotics at John Hart Pty Ltd, commenced with the Okuma brand at Gilbert Lodge and Company Limited in 1991, at the very depth of the Keating recession. He was confronted with a machine tool business that needed significant change management suitable for emerging trends in new technologies, customer service, marketing, sales methodology and applications support. Accordingly, the machine tools division of Gilbert Lodge was rapidly overhauled and fortunes began to change almost immediately. Despite a fire that destroyed most of the Oakleigh premises, the company moved ahead in leaps and bounds and achieved a market-leading position within three years.

In a revived co-operation with the management of Okuma in Japan, massive annual gains were posted year on year. Valuable local assistance by Geoff Coffey, then of Atlas Steels, and employees placed in strategic positions, attracted and gained the trust of the best of the best toolmakers, manufacturers and jobbing shops. Their investments delivered a complete transformation of the Company and helped set in concrete the foundations for one of the most successful and consistent operations in machine tools in Australia.

In 2002, on behalf of Okuma Corporation in Japan, Hayes negotiated the purchase of all the shares in Gilbert Lodge and Company Limited, by then known as Atlas CNC Machines, from Email Limited and in 2004, established Okuma New Zealand Limited and appointed long-time Okuma champion Fred deJong as its General Manager.

“Most people gave me little chance of recovering Gilbert Lodge,” Hayes said. “But it was what I strongly wanted. I also employed the people that I wanted. Those who weren’t suited to a new and active regime soon found out and made appropriate decisions about their own futures for themselves. Our employees over the years have done well for the various incarnations of our business, but fabulously well for our hundreds and hundreds of customers whose trust we have to thank for honouring our hard work and our truly great Okuma machines.”

Outside his role at Okuma, Hayes served as President of the Institute of Machine Tools Australasia (IMTA), who initiated, guided and orchestrated the merger with The Australian Machine Tool Association (AMTA). That merger resulted in the birth of AMTIL and the securing of the exclusive rights to the Austech exhibition.

Of many career highlights, Hayes said the greatest was the company’s work with Ford Motor Company in Geelong and his biggest regret is the closure of Ford Motor Company’s manufacturing facilities in Geelong. Hayes remarked: “Bob Hallett, Brian Makin, Lindsay Goss, Noel Wenning and even Don Deveson were all men of vision in full-scale automotive manufacturing. They are sadly missed from today’s fray.”

McCarroll was first employed as National Sales Manager for Okuma Australia and has served the company as General Manager for more than ten years, working closely with Hayes over this period. A toolmaker by trade McCarroll has more than 40 years in the machine tool business with the last 30 years in management roles.


Yawei HLE fibre laser improves quality and reduces lead times at Ace Wire Works.

With the demise of local car manufacturing, many companies that previously supplied automotive components have had to diversify into other areas to grow their businesses.

Ace Wire Works is one such company; it has successfully made the transition from supplying automotive products such as the wire seat frames for Toyota Camrys, to a diverse product range that now includes retail display stands, welded mesh panels, horticulture products, food & beverage equipment, designer furniture and wire and mesh products for medical applications.

Founded by Albert Blashki in 1954, Ace remains very much a family business, with Albert’s son Philip now the Owner and Managing Director. Moreover, with grandson Simon also involved, a third generation is part of the company, which now employs approximately 40 staff.

Ace’s General Manager Sam Harris joined the company around two years ago with the specific edict of assisting the company transition away from automotive to non-automotive products. To say that it has been a success is something of an understatement, with growth of these products up by more than 50% in the current financial year. Harris attributes the company’s ongoing success to several key factors – in particular, the fact that Ace specialises in high-quality customised products in sometimes relatively low production volumes.

“With our own internal designers to assist with CAD drawings and designing prototypes, we can offer customers a comprehensive and personalised service to meet their needs and make sure that we meet or exceed their expectations,” says Harris. “This is especially relevant in the competitive retail segment. The personal one-on-one service that we provide is something our customers really appreciate, as it gives them a higher level of confidence to in turn offer the best service to their clients. Really it’s about having empathy for our customers and building strong relationships.”

The increase in demand for the company’s display products included projects for a number of major retailers, and was what drove Harris to look at a fibre laser.

“We were outsourcing more and more laser work which was affecting our lead times and our control of the total manufacturing process and the time was right to get our own laser,”he explains.

The new Yawei HLE & HLF fibre lasers have earned a reputation for high performance coupled with a value-for-money price point. Harris first saw the Yawei at the Applied Machinery stand at the Austech exhibition, and compared the features with various other laser cutters in the market.

Yawei is well known as one of the world’s leading manufacturers of CNC press brakes, turret punch presses and guillotines and its entrance into the laser cutting market comes off the back of years of R&D and refinement of the machines in its domestic market in China.

For Harris, the key factors that put the Yawei in front were the outstanding features and performance, ease of use, and – as with all Yawei equipment – value for money. Harris was also impressed with the advice and support that Applied Machinery had given him throughout the purchase process – something only a local distributor can provide.

“The fact that Applied Machinery was literally just around the corner was an important factor for us. The installation went very smoothly and the back up and support has been great,” says Harris.

After only a few months Harris is pleased with what the Yawei offers Ace.

“The Yawei has reduced our lead times, increased flexibility in production planning and broadened the range of products we can offer our customers, he explains. “Also, the speed and accuracy of the fibre laser means we are saving huge amounts of production time.”

As an added bonus, the purchase of the fibre laser was supported by the Victorian State Government through its LIFT (Local Industry Fund for Transition) program. This program specifically caters to former automotive supply companies, to support them in their transition to developing non-automotive business and provide employment for qualified employees exiting the automotive sector.

www.appliedmachinery.com.au

www.acewire.com.au


Bugatti develops world’s first 3D-printed brake caliper

With its Veyron and Chiron super sports cars, Bugatti Automobiles has established itself as a pioneer in the extreme performance sector of the automotive industry. Now it has achieved a new coup, designing a brake caliper that can be produced by 3D printing.

Moreover, while the main material used for the additive production of vehicle components to date has been aluminium, the new brake caliper is made from titanium. This is therefore the world’s largest functional component 3D printed from titanium. Vehicle trials for the use of the 3D titanium brake caliper in series production are to start by mid-2018.

“Vehicle development is a never-ending process. This is particularly true at Bugatti,” says Frank Götzke, Head of New Technologies in Bugatti’s Technical Development Department. “We are always considering how new materials and processes can be used to make our current model even better and how future vehicles could be designed. As our performance data are often at the physical limits, we are especially demanding. This is why Bugatti always goes at least one step further than other manufacturers in the development of technical solutions.”

Götzke joined Bugatti in 2001 and played a key role in the development of both the Veyron and the Chiron. Bugatti currently uses the most powerful brakes in the world on the new Chiron, with calipers forged from high-strength aluminium alloy. Featuring eight titanium pistons on each front caliper and six on each rear unit, they are also the largest brake calipers currently installed on a production vehicle, combining minimum weight with maximum stiffness.

With the new, 3D-printed titanium brake caliper, Bugatti is now going one step further. This particular titanium alloy, Ti6AI4V, is mainly used in aerospace, for example in highly stressed undercarriage and wing components or in aircraft and rocket engines. The material offers considerably higher performance than aluminium – even as a 3D-printed component, it has a tensile strength of 1,250N per square millimetre.

The new titanium brake caliper, which is 41cm long, 21cm wide and 13.6cm high, weighs only 2.9kg. The aluminium component currently used weighs 4.9kg, so Bugatti could reduce the weight of the caliper by about 40% while ensuring even higher strength by using the new part.

This approach was previously not feasible because it is extremely difficult to mill or forge components from titanium due to its extremely high strength. This problem has been solved using an extremely high-performance 3D printer, which also opens up the possibility of generating even more complex structures that are significantly stiffer and stronger than with conventional production process.

Götzke found the selective laser melting units required at Laser Zentrum Nord in Hamburg. Over the past few years, Laser Zentrum Nord has received a large number of national and international innovation awards for its work in industry.

“Laser Zentrum Nord is one of many scientific institutes with which we have developed very good cooperation over the years,” Götzke explains. “Thanks to the large number of projects completed, mainly for the aviation industry, the institute has comprehensive know-how especially in the field of titanium processing and offers mature technology.”

Development for the 3D-printed brake caliper was very quick, about three months from the first idea to the first printed component. The basic concept, the strength and stiffness simulations and calculations and the design drawings were sent to Laser Zentrum Nord by Bugatti as a complete data package. The institute then carried out process simulation, design of supporting structures, actual printing and the treatment of the component. Bugatti was responsible for finishing.

The special 3D printer at Laser Zentrum Nord is equipped with four 400W lasers. Titanium powder is deposited layer by layer, with the lasers melting it into the shape defined for the brake caliper. The material cools immediately and the caliper take shape. It takes 45 hours to print the brake caliper, with a total of 2,213 layers required.

Following completion of the final layer, any remaining titanium powder that has not melted is removed. What remains is a brake caliper, with a supporting structure to maintain its shape until it receives stabilising heat treatment. This is carried out in a furnace where the caliper is exposed to an initial temperature of 700 degrees Celsius, falling to 100 degrees during the process, to eliminate residual stress and ensure dimensional stability. Finally, the supporting structures are removed and the component is separated from the tray.

In the next stage, the surface is smoothed in a combined mechanical, physical and chemical process that drastically improves fatigue strength – the component’s long-term durability. Finally, the contours of functional surfaces, such as the piston contact surfaces or threads, are machined in a five-axis milling machine, which takes another 11 hours to complete.

The result is a delicately shaped component with wall thicknesses between one and four millimetres.

“It was a very moving moment for the team when we held our first titanium brake caliper from the 3D printer in our hands,” Götzke recalls. “In terms of volume, this is the largest functional component produced from titanium by additive manufacturing methods. Everyone who looks at the part is surprised at how light it is – despite its large size. Technically, this is an extremely impressive brake caliper, and it also looks great.”

www.bugatti.com


IoT in agriculture, from oysters to apples

The global population is growing fast and by 2050 it is expected to exceed nine billion. The agriculture industry needs to produce more food to meet the needs of a bigger population. But land and water resources are finite. The good news? The Internet of Things (IoT) presents a massive opportunity to make this task easier.By Christopher Woods.

Bosch Australia customer The Yield knew how to revolutionise the way growers operate. First, it developed an IoT system to reduce the impact of costly oyster harvest closures in the aquaculture sector. Connecting oyster farms with Bosch IoT device management software decreased unnecessary harvest closures by 30%. As a result, this could save Australian oyster growers an estimated $21m a year.

Following this success, the AgTech company extended IoT from aquaculture to agriculture. In October 2017 it launched Sensing+ for Agriculture, a tailor-made solution for irrigated crops: from apples and wine grapes to carrots, potatoes and leafy greens. In this case, The Yield is hosting back-end architecture on the cloud for greater flexibility and ease of use.

A unique microclimate sensing solution

With a new generation of younger farmers taking the reins, agriculture businesses want smart systems to improve produce management. The Yield gives them an IoT technology to observe complex physical environments, relieving the burden of daily crop checks.

Usually, when you manage a farm, you are never off the clock. Even when farmers aren’t physically outside tending to crops, they are observing weather patterns, obsessively checking for signs of frost or damage, and calculating the best time to protect, feed or water. The new microclimate-sensing system makes these mental gymnastics a thing of the past by combining real-time microclimate data with powerful analytics and forecasting. This allows farmers to remove the guesswork and start making decisions based on real data.

To help Sensing+ collect microclimate data for analysis, Bosch worked with The Yield to develop the Farm Area Network (FAN). This includes:

  • Microclimate sensors (tracking solar radiation, wind speed, rainfall, soil moisture, leaf wetness, etc.).
  • Sensor nodes that collect data from the sensors. These are solar-powered and use the long-range and mesh network communication protocol 6LowPAN.
  • A central on-farm gateway which communicates with the sensor nodes.
  • Bosch IoT Gateway Software. This is the intelligence behind the gateway. Alongside other important functions, it establishes secure communication with the Bosch IoT Remote Manager.

One tool to rule them all

To successfully deploy and operate its IoT solution globally, it was crucial that The Yield included a device management platform. Therefore, it chose the Bosch IoT Remote Manager as a feature-rich solution to address device management throughout the whole device life-cycle. It enables The Yield to easily deploy, configure, monitor and update its gateways and sensors remotely.

The Bosch IoT Remote Manager is available “as a service” in various cloud hosting environments including the Bosch IoT Cloud, Amazon Web Services, and SAP. The Yield microclimate sensing solution marks the first deployment of the Bosch IoT Remote Manager on Microsoft Azure, adding Microsoft cloud to the list. Such a variety of cloud options gives customers flexibility to deploy the Bosch device management tool all over the world to meet their particular preferences and local government requirements for hosting.

Turning data into actionable insights

By combining the live microclimate data with artificial intelligence and predictive analytics, The Yield solution provides a seven-day forecast that tells growers all the information they need to know. How much rainfall did they receive? How much water will evaporate in the next day? When is the optimal time to water or protect their crops?

There’s a reason that there’s an X-Men character called Storm that can harness lightning, wind and rain to do her bidding. While no technology makes this sort of superpower possible (yet), the right data gives farmers the next best thing: they can prepare for what is coming. As Matt Pooley, Viticulturist at The Yield customer Pooley Wines, says: “If I can measure it, I can manage it.”

Obviously, crops grow better and faster with the ideal amount of water. Having an accurate indication of how much water each field needs also reduces over-spraying. One customer estimates that the system reduces water usage by up to 30%. And in Australia, where months can pass without any rainfall and where the population last year experienced the hottest start to spring in history, this is more important than ever. Additionally, the water content of fresh produce like lettuce at the time of harvest determines how long it lasts on supermarket shelves.

Keeping crops out of danger

While regular maintenance is crucial for a successful yield of crops, responding quickly to weather changes is key to protecting them from damage. The Bosch IoT Remote Manager enabled The Yield to set up specific rules that notify farmers of critical events like frost. Rather than relying on weather apps that pull data from 50km away, and checking every few hours for signs of damage, farmers are notified when frost is an imminent problem. As a result, they can immediately take steps to protect crops from damage. This lets them eliminate costly ‘just in case’ measures that are rendered useless when the worst-case scenario doesn’t occur.

A forward-thinking approach

For many agricultural businesses, an IoT ecosystem is a brand-new way of approaching day-to-day operations. Armed with real-time data and the ability to instantly check the status of multiple crops or fields, the industry begins to transform the way it makes decisions. Ultimately, this means fewer crops lost, less water and produce wasted, and a greater yield. So, with the help of modern technologies, such as IoT, we have a better chance to feed the world.

Christopher Woods is responsible for IoT business development and solution delivery at Bosch Australia.

www.bosch-manufacturingsolutions.com.au

www.theyield.com


Long Term Okuma Managing Director – Phil Hayes Retires

It is confirmed today that Mr. Philip Hayes, Managing Director of Okuma Australia Pty Ltd and Okuma New Zealand Limited will step down after a career spanning 27 years with the Okuma brand.

Mr Hayes, who had gained 14 years’ experience with machine tools and robotics at John Hart Pty Ltd, commenced with the Okuma brand at Gilbert Lodge and Company Limited in 1991 at the very depth of the Keating recession. He was confronted with a machine tool business that needed significant change management suitable for emerging trends in new technologies, customer service, marketing, sales methodology and applications support.

Accordingly, the machine tools division of Gilbert Lodge was rapidly overhauled and fortunes began to change almost immediately. A fire that destroyed most of the Oakleigh premises couldn’t prevent the Company moving ahead in leaps and bounds and achieving a market leading position within 3 years.

In a revived cooperation with the management of Okuma in Japan, massive annual gains were posted year on year. Valuable local assistance by Geoff Coffey, then of Atlas Steels, and employees placed in strategic positions, attracted and gained the trust of the best of the best toolmakers, manufacturers and jobbing shops. Their investments delivered a complete transformation of the Company and helped set in concrete the foundations for one of the most successful and consistent operations in machine tools in Australia.

In 2002, on behalf of Okuma Corporation in Japan, Mr Hayes negotiated the purchase of all the shares in Gilbert Lodge and Company Limited, by then known as Atlas CNC Machines, from Email Limited and in 2004 established Okuma New Zealand Limited and appointed long-time Okuma champion Fred deJong as GM Okuma New Zealand.

Mr Hayes said “Most people gave me little chance of recovering Gilbert Lodge. But it was what I strongly wanted. I also employed the people that I wanted. Those who weren’t suited to a new and active regime soon found out and made appropriate decisions about their own futures for themselves. Our employees over the years have done well for the various incarnations of our business but fabulously well for our hundreds and hundreds of Customers whose trust we have to thank for honouring our hard work and our truly great Okuma machines”.

Mr Hayes went on to say “It’s been a role I’ve truly enjoyed and I depart leaving a clear path for my successor, Dean McCarroll who has held the post of GM at Okuma Australia since 2002. Dean will explore and continue to deliver innovative change and seek sensible progress of Okuma’s subsidiaries in both Australia and New Zealand.”

Mr. Hayes said of many highlights, the greatest was the Company’s work with Ford Motor Company in Geelong and his biggest regret is the closure of Ford Motor Company’s manufacturing facilities in Geelong. “Bob Hallett, Brian Makin, Lindsay Goss, Noel Wenning and even Don Deveson were all men of vision in full scale automotive manufacturing. They are sadly missed from today’s fray” Mr Hayes concluded.

Externally of Okuma, it was Mr. Hayes, as President of the Institute of Machine Tools Australasia (IMTA), who initiated, guided and orchestrated the merger with The Australian Machine Tool Association (AMTA). That merger resulted in the birth of AMTIL and the securing of the exclusive rights to the AUSTECH exhibition.

For further Information:

Caralyn Pahos
Okuma Australia Pty Ltd
Marketing & Communications
Phone: (03) 9757 5888
Email: cpahos@okumaaustralia.com.au

Graeme McLean
Graeme McLean & Associates Pty Ltd
Phone: (03) 9583 6694
Mobile: 0438 806 090
Email: graeme@mcleanassoc.com.au

Okuma Australia Pty Ltd


Okuma Australia Appoints New Managing Director

 With the retirement of longstanding and highly respected Managing Director Philip Hayes, Okuma Japan has appointed General Manager Dean McCarroll to replace Philip in the role of Managing Director for Okuma Australia and Okuma New Zealand.

Dean was first employed as National Sales Manager for Okuma Australia and has served the company as General Manager for more than ten years, working closely with Mr Hayes over this period.

A toolmaker by trade Dean has more than 40 years in the machine tool business with the last 30 years in management roles.

Well known for innovative technology, high quality manufacture and outstanding service and support, Okuma machines are amongst the longest serving machine tools installed that are still running. Okuma is a major supplier to the manufacturing industry in Australia and New Zealand of Multi-tasking Machines, Double Column Machines, 5-Axis Machining Centres, CNC Lathes, Grinders, Robotics and Machine Tending Systems. Okuma Australia and New Zealand are wholly owned subsidiaries of Okuma Japan.

In acknowledging his new role Dean commented, “It’s our people that truly define Okuma with their passion, integrity, experience and knowledge and this becomes the hallmark of what we stand for in the market as we partner with our customers from the first meeting. In keeping with industry trends I see my role as continuing to expand the professional development of our team and to highlight that engineering in Australasia as high-tech, clean and exciting,” he said.

For further Information:

Caralyn Pahos
Okuma Australia Pty Ltd
Marketing & Communications
Phone: (03) 9757 5888
Email: cpahos@okumaaustralia.com.au

Graeme McLean
Graeme McLean & Associates Pty Ltd
Phone: (03) 9583 6694
Mobile: 0438 806 090
Email: graeme@mcleanassoc.com.au

Okuma Australia Pty Ltd


TRJ Engineering – Managing growth

For any manufacturer, being “too busy” is always a good problem to have. And after more than four decades of growth, it’s a challenge TRJ Engineering has become adept at managing. By William Poole.

When you walk around TRJ Engineering’s premises in Hallam, it seems to epitomise the modern, efficient manufacturing operation. The large, open workshop is organised into clearly defined areas according to products and processes, organised along rational, coherent lines for maximum efficiency. Management and administration are housed in a separated building, connected to the factory by a footbridge that provides a comprehensive view out across the entire shopfloor. It’s an impressive set-up. But it wasn’t always like this.

Two years ago TRJ was based a couple of streets away, in three adjacent blocks on Apollo Drive. The business was doing well – indeed its occupation of multiple sites was indicative of its success. However, operating a growing manufacturing business spread across three separate workshops presented constant logistical challenges. David Murphy, TRJ’s owner and managing director, recalls the “lightbulb moment” when he realised things had to change.

“It was a Saturday morning, I was sitting out there with a coffee, watching three or four forklifts moving in and out of factories from site to site, like ballet. Something coming out of welding had to go back into the machine shop, two factories up the road. Sometimes we had to get a truck and put work on it and then follow the truck with a forklift to the other shop and pull it out. And I was thinking: how can we be efficient when we’re doing it this way? It doesn’t make sense.”

So in late 2016 TRJ moved again, just round the corner to Westpool Drive. At 3,800sqm, the new facility is 600sqm larger than the three old sites combined, with a purpose-built machining shop, eight dedicated general fabrication bays and six welding bays. The facility has gas lines plumbed in throughout, eliminating the need for gas bottles in the welding bays, and 16-ton and 10-ton cranes overhead, where previously TRJ only had five-tonners. Aside from the obvious benefits of not having forklifts and trucks running along the road between sites, the consolidation of the business under one roof has helped streamline communications and the overall management of operations.

Despite these upgrades, TRJ still seems like a business bursting at the seams. When AMT visits, a section of the front driveway is strewn with large, irregular structures made from COR-TEN steel – parts of a decorative wall the company is creating for the City of Casey – while every corner of the workplace is humming with activity. The increased capabilities and efficiencies resulting from the relocation have increased the company’s capacity to service the demands of its customers, and accordingly, those demands have increased.

“I think what we did is create a void,” says David. “I know when we first moved in here I though it was going to be quiet for some time, but now we’ve got to build 60 B-doubles between now and Christmas. That’s going to be a challenge.”

Of course, anyone in manufacturing will tell you too much demand is preferable to too little. For TRJ, a business that has maintained more or less consistent expansion over forty-plus years in business, it’s a problem they’re used to dealing with.

Ongoing expansion

David’s father Terry Murphy founded TRJ in 1974, operating from a small factory in Dandenong, south-east Melbourne. There were a couple of moves to larger premises in Keysborough as the business grew, before the relocation to nearby Hallam, and the first of the three sites on Apollo Drive. It was also around this time, the late 1990s, that David came onboard, eventually taking over from his dad in running the company.

“I never really wanted to come and work for the ‘old man’,” says David. “It was one of those things that just happened. He bought out his brother and then made the phone call to me. I was running a tool room in Keysborough at that stage. It wasn’t the same kind of work I was doing there, but it kind of just evolved into that.”

The company continued its steady growth, expanding to occupy the factories on either side, and then finally moving to Westpool Drive.

“We’ve gone from strength to strength,” says David. “When I started with Terry I think there were nine of us in total including myself and my father and the secretary – we used to park our cars in the factory because we had plenty of room. We currently employ 37 or 38. We increased our personnel pretty quickly.”

David describes TRJ as “general engineers in the broadest term”. The company works across areas ranging from the truck industry and earth-moving equipment, to street furniture and retail fittings, producing anything from small brackets to B-double truck chassis for refrigerated trucks. One current project involves the manufacture of caravan components in a collaboration with Hilton Manufacturing in Dandenong. Another contract is with the City of Perth, to produce street furniture. Vandal covers for earth-moving machinery are a big part of the business – David designed the company’s first set around 15 years ago and now TRJ produces between 20 and 30 units a month.

To meet the demands of such a diverse customer base, TRJ makes investment in the latest technology an ongoing priority. The company recently purchased several water-cooled inverter welders, and is looking into acquiring vertical storage units and possibly another crane. Also under consideration is an additional fibre laser, a machine that illustrates how technology has changed the way companies like TRJ work.

“We used to cut everything on the guillotine,” says Murphy. “And you look now and say ‘Gee it takes up a lot of floor space. Maybe we ought to get another laser cutter’. That’s where the business is evolving and changing. We were probably one of the first sheet metal or engineering companies that had our own laser cutter. That laser goes for eight or nine hours every single day of the week. It doesn’t stop.

“Where before we would guillotine something and bend it and then build up a welding jig and make it all fit around that jig, now we actually laser cut it with tabs and holes so they actually lock into each other and we don’t need a jig. We’re trying to think cleverer in regard to end use, how we’re putting them together, and improving our accuracy.”

This in turn highlights the attention TRJ pays to its processes. With support from the Federal Government’s Entrepreneurs’ Programme, the team has undergone a full internal course in Lean manufacturing, and Lean principles are implemented throughout TRJ’s operations. All jobs are processed through “first-in, first-out lanes”, where each task goes in one end and out the other within a 24-hour timeframe; and every Friday afternoon the whole workshop gets a thorough clean-up, regardless of any jobs going on at the time.

“Another goal we set was not to work Saturdays,” David adds. “That’s that balance between work and life, trying to stop people being here. We use Saturdays to fill in the gaps and try to get in front. We should not be doing that; we should be not be here on the weekend. We need to recharge. So that’s what we’re working on at the moment.”

Maintaining a happy, engaged workforce is evidently a key goal. A team meeting is held once a month with all staff encouraged to air any ideas or concerns. There’s also a suggestion box where anyone can offer potential ways to improve operations. Meanwhile, a shared passion for cars helps to unite the team at TRJ.

“We’re all car-mad here,” says David. “One of the boys has a couple of Mustangs; a couple of them are building hotrods. I’ve just finished building a 1932 Roadster, which has been pretty successful and won a few awards. Then we’ve got the four-wheel drive guys as well. Having that common interest does make a difference, that common thread through the place.”

Meeting client needs

David attributes TRJ’s steady flow of work to the strong client base it has built over the years, which means it doesn’t really have to go looking for jobs. That customer loyalty stems from the company’s willingness to take on any job, no matter how challenging, though David concedes this can also be their downfall: “I often say ‘If it’s made out of steel or aluminium or stainless steel, we can make it’. And sometimes we end up making the projects no-one else wants to make, so it causes some grief .”

The team prides itself on being able to solve its customers’ problems: talking through an issue, working out the specific requirements, and then being able to come forward with suggestions for alternative solutions.

“Having that really good relationship with all the clients we work with, we constantly try to look at something and say ‘We can make that better if we do it this way’,” David says. “And I think that’s the reason why we get a lot of our work, the fact we can help reduce some costs at their end.”

The move to a single site has probably come at just the right time for TRJ, with the company entering a particularly busy spell: “We’re going through a bit of a growth phase again at the moment. When we moved in here we said ‘Look how much room we’ve got’, but that soon got swallowed up pretty quickly.”

TRJ’s hectic workload reflects a fast-improving outlook that David is seeing across manufacturing in Australia at the moment. And while that growing demand inevitably presents some challenges, his team at TRJ are more than ready to take them on.

“Everyone is busy. It’s busy everywhere at the moment, even with our sub-contractors that we send work out to, they’re under pressure as well at the moment. Delivery times get longer, which is no good for anyone. It does have its challenges. But we’re trying to deal with it. We try to work a bit smarter and bit more efficiently to keep everyone happy.”

www.trjengineering.com.au


DMU 50 – Enhanced technology for the five-axis requirements of tomorrow

The DMU 50 CNC universal milling machine combines more than 20 years of experience, proven technology and low investment costs in the five-axis portfolio of DMG MORI. On this basis, the bestseller has now moved into its next round with the DMU 50 3rd Generation, and the latest model has been enhanced in all respects.

The compact new DMU 50 3rd Generation sets new standards in five-sided to five-axis simultaneous machining. With its extended swivel range, more powerful spindle and an innovative cooling concept, the new machine guarantees a competitive edge in a multitude of branches. Its areas of application range from training to general mechanical engineering, jig construction, and applications in demanding branches such as the aerospace, medical and automotive industries.

While developing the DMU 50 3rd Generation, DMG MORI has managed to harmonise the modern appearance of the design with user-friendly operation. For example, the large, smooth opening door to the work area, with a width of 876mm ensures unrestricted access from the front, even in combination with automation solutions. The table also has an ergonomic loading height of 800mm. The optimum accessibility of the DMU 50 3rd Generation even encompasses maintenance components such as the control cabinet, fluid box, oil mist separator, heat exchanger and cooling unit.

Travel paths of 650mm by 520mm by 475mm and workpiece weights of up to 300kg mean the new DMU 50 3rd Generation covers a wide range of components. Its new NC swivel-rotary table with an enlarged swivel range of −35°/+110° boosts this versatility. A rapid traverse of 42m per minute and 30rpm in the swivel-rotary axis ensure the dynamics for five-sided to five-axis simultaneous machining. In addition to the 15,000rpm speedMASTER motor spindle, the user can also choose between motor spindles with up to 20,000rpm. Also available as an option is an expanded tool magazine with up to 120 pockets. There are 30 tool pockets in the standard version.

The DMU 50 3rd Generation achieves a unique degree of precision of less than six micrometres, a level that is unbeatable in this segment thanks on the one hand to its one-piece machine bed and on the other to its innovative cooling of the guides, drives and table bearings. Directly driven ball screws and direct path measuring systems in all five axes round off the equipment with regard to the machine’s high degree of precision. The DMU 50 3rd Generation can be expanded with coolant tanks and tool measurement as an option.

A 21.5-inch ERGOline with CELOS and Siemens 840D solutionline as well as a 19-inch ERGOline with HEIDENHAIN TNC 640 are available as modern control options. DMG MORI also has diverse automation solutions in its program for the DMU 50 3rd Generation, such as workpiece or pallet handling systems. This enables the new machine to master challenging applications in the future-oriented aerospace, medical, automotive and energy branches –  a demand that was already taken into account during the practice-oriented development of the machine. In other words, the DMU 50 3rd Generation continues to fulfil all the requirements that ensure it will remain DMG MORI’s bestselling five-axis model.

www.dmgmori.com

 


A new look for gear milling?

Technology and its products are often causative: a technology might be applied to develop more effective and intelligent products, which in turn can play an important role in advancing that technology.

This interrelationship may be observed in metalworking. Over the last few years, leading-edge technology has resulted in multitasking machine tools and machining centers with impressive working possibilities. At the same time, this progress in machine tool engineering is significantly changing metal cutting technology.

The advanced multifunctional machine tools increasingly widen the range of machining operations that can be performed. Technological processes developed for these machines are oriented to maximise machining operation for one-setup manufacturing, creating a new source for more accurate and productive manufacturing. Milling gears and splines is one of the operations suitable for performing on the new machines.

Traditionally, gear (and spline) -making is a complicated process that involves milling, chamfering, grinding and other operations. With batch manufacturing, the majority is made on specific machines: for gear hobbing, gear shaving, gear grinding and so on. Developments in technology have changed the limits of hardness for cutting and considerably increased operational accuracy. This in turn has reduced abrasive machining in gear making while decreasing rough cutting.

The modern multifunctional machines, which meet the requirements of one-setup manufacturing, have proved to be perfect for various gear-making operations. These new machines require appropriate tooling and cutting tools manufacturers should prepare their response accordingly, which is why producers of general-purpose rotating cutting tools are reconsidering the role of gear-milling cutters in their program for standard product lines.

Iscar, a leader in the cutting tool industry, is embodying this trend with a three-point program for form gear-making tools:

  • Milling cutters carrying indexable inserts.
  • Milling cutters with replaceable cutting heads based on the T-Slot concept.
  • Milling cutters with replaceable Multi-Master cutting heads.

ModuGear, the family of indexable gear-milling cutters, reflects a conventional design approach, comprising disk-type tools with tangentially clamped LNET inserts. The tangential clamping principle provides an extremely rigid and durable cutter structure that results in stable and precise enough machining tooth or spline profiles. Its principal application is producing involute gears of relatively low accuracy and rough gear-milling operations that feature a 1.0mm-1.75mm gear module range.

The cutters with replaceable heads have two significant advantages compared with gear milling tools carrying indexable inserts: they offer better precision and allow the design of gear-milling cutters that are small in diameter but feature quite a large number of teeth. The replaceable heads are mounted in bodies (shanks), which are standard-line products suitable not only for the gear-milling heads but also for other types of head (for milling slots and grooves, for example). This enables customers to increase operating efficiency of the versatile shanks and to reduce tool stock, providing added value.

The replaceable solid carbide heads of the T-Gear SD D32-M-SP15 family are mounted in standard T-Slot SD-SP15 cylindrical shanks and transform the latter into 32mm-diameter gear milling cutters. The precise profile of the cutters’ teeth and the accurate and reliable SP-connection between the shank and the head define its range of use: milling involute gears featuring a 1mm-2mm module.

Both types of milling cutters (those with indexable inserts and those with replaceable heads) meet the requirements of standard DIN 3972, basic profile II.

There are two types of Multi-Master spline and gear making solid carbide heads. The first type is represented by the MM SS heads that were specially designed for milling involute spline shafts, specified by DIN 5480 and ANSI B92.1 standards. These heads are intended for 1, 1.25, 1.5 through to 3mm module (DIN 5480) and 8, 10, 12 through to 24 diametral pitch (ANSI B92.1).

The heads of the second type, MM SG, are used in milling spur gears in accordance with DIN 3972 (module 1-1.75mm) and ANSI B6.1 (diametral pitch 15-24) standards.

The main application field for Multi-Master heads is the efficient production of small-to-medium batches of spline and spur gears in various industrial branches.

The world of gears is very rich and multiform, embracing a wide variety of external and internal gears: spur, helical, bevel, hypoid, and more. Manufacturing these gears encompasses an entire, dynamic industrial sector with its own methods, equipment and tooling. The introduction of multitasking machines in gear milling as a serious alternative to a dedicated machine represents a new challenge to this sector and producers of commonly-used cutting tools should be ready for this significant change. Iscar meets this challenge while maintaining the requisite high standards demanded by end users.

www.iscar.com.au