Back in the 1960s we imagined the future was a place where cars hovered in space, people could be teleported, and everyone strangely wore fluorescent, matching uniforms. The reality of our technological transformation barely resembles those fantasies, but our forebearers in the 1960s did hit on one fundamental truth: that technology would transform our lives and the way things are produced.

Established in 1962, the Opie Manufacturing Group – an Australian fabricated metal manufacturer, offering a wide range of products and services – has been part of that transformation, and is fully embracing the Internet of Things. Covering over 7,000sqm under roof, Opie Group’s expansive state-of-the-art manufacturing and metal processing facility in Emu Plains, NSW, is one of the largest in the industry.


The problem

Prior to November 2018, Opie Group’s machines were operating independently not only of each other, necessitating manual intervention in the production process, but also of the customer care process, leading to a lack of visibility when it came to understanding what stage of the production process a project was at.

“Previously, we had no data available to determine where our inefficiencies were throughout the production process and where we needed to focus to improve,” explained Tristan Opie, CEO of Opie Group.


The solution

Opie Group sought to remedy the piecemeal nature of its production process with automated, round-the-clock service, delivering efficiencies across the production process while transforming the customer experience. Since November 2018, Opie Group has invested in connected machinery to automate their manufacturing processes and customer communications system, which means less idle machine time, ease of production planning, and swift customer care – no more blind spots!


The technology

The Internet of Things – the ability to allow machines to communicate with each other – requires the power of interconnectivity and systems technology to bring it to life. Opie Group integrated four essential pieces of system technology that allowed its machines to talk to each other as well as to the production and customer care team.

The first was TruTops Fab, which allows the user to instantly convert jobs into works orders and to start production. Second was TruTops Boost for 2D/3D design and programming of laser, punching, and bending machines. Third was TruTops Calculate. And the fourth was the NetSuite CRM/ERP system for customer data management and finance administration.


The result

By connecting their NetSuite CRM system to TruTops Fab and TruTops Boost, Opie Group has control over the entire production process, managing customer orders right through to shipping, with constant visibility of the status of production. Opie Group can now seamlessly send quotes to customers as a result of integrating both TruTops Fab and NetSuite CRM systems with its Trumpf machinery.

With NetSuite CRM, the customer care team can follow up and check on the performance of quotes, giving them full visibility of the process and estimated time to completion.

“If we look at our materials management as one example of one part of the process, previously a person would have to go through the drawings, the bill of material, manually check stock and confirm if we had enough, which could take up to minimum of four hours,” says Tristan. “Now this can now be done automatically in about five minutes.

“We first enter the customer into NetSuite. We then take the 3D model, drag and drop the model into TruTops Boost, and disassemble the model, which extracts all the items into a bill of materials with a few clicks. It then confirms with NetSuite if all the required raw materials are in stock, and if not, orders more and assigns to the customer project.

“The order is then sent to TruTops Calculate to quote on the jobs. This is then sent back to NetSuite to send the quote to the customer. Once the customer accepts the quote it’s then sent from NetSuite to TruTops Fab to start production. This part of the process improvement alone has reduced from what used to take four hours to complete to five minutes.”

Thanks to this investment in innovative technology, Opie Group is now enjoying the manufacturing benefits the Internet of Things delivers, such as:

  • Significant reduction in materials management.
  • Real-time data – key metrics are tracked on the dashboard for quick visibility and better customer care.
  • Visibility over key business metrics such as: materials management, with significant business gains achieved; win/loss ratios on quotes; identification of recurring parts for more efficient management of materials; and improved sales with easily identification of customer follow-up.
  • Anytime, Anywhere visibility – Mobile apps for both NetSuite and TruTops Fab enable anytime visibility of any order for any customer, and offer the ability to enter customer details, quote, and even ship items from the phone.
  • Manual labour connected to the production process – manage, measure and track any manual elements within the production process.

“Now we can pinpoint exactly where we need to focus, what needs to be done and how we can fix it,” Tristan concludes.