A fully loaded live sheep transporter idles, stranded off the coast of Western Australia. The ship’s main drive coupling has failed. Unless the repair is made quickly, a costly decision to unload the sheep will need to be made.

Cue specialist parts manufacturer, Geographe, invited to assist with the rescue of the stranded live export ship at sea, characteristically rising to the custom manufacturing challenge to help save the day. The engineering team worked around the clock to complete the urgent work and the job was completed within five days without the need for costly unloading and reloading of the ship.

This professionalism, prompt response, quality of the finished product, and exceptional service are well recognised and widely regarded by Geographe’s diverse client base including in Mining, Oil & Gas, Naval, and Transport.

During the 50 years since Geographe began manufacturing replacements and repairing parts in a modest backyard workshop in Busselton, WA, the company has grown to the large-scale operation it is today with multiple offices, workshops, and distribution partners across Australia. The highly skilled Geographe engineering team always strives to innovate, designing, manufacturing, and repairing parts for heavy machinery and plant equipment, reducing downtime and operating costs for a broad range of clients.

Understanding that every minute of downtime costs its client’s operations, and an unwavering commitment to delivering higher quality parts at a lower price than OEMs, Geographe has earned its reputation as a trusted industry leader in the resource and industrial sectors.

Geographe creates enhanced performance parts for excavators, trucks, loaders, dozers, underground drills, industrial gearboxes, and more. That includes all the major OEM brands such as Caterpillar, Komatsu, Hitachi, Sandvik, Atlas Copco, and Liebherr.

Because Geographe takes great pride in refining and redesigning for increased asset utilisation in many components they make, customers ultimately benefit with reduced operating costs and greater productivity across the equipment life cycle.

This ethos is matched by the mission of Automated Solutions Australia, striving to deliver solutions. The result, a perfect union has formed, with Automated Solutions Australia partnering with Benson Machines to provide Geographe significant efficiency benefits through an automated system designed to improve throughput.

Not surprisingly, in addition to a team of 140 plus highly skilled professionals, production at the South West manufacturing facility is aided by robotics.

“We required a highly flexible and responsive solution to quickly and efficiently unload and load parts from two pallet locations into a DMG Mori CVG9 vertical grinding machine,” says Hyder.

To meet this requirement, Benson Machines, Australia’s leading supplier of grinding machines, brought ASA and Dimac Tooling into the project to purpose build an automated cell to facilitate the grinding of a wide range of Geographe’s parts.

Dimac Tooling supplied the work holding in the form of SAV magnetic chucks and zero-point locators for the chucks within the grinder, the fixture nest, and around the cell at the various workstations.

Benson Machines managed the automation project but also manufactured the parts centralizing device, parts magnet washing machine, and standby stations.

ASA was tasked with bringing the various items together. The solution includes rapid setup software developed by ASA that allows the handling of new parts to be set up very quickly by inputting part dimensions into the cell controller.

ASA installed an automated manufacturing cell employing a Fanuc R2000iC/270F robot with a reach of 2655mm and payload of 270kg. The robot was fitted with Schunk’s Vero pallet gripper attachment to allow it to attach one of four grippers and one of eight magnetic chucks, enabling the robot to cycle parts weighing up to 150kg through the cell.

The centraliser is a three-axis device that enables a bush to be centralised on a magnetic chuck within 10 microns whilst simultaneously testing the ovality limitations of the part being centralized. ASA created the centraliser function by incorporating three additional axes to the Fanuc controller, setting them up as a separate motion group independent of the robot and programming the centralizer to measure the absolute position of the part on the magnet at various points to establish both placement offset and part concentricity and to nudge the part with micron accuracy to correct the placement offset.

The Fanuc R2000iC/270F robot has a payload of 270kg which means that it will handle the weight of the part, the pallet, and the gripping device. This robot can handle a mass of 175kg combined gripper/workpiece at a COG of up to 400mm in Z and X from the mounting face of the robot.

ASA manufactured and supplied the overall cell controller for system. The cell controller incorporates an Allen Bradley Guardlogix safety PLC and Ignition SCADA HMI. The PLC and HMI has been programmed to provide a highly functional operator control station and diagnostic terminal for the cell.

The CVG9 grinder is part of Geographe’s automation additions, and along with the FANUC robot, will play a pivotal role in supporting future customer growth alongside their recently installed heat treatment facility.  The CVG9 will help sustain Geographe’s industry-leading DIFOT as production demand increases.

“Our talented operators have been fully trained up by Automated Solutions Australia and are currently working through grinding our current work in progress list of excavator bushes for Tier 1 miners across Australia, with great results,” adds Hyder.

Geographe’s efforts haven’t gone unnoticed over the years, consistently receiving recognition through notable industry awards acknowledging business best practices, excellence in design, engineering, and technology as well as being recognised for the distribution partnerships it has created.

Actively servicing over 100 mine sites across Australia, Geographe works with every Tier 1 miner in the ASX Top 100 and works with a further 300+ customers in Australia and internationally.  The company is well on track to meet the long-term vision of saving contracted clients a total of $500m by 2025.