South Australian electronics manufacturer REDARC is continuing its modernisation journey, making a significant investment in cutting-edge Industry 4.0 technology and training, with support from the Federal Government’s Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre (AMGC).

The highly regarded Lonsdale-based manufacturer plans to build upon recent expansion success with a co-funding investment of more than $800,000 to extend its smart factory and skill capabilities across its in-house and supplier operations. The project is expected to result in the creation of up to 35 new roles.

REDARC, a strong advocate for reinvestment, allocates up to 15% of its yearly revenues to research & development (R&D). As a result, the company has developed more than 600 product lines during its 40-year history, of which most are exported to markets including Canada, USA, Mexico, Europe, New Zealand, the Middle East, South Korea and South Africa.

“In that context, we need to have a nimble, agile and value-driven manufacturing base to be able to sustain that type of business and respond quickly to customer needs,” explains Andrew Rogers, Manufacturing Engineering Manager for REDARC. “Industry 4.0 is more than a buzzword; it represents the next leap in technological prowess and competitiveness. It should however be viewed as a journey without end, because after digitisation there will be something else to adopt to ensure we maintain our competitive edge.

“It’s important that we bring our suppliers along in the process, as we prefer to control our quality and supply chain by making sure all parts of this chain work together,” Rogers adds.

The project will further develop REDARC’s workforce, Industry 4.0 technology adoption, and business processes through collaboration with key supply chain partners and expert local service providers. Five complementary activities are proposed:

  • Predictive alerts: Interactive and automated statistical process controls
  • Quality alerts: Real-time production cell digital assistance
  • Design and validation of future production cells using Augmented Reality
  • Capability audit: Industry 4.0 maturity re-assessment
  • Training: Development and delivery of Industry 4.0 staff and supply chain training modules hosted on AMGC’s Manufacturing Academy.

Lessons derived from the project will be shared with the manufacturing community through an Industry 4.0 module on AMGC’s Manufacturing Academy website.

Dr Jens Goennemann, Managing Director of the AMGC, said that REDARC demonstrates what Australian manufacturers could achieve by investing in the processes, people and equipment that come before and after assembly, or simply the seven steps of the manufacturing value chain.

“There is a misunderstanding when it comes to the term advanced manufacturing, being advanced is not related to what you make, but how you make it,” said Goennemann. “Being advanced is about continual improvement in your processes, workforce skills and products across the critical steps of design, research and development,logistics, production, sales, service and support.

“REDARC understands the value of investing in people and equipment, and the competitive edge it delivers the company. By doing so, they remain globally relevant, competitive and a beacon for other local manufacturers.”

The collaborative project is budgeted at a total of $803,540, with AMGC contributing matched funds of $397,770, with the remainder raised in in-kind funding from REDARC partners including industry leaders Advanced Focus, Minitab, Swinburne University, Artis Group and CADWalk. Local manufacturer Arkidelo, which produces injection moulded cases for REDARC’s award-winning Tow Pro product, will play a part in the project’s digital supply chain integration.

Redarc was founded in 1979 as a single-product line business. Its current ownership bought the company in 1997 as an eight-person operation. Since then, REDARC has expanded its employee base to more than 200, while simultaneously growing its product range and developing export markets. Diversifying away from automotive manufacturing, in 2016 the company expanded into the defence market, in which it has recently earned its first major contract. REDARC has won countless awards during its rapid growth, including Australian Business of the Year in 2014, and Manufacturer of the Year on multiple occasions.