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Big data to boost productivity of NZ manufacturing sector

The whole New Zealand manufacturing sector may benefit from an Auckland factory’s digital solution to become more productive.

According to a recent report, New Zealand’s Innovation Agency, Callaghan Innovation, worked with Avondale-based manufacturer, Mastip, for the digital dashboard that will answer the manufacturer’s productivity questions.

The company makes hot runner, which is a specialist tool used for injection moulding of plastic products.

It supplies companies making everything from plastic containers to automotive parts and mobile phones.

The global market for the said tools is booming.

To take advantage of this growth, the company invested up to NZ$ 2 million in new manufacturing technology over the last 18 months.

They realised, however, that it was not producing as efficiently as it could.

The company’s CEO shared that they had a long-running view that their productivity was relatively poor, through purely financial indicators, which they have observed is a systemic issue for New Zealand.

Still, there was a big black hole as to what the reasons for the poor productivity were.

Callaghan Innovation’s Advanced Manufacturing team worked with Mastip and Beckhoff Automation to come up with a way of measuring what is happening on the factory floor.

The information is then relayed back to staff in real-time.

A dashboard on a 50-inch screen now gives staff at the Avondale facility a view of how each of the factory’s CNC machines are operating at any one time.

The payoff is a huge step forward for the company in understanding what productivity looks like, how it can be consistently measured across a range of processes, and how it can be represented to the manufacturing team so that they understand.

The company is sharing its learning with other Kiwi factories with the hopes that it can also help other manufacturers as well as improve New Zealand’s position in the global productivity ranking.

There are several possible reasons why a machine is not running at full capacity, from tooling changes to inefficient scheduling.

Planners are now able to make better decisions about routing work through the factory since the information is repeatable and highly visible.

It was not easy to set up the system as it meant applying a modern digital solution to equipment that ranged from 15-year-old legacy machines through to the latest intelligent gear.

The company was faced with the challenge of physically getting the data. Thankfully, Beckhoff’s skills and hardware were able to address that.

The next hurdle was how they will present the data to the people.

The company installed digital interfaces and data loggers to all machines and then daisy-chained them into a network PLC acting as database server outputting to an SQL database.

Then it needed an integrator to design what to do with it. They are a manufacturing company and this required big data, and they had no experience in dealing with big data.

This is where Callaghan Innovation came in. Its Advanced Manufacturing team designed the software that interpreted the data, and then visualised that on a dashboard so that staff could understand what was going on.

Callaghan Innovation has been an essential partner on the project. The bonus to working with the Government’s innovation agency was the opportunity to help other New Zealand companies.

Bringing online and real-time data into the mix gives businesses a competitive advantage.

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