Industry 4.0: The remaking of manufacturing

Modern technology is revolutionising manufacturing. And companies like Production Machinery Ltd are looking to seize the opportunities this revolution is creating. Callaghan Innovation's chief executive Vic Crone explains how it's helping.

Callaghan Innovation is the government’s business innovation agency, connecting New Zealand businesses in seven key sectors to the networks, capability and funding they need to innovate and grow. The sectors we focus on are Agritech, Digital, Energy and the Environment, Health, Food and Beverage, Transport and Logistics, and Manufacturing.

In a world where disruption is becoming business as usual, our aim is to liberate innovators. These individuals will change the fortune of our country for the better. And we will work with them to help unlock future economies and enable a more confident and successful New Zealand. 

To this end, we provide a range of services, such as: 

• Technology and product development, which include 200 of New Zealand's leading scientists dedicated to solving tough technical problems for our customers.

• Skills-building programmes, such as Better by Lean and Driving Innovation.

• Research and development (R&D) grants.

We also connect New Zealand businesses to local and international expertise, technologies, partners and facilities. 

Supporting future-focused manufacturing

A recent report from Stats NZ showed New Zealand businesses increased their investment in manufacturing R&D by over a third (35 percent) between 2014 to 2016: from $353 million to $478 million. While this growth involves organisations both inside and outside of the manufacturing sector, it shows major momentum in this area. No wonder: manufacturing is undergoing a revolution thanks to emerging, disruptive technologies – including the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and robotics – and there are huge opportunities for bold innovators. 

For example, the smart, connected factory is becoming a reality in this country and abroad. Augmented reality is helping people to see how things will come together, even before all parts have been made. Workers are collaborating with robots on the factory floor. Workpieces ‘know’ what needs to be done to them, and use autonomously guided vehicles to find their pathway through the factory. Digital data drives the whole process. 

This is Industry 4.0 and it is developing here. 

Bringing it all together

One company helping to drive the manufacturing revolution in New Zealand is Fisher & Paykel Production Machinery Ltd (PML). Now part of the Haier Group, it began life in the 1970s when Fisher 

& Paykel saw the need for flexible manufacturing methods that would enable a single production line to build anything from washing machines to refrigerators. 

Unable to find a supplier, in the best Kiwi tradition they did it themselves, developing the technology, building the machinery and retaining the IP. 

In 1985 they pulled that experience and knowledge together into PML, which then set about sharing its expertise with other businesses, both in New Zealand and offshore. And it’s not only production equipment they focus on these days.

“The next stage of our evolution is factory design and intelligent manufacturing. Instead of producing discrete equipment, we work with manufacturing partners to produce a full range of factory solutions,” says John West,  PML’s Industry 4.0 technology manager.

Vic Crone.

These include plant layout, factory simulation, design-for-manufacture consulting, service, plant and production monitoring and management software. 

West says the move reflects the company’s strong strategic alignment with Industry 4.0 and the Internet Plus vision to integrate the internet with traditional industries.

“Our strategy is to continually drive towards true smart factories – where it offers value to the customer,” he says. “Our parent company Haier has a philosophy of going from mass production to mass customisation; enabling every product to be made as a batch of one.”

The first new offering is COSMOline, a manufacturing operations management software product that will help factories drive operational efficiencies and produce better finished products. West says it’s an exciting addition to the business, unlocking the full potential of production equipment by collecting, analysing and acting on the huge volumes of efficiency, quality, maintenance and environmental data a factory generates. 

“Callaghan innovation has been a great partner by introducing us to New Zealand manufacturers that we can assist with the digital transformation of their businesses,” West says. “Our recent visit to Hannover Messe [the world's leading trade fair for industrial technology] with Callaghan Innovation highlighted the opportunities digital technologies offer the manufacturing industry. It’s time for New Zealand manufacturers to step up to this challenge. Callaghan Innovation has helped us to do that, and we’re currently engaging with them for support in the next steps of our research and development programme.”

Digital and connected technologies are making Industry 4.0 a reality and disrupting current global supply chains along the way. Callaghan Innovation helps Kiwi manufacturers and their people adapt to this present and prepare for the future, so get in touch to find out how it can help you on 0800 4 CALLAGHAN (0800 422 552) or at

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