Internet of Manufacturing Study Tour - What can we learn from the USA?
Thirty seven representatives from twenty six New Zealand and four Australian manufacturing companies, two business organisations (The Manufacturers’ Network and the EMA) and two government funded innovation agencies (Callaghan Innovation and the Australian IMCRC) have all combined into a study group to investigate advanced manufacturing technology at the Internet of Manufacturing Conference in Chicago and through visits to a number of U.S manufacturing companies this week.
“This week has been an exciting opportunity to gain insight into what U.S companies are doing in the networked manufacturing and Industry 4.0 space. There is a lot New Zealand manufacturers can learn about what works and what doesn’t – however, at the end of the day, Kiwi manufacturers have to find what works for them. It starts with getting LEAN processes in order, continually improving what you have and incrementally investing in technology which has the greatest productivity improvements for their business.” says Dr Dieter Adam, CE, The Manufacturers’ Network.
“The trip included a visit to Haas, a global brand in CNC machines, and a remarkable success story of a manufacturer that has managed to grow rapidly while keeping all of its manufacturing activities in the USA.
“We also visited the Trumpf Smart Factory in Schaumburg, Chicago. This is a fully operational sheet metal factory that functions as a technology showcase for sales purposes and as an Industry 4.0 technology test lab at the same time, focusing on end-to-end integration of systems and processes. We were able to see an example of individually customised products coming through the production line, from start to finish, making use of advanced manufacturing technology to make such customisation possible. The customised product example can be seen above.
“One of the key insights from the trip so far is that American manufacturers, even the bigger ones, are still at the early stages of adopting the truly novel aspects of advanced manufacturing technologies. They are well-versed in the more conventional aspects like statistical process control or robots, but still in the early stages when it comes to using cobots or digital twins, for example. Overall, the impression at least from our limited experience so far is that European manufacturers are further ahead than their US counterparts when it comes to adopting Industry 4.0 / Internet of Manufacturing technologies in general.” Says Dr Adam.