Just as the industrial revolution called for businesses to adapt to electricity enabling mass production, today’s businesses have to embrace the uptake of smart technologies and data.

Why? Because the advent of the fourth industrial revolution, or Industry 4.0 is here!

Industry 4.0 is characterised by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital and cyber-physical. It’s a change in the way we do business that calls for the heavy engineering industry to embrace new technologies into their business models for productivity gain.

The problem is, this is easier said than done.

Knowing when and how to incorporate these new technologies into your business model can be difficult, and of course requires a financial commitment that is not often achievable for businesses with no innovation strategies in play.

At HERA we understand this. We also understand that to create the adoption of Industry 4.0,  it is not so much about focusing on the underlying technologies (although this is very important), but more so, helping our industry understand and seek the improvements and changes this technology has the potential to bring to them.

We do this by:

  • helping our members to understand and utilise these technologies for their maximum potential;
  • providing training that helps lay the foundation and strategies to implement innovations into business strategies for long term success;
  • creating clusters of like-minded organisations to explore industry 4.0 offerings collectively;
  • providing valuable insights and ideas to drive industry 4.0 thinking;
  • connecting and partnering with networks and co-funding models to drive uptake; and
  • carrying out research to explore the possibilities of industry 4.0 in construction, fabrication and business management.
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Key research

Welding 4.0 research

We have a Welding 4.0 research project running on data collection and analysis to assist us in developing our Welding 4.0 capabilities.

In this research we’re exploring the development of a Welding 4.0 readiness assessment tool for our New Zealand metals industry, and will also be supervising several undergraduate students working with us to develop a Welding 4.0 roadmap and design of a testbed for smart welding.

We’ll also be looking to facilitate a technology management course which explores the future of welding inspection.

 

Interested to know more?

Contact our General Manager Welding Centre, Michail Karpenko to discuss further.

The potential business and economic benefits of Construction 4.0 in New Zealand

The logical starting point to bring our industry on a journey and capture the imagination of the construction sector more generally when it comes to Construction 4.0 was to quantify the value of doing.

Accordingly, HERA has undertaken two desk top reviews.

The first was via Intern Hayley Ngo who complete a literature review which investigated the state-of-the-art of Construction 4.0 globally and here in Aotearoa New Zealand.

The second, was via the commissioning of BERL to determine the economic contribution that increased adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies would have to the New Zealand economy. This has resulted in the release of HERA Report R5-91.

Both reports will inform future research – as it is obvious that Construction 4.0 is not a term commonly understood or defined and which globally is still in the nascent stages in terms of research and adoption.

Construction 4.0 and Mātauranga Māori

We’re currently investigating how Construction 4.0 could benefit from an interface with Mātauranga Māori. This is because the unique epistemology of Mātauranga Māori holds value that is not widely represented in many of the physical, applied and practical sciences within New Zealand.

It makes sense to understand this, given over 19,000 Māori are working in the sector, with construction being the fourth largest employer of Māori following manufacturing, health care and social service, education and training. In addition to this, around one in five Māori who are self-employed work in the construction sector.

Leading this work is University of Auckland student, John Cole, through an internship funded by HERA. John is currently studying Engineering and Law.

John’s investigations are being supervised by Mahonri Owen, Kaihautu- Te Urunga Pae, with Pūhoro STEM Academy. John will also be supported by the wider Kaihautu team at Pūhoro.

As far as we are aware, this is the first time the interface between Mātauranga Māori and Construction 4.0 has been investigated. This will lead to some valuable insights and recommendations for future work. We are also really hoping that this will lead to a bilingual publication of the research results and break ground for more meaningful engagement with Māori in Engineering.

You can find out more in our Stirring the Pot podcast:

Facilities

Fab4.0Lab

HERA is taking Industry 4.0 very seriously. As such, we have invested in the creation of the Fab4.0Lab facilities, New Zealand’s first Fabrication 4.0 Laboratory.

Our Fab4.0Lab is home to state-of-the art technology solutions and training facilities and is focused on assisting our industry in the digital uptake of smart technologies into their fabrication deliverables.

 

Interested to know more?

Contact our Automation and Welding 4.0 Engineer, Holger Heinzel or our General Manager Welding Centre, Michail Karpenko to discuss further.

Monitoring 4.0 and Design 4.0

Change across all facets of our member businesses is no longer the exception – but the norm. And, here at HERA we’ve recognised the need to give our members the room to experiment, develop, and ultimately grow as this fourth industrial revolution plays out.

Our Innovation Centre will be a mix of technological, people and systems innovations. And, it’ll play a key role in building, educating and informing our sustainable future and facilitating technology transfer.

Our Board has recently approved the re-invigoration of creating this Innovation Centre (to be built by the HERA Foundation), which was put on hold due to Covid-19 financial uncertainty. This Centre will see HERA expand its Monitoring 4.0 and Design 4.0 capabilities.

 

Interested to know more?

Contact our Innovation and Transformation Architect, Greg Buckley to discuss further!

Support and partnerships

Robotic automation in welding with Verbotics

Spot welding of car bodies was the first welding operation performed by automated robots in a production scenario, since then, robots have become commonplace. In heavy fabrication this has not been so straight forward. Products differ all of the time and the welds can be quite large. The critical factor is the time and skill it takes to program a robot to the accuracy required to achieve a good quality weld.

Recent development in robot technology have much simplified the programming process. Robots equipped with sensors can adjust the programming when parts are out of position and when weld seems move during welding. Programming, at the same time, has moved away from the traditional step-by step approach using teach pendants. It is now carried out much faster and automated via computers or alternatively using cooperative robotics (cobots).

One of our Fabrication 4.0 activities is to explore uptake of robotic welding via a partnership with Verbotics. We’ll be tracking selected member companies who have access to a one year licence of a Verbotics Weld software package. We’ll use this case study to evaluate the software, and understand how faster robotic programming of existing robots in their production environment impacts their deliverables.

 

Interested to know more?

Contact our Automation and Welding 4.0 Engineer, Holger Heinzel or our General Manager Welding Centre, Michail Karpenko to discuss further.

 

You might also find our Stirring the Pot podcast helpful also:

Welding productivity and automation assessments for businesses

Part of our strategic focuses is to deliver solutions that support our members in technical excellence and knowledge transfer.

A major target to achieve this, is to drive industry understanding and adoption of automation, productivity and Industry 4.0 in their workplace.

This is why we’ve started our program on welding productivity and automation assessments to identify common issues we could assist our members to overcome.

These assessments review performance against ten criteria:

  1. ISO 3834:2 – do we fully implement a quality management system to this standard?
  2. Welding 4.0 – do we fully implement Welding 4.0 concepts (interconnectivity, in-process control, data collection, visualisation, equipment capability, data analysis, staff capability)?
  3. Workshop layout – do we have the optimal workshop layout for the range of products considered?
  4. Processing equipment – do we have the optimal processing equipment?
  5. Positioning equipment – do we have the optimal positioning equipment?
  6. Welding equipment – do we have optimal welding equipment?
  7. Workshop – do we implement all process in a correct way in the workshop?
  8. Automation – do we have the optimal level of automation for our fabrication?
  9. Data analysis – do we collect and analyse quality and productivity data in a systematic way?
  10. Innovation – do we implement a strategy of innovation aiming at continuous improvement of processes and equipment?

 

Interested in having a welding productivity assessment?

Contact our General Manager Welding Centre, Michail Karpenko to discuss further.

Work program in revolutionising conventional construction

Aotearoa New Zealand’s construction industry reached over $15 billion in 2019, making it a major contributor to GDP and employment, as well as developer of critical national infrastructure.

Despite this, it’s an industry that requires radical transformation and has long been criticised for its low productivity, inefficiencies, and contribution to New Zealand’s carbon emissions. It requires better integrated decision-making tools, requiring the complex data analysis capabilities offered by Industry 4.0.

While Industry 4.0 is starting to gain momentum in manufacturing, it has not been widely explored within construction. The challenge is that complex decisions are being made based on simple data inputs. The decision points in the process are done in linear silos with little inter-connection or data-derived decision support. The process is entrenched but far from optimised. For example, designers and specifiers don’t have adequate tools to optimise designs for ease of manufacture/fabrication, let alone the ability to resolve the conjoint considerations required to deliver design for sustainability, constructability, te ao Māori, resilience and affordability simultaneously. Such decisions require collection, connection and analysis of complex data sets.

This challenge requires an Industry 4.0 approach to solve these long-standing limitations and to revolutionise conventional construction.

In response, HERA put together an international team of global experts to seek funding to undertake the underpinning research needed to take advantage of the massive opportunity Industry 4.0 offers for Construction.

Our partners included the University of Auckland, Massey University, Pūhoro STEM Academy, University of Canterbury, Tufts University, University of Michigan, University of New Hampshire, and BRANZ.

Unfortunately we weren’t successful in gaining the competitive funding to support this work program, and are now exploring alternative funding avenues, and are still keen to hear from anyone interested in being engaged in this research program.

 

Interested to know more?

Contact our CEO, Troy Coyle; or Manager Structural Systems, Kaveh Andisheh to discuss further.

greg-buckley

Innovation & Transformation Architect

holger-heinzel-hera

Research Engineer, Welding Centre

kaveh-andisheh-staff

Manager Structural Systems

michail-karpenko-staff

General Manager Welding Centre