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Smarter Manufacturing: Getting ahead of the game

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How expert advice and carefully-selected products can help Australian manufacturers improve output in today's volatile trading climate.
By ABB Communications
More than ever before, Australian manufacturers are looking to smart new breeds of technology to help them become more productive. The result: a rising number of case studies proving just how much efficiency can be gained from investing.
But as the trading climate for manufacturers becomes more treacherous, it is all too easy to succumb to the sombre mood of ‘doom and gloom’ which is doing its damndest to ensnare industry in its clutches.
According to a recent report from the Australian Industry Group (Ai Group), Business prospects in 2013: Australia’s gap year?, Australia’s CEOs are expecting a tougher trading year in 2013 than they experienced in 2012.
The blame, according to the report, is with the strong Australian dollar, rising energy prices and high labour costs – which together are causing our usually optimistic manufacturing industry to exercise unheralded business caution.
According to the leader of one of the largest equipment suppliers serving the local manufacturing industry, however, businesses would do well to look at the successes of their peers, and grab with both hands the unique opportunities that are characteristic of such uncertain operating conditions.
ABB Australia senior vice president and local division manager of discrete automation and motion, Jussi Rautee, claims 2013 offers unprecedented scope for companies to look inwards, and identify areas for potential improvement.
“By focussing on their core competencies and knowledge, and engaging in process improvements in the areas of risk reduction, cost optimisation and improving efficiency, all manufacturers can achieve operational excellence,” Rautee advises.
In Rautee’s experience, companies that invested in growing their businesses during the ‘boom times’ are now ahead of their competition, and are finding it easier to compete with imported products.
While today’s economic climate is less stable, Rautee suggests that manufacturers can learn from these case studies, and perform similar – even smaller – improvements to help them get ahead of the game.
“Across the board, companies that invest in intellectual property (IP) and research and development (R&D) and more likely to be stable. In short, manufacturers that are finding ways to provide higher value to their customers are surviving.”
Efficiency for productivity
It is clear that manufacturers need to become more efficient if they hope to compete with global competition, however there are various ways companies can both improve their efficiency and lower their production costs.
Improving efficiency in the area of energy use is one of the simplest, and also most effective, ways to get ahead.
“Get back to basics and improve what you are good at, but do it 20 percent cheaper, for example, by cutting down on energy consumption."

ABB offers detailed energy appraisals for manufacturers looking to reduce their energy consumption, along with a simple – and free – Energy Calculator App that allows users to calculate the energy savings they can achieve on a typical pump or fan load by replacing direct-on-line control with a variable-speed drive.

ABB provides a complete line-up of products designed to improve production performance while lowering environmental impact, such as the ACS880 range of drive modules, with each unit incorporating an energy optimiser, energy efficiency information for monitoring and saving energy, and built-in safety features for simplified configuration. 

ABB’s synchronous reluctance motor (SynRm) technology is another example of energy-saving technology, offering customers a high output range (compared to the same IEC frame size traditional motor), and the possibility to achieve IE 4 super premium efficiency down to the 11 kW power level.

ABB also offers variable speed drives with in-built energy calculations, including energy used, saved kWh, CO2 reduction and money saved, helping the user finetune processes to ensure optimal energy use.

Further, the latest safety innovations are found in ABB drives, such as an in-built ‘safe torque off’ function that removes all torque from the motor shaft and prevents unexpected start-up.

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