A dozen manufacturers are jetting off to Germany this week to learn how they can make their high tech factories “sexy”.
Innovators from the likes of Fonterra and Fisher and Paykel Production Machinery will attend the worlds largest industrial technology trade show Hannover Messe with government grants agency Callaghan Innovation next week.
The annual event in the northern German city of Hannover will exhibit products from 6500 international companies.
Its theme this year focuses on the fourth industrial revolution of automation and internet connected technology, dubbed Industry 4.0.
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Industry 4.0 refers to machinery that is connected to the internet.
Callaghan business innovation advisor Nathan Stantiall said the group’s mission was to define the trendy manufacturing term Industry 4.0 for New Zealand.
New Zealand Manufacturing and Exporters Association chief executive Dieter Adam said many New Zealand manufacturers did not know much about Industry 4.0 trend and were concerned about the cost of introducing new technology into factories.
New Zealand’s manufacturing landscape was niche, consisting mostly short-run production lines that made components for larger products, Adam said.
“You can automate short-run production. That is the threat and opportunity for our market.”
Adam said those attending the show needed to keep an eye out for technology that would work with the processes they already used.
The hardware on show at Hannover Messe would be tempting, he said.
Christchurch motor control maker AuCom Electronics will showcase its low and medium voltage motor controls, at its second appearance at the show.
AuCom technical support team leader Daniel Scott said he was travelling to Germany to see how his company could stay internationally competitive with the rise of robotic machinery.
“Industrial 4.0 may erode the very sweet spot New Zealand manufacturers are sitting in,” Scott said.
Fonterra solution architect Rob Lorimer said he hoped to find new factory innovations.
If he did not attend Hannover Messe, Fonterra risked missing an opportunity, Lorimer said.
Adam said the German government had poured a huge amount of money into its Industry 4.0 scheme to lead the international manufacturing industry.
The two-week-long visit also includes visits to technology companies, Robert Bosch and Festo as well as the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering.
Scott said he wanted to see for himself whether German factories were as advanced as they claimed to be.
Stantiall said the visitors would see that New Zealand SME’s were not far behind German manufacturers.
“Let’s make manufacturing sexy,” he said.
Other companies in the group include bronze component maker AW Fraser, door and window maker Assa Abloy, industrial instrument maker Define Instruments, Sutton Tools, Energylight, electric vehicle charging technology company Evnex, refrigeration specialist Milmeq, connectivity software company UbiquiOS Technology and Wellington Drive Technologies.
Madison Reidy is travelling to Germany courtesy of Callaghan Innovation.
The Fairfax Media business innovation series runs in partnership with Callaghan Innovation.