A long-standing East Tamaki business, Facteon is a world leader in planning and building intelligent factories for the internet age.
Facteon’s story begins 40 years ago as the internal engineering divisional capability of Fisher & Paykel Appliances.
At the time, New Zealand and manufacturing in general were in a very different place. Fisher & Paykel, by global standards, was a relatively small appliance provider and had a diverse range of markets which required small batch sizes and a wide variety of products.
To achieve this, they needed a more flexible approach to manufacturing. The equipment and systems suited to this were not easily purchased then, so Fisher & Paykel Appliances decided to establish their own division of experts, Fisher & Paykel Production Machinery.
Over the years, the company became very specialised in appliance lines as well as work in other industries. This work was varied and included such projects as alloy wheel production lines for Ford’s New Zealand factory, building materials and production lines for roof tiles, and even the machinery for pulp thermoforming which is used to make fruit trays and egg cartons.
In 2012, Haier Group purchased Fisher & Paykel Appliances, acquiring the Facteon business in the process.
During the initial years of the relationship, Facteon and Haier worked together to improve the performance of Haier’s manufacturing function, with a particular focus on automated welding and production lines.
In 2018 Haier Group was looking to set up a much wider Industrial Intelligence Division and Facteon became a cornerstone of that group amongst other Haier robotics and software companies.
This was the birth of the Facteon brand. The company wanted a name that signified automation and connectivity for Industry 4.0 and didn’t want any confusion with appliances.
“We have been here for such a long time that it feels like with our new brand coming into the market we are an old friend with a new story,” says Head of Marketing and New Ventures Nathan Soich.
Facteon is fundamentally an automation company, a provider and integrator of automation, from robotics to custom machinery, giving people productivity and efficiency upgrades in their facilities.
One of the real strengths of Facteon is its design heritage which gives the capability to build solutions not found on the shelf. They have a large machining centre in East Tamaki, focusing on high quality machining of components that are of interest to businesses in the area.
Today, Facteon is focused on providing automation to a range of businesses, as well as being a key technology provider within the Haier group, which has more than 100 factories globally, including those of GE Appliances in the United States and Candy Group in Europe.
Facteon is a key part of maintaining and upgrading the manufacturing capability across the Haier Group.
Industry 4.0 and IOT
These terms are new language to a lot of businesses.
Explaining the difference, Nathan says “The general rule of thumb that we operate to is that Industry 4.0 is the overarching principle and way of operating. It deals with the wider ecosystem and both the application of technologies as well as ways of working. When people talk about IoT or IIoT which is the Industrial Internet of Things, that is primarily about the technology you use to provide the connectivity of the sensors of the robotics, of the software you are using.
“Intelligent manufacturing is like Industry 4.0 but is specific to manufacturers and talks about data/intelligence driven manufacturing.”
According to Nathan, many companies are implementing pilot programmes around IIoT and Industry 4.0, and there are increasing numbers of businesses discussing a 4.0 strategy – whether they need one, the relevance to their business and what their competitors are doing in this space.
Having first-hand experience, Facteon can bring a significant amount of clarity to these businesses.
The digital factory and SaaS: Software as a Service
An area of increasing demand from businesses is data and analytics; what Facteon calls the Digital Factory.
Using their Cosmoline software product, Facteon takes data generated from a production line and turns it into easily read and accessible information, enabling people to form business decisions.
For example, instead of having to pull information from a control system and look at it on a little screen on the machine, all machines can be connected, and show various data such as their production rates, status, and any parts that may be malfunctioning, to anyone with an internet capable device.
The larger the data set, whether it’s on machine state and running condition, through to product count and quality, the more can be sent to cloud computing infrastructure for analysis.
The software can then start to make calculations and decisions about how that equipment runs and the type of information it can produce. Nathan explains, “It’s all about bringing clarity to the digital layer of the factory, giving people good information to make good business decisions.”
The key difference is that for many years, machines have had data, but it’s been siloed in each machine, the amount of data you can generate is also now significantly larger.
What you can do with it has expanded and enabled machine to machine connectivity. Until now, a human has always had to make a decision about what action to take.
“Now, we are starting to talk about Cyber-Physical Systems which are ultimately machines communicating with other machines via the internet and a decision being made by AI to do something in the factory. This is intelligent manufacturing, or Industry 4.0.”
The digital factory in action
Facteon’s IIoT technologies can be applied to a range of businesses and their operations.
Internally within the Haier Group, there are several factories in China that are connected via this software – providing information about how the production lines are running, if targets are being met, and complete visibility on the maintenance.
Facteon uses the system to schedule maintenance, show that it’s being completed and allow the customer to raise requests for service and maintenance as well.
One customer with a considerable bottling operation across New Zealand, have over 1000 machines connected to the software which is primarily used to manage maintenance.
Soon, however, edge computing units will be attached to enable tracking of resource usage.
These are computers attached to the production line to communicate with the cloud. By monitoring their power, water usage and other metrics, Facteon can look at predictive maintenance rather than just following a schedule.
This machine can notify when something is likely to fail, avoiding downtime which, as Nathan says, is the enemy of the factory.
World-class automation for New Zealand manufacturers
The company is undergoing changes as it scales up for growth both in New Zealand and offshore.
“We’re making a significant investment into both our New Zealand and China-based operations currently” Nathan explains. “Whilst we are always a strategic capability for our parent company, providing them with technology and automation, we are going out to the wider market and looking to grow there too.”
For Facteon this means taking an increasingly close look at the potential for automation and Industry 4.0 to be applied here in New Zealand.
“We are talking to a number of companies about how they can begin their Industry 4.0 journeys. Businesses are constantly looking at ways to improve productivity and improve a range functions within their operation.
“We see Facteon as being able to play an important role in taking what we’ve been exposed to in global manufacturers’ operations, translating this and applying it into the New Zealand context.”
-article provided by GETBA.