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How digitisation has revolutionised operations at Integra

How digitisation has revolutionised operations at Integra

Despite the added degree of difficulty imposed by COVID-19 in 2020, Integra Systems has seen the realisation of a three-year dream in finalising the use of 10 x 43-inch touchscreen kiosks across their offices and manufacturing facility.

As part of a commitment to Industry 4.0 transformation, these kiosks feature Integra’s own software developed in-house, and integrate with the organisation’s Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, Computer Assisted Drawing (CAD) and live machine monitoring data (IoT) to deliver a wide range of efficiencies – from smarter ways of working to ensuring unprecedented quality in everything Integra does.

The development of these kiosks and associated software has been so successful that Integra has now commercialised the technology and packaged it up as a customised product and service – DigiSMART Collection – which they can now deliver to fellow manufacturers as well as apply to other industry sectors such as retail, logistics, defence and so on.

Here’s how the new kiosk technology and digitisation has revolutionised operations at Integra…

The System

Managing Director and Co-Founder of Integra Systems, Paul Hughes, describes the platform created by Integra’s computer scientist for the kiosks as nothing less than the framework to his business. From quoting to prototyping to accessing schematics, plans, 3D drawings with animations and operating procedures, the touchscreen system accumulates a range of data which, in turn, provides valuable analytics for engineers, designers and customers. In summing up the system in a nutshell, think cloud-based manufacturing.

“We create a virtual job bag in the factory,” explains Paul. “An operator can open a job bag and all of the information they need is there in one place with a simple user interface for the production team to log into.”

“All of the information gets captured on a job,” he continues. “Once the operator clocks into a work order or opens up that job bag, they’ve got all the drawings they need – all the information they need for the job is packaged up. Once they clock onto it, all the times related to different parts of that job are captured in the system site for reference later on. Not only that, the quoted times are tracked against actual performance at the time of running the job.”

As well as streamlining production processes, Integra’s kiosks offer the opportunity for enhanced collaboration and communication across every stage of the design and manufacture process. In a situation where an operator wants to record or raise an engineering change, the system comes into its own.

As Paul explains, “The operator can click [on the job] and say, ‘I think we need to add this dimension’ or ‘this needs changing’ or ‘this isn't clear’and it'll get captured with the particular drawing and fed back to the drawing office.”

"To support that, every kiosk is equipped with video-conferencing capability,” he continues. “We’ve got a large video screen on the wall in the office where we conduct all our Zoom meetings, and the operator can create a live video link between the design office and the machine [on the manufacturing floor].”

One of the pillars of Integra’s success is taking pride in exceptional customer service. The implementation of the kiosk and video-conferencing capability helps ensure the company’s external partners are included in the design and collaboration loop. As well as facilitating real-time internal discussions, operators or the design team can link external clients and suppliers into meetings via the kiosk’s Zoom functionality.

As Paul says, “Prototyping, for example, can be done with the customer right there at the machine with you.”

This advance in process execution means notable time and cost-savings, and improved client satisfaction. Integra’s Commercial Director, Erika Hughes, explains as follows: “The time-saving for the operator in terms of questions and troubleshooting and clarification between the engineering department and the operator is significant. You could be looking at a 25 percent time saving there. And then there is the ability to ask questions while you're operating the machine and executing a prototype with the customer or getting them to do a quality check or ensure that nothing is missing in real-time.”

“It is a massive step forward. Massive.”

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Analytics

Analytics have always been at the heart of innovation and efficiency across just about any industry you care to mention – but particularly so in manufacturing. As we develop smarter machines, hardware and software, the ability to capture more precise and accurate data, along with the insights they provide businesses, is more important than ever.

Integra Systems’ kiosks facilitate this approach and, as user-friendly as they are, the importance of the information they deliver hasn’t been compromised.

As Erika Hughes says, “You get live data, and that then gives you access to data for operational performance management. It means you can track your actuals against your KPIs – how you’re actually performing against how, or what, you quoted.”

“Some jobs are repeat jobs and some jobs are one-offs,” adds Paul. “Sometimes, you never have the time to go back to revisit how you went in terms of your costings. By monitoring the machines on a live basis, we can then compare the live data with how we've quoted it, and it flags any major discrepancies to highlight whether we're running on time or running behind time on any particular job. It's a visual aid as to how we're tracking on different jobs.”

So not only do we get data from a real-time point of view, the kiosks also provide access from a saved data perspective,” continues Erika. “This plays an important role with our production management because it's real-time. You can flag any issues early. This is true industry 4.0 in operation providing tangible results." 

Going Paperless

The implementation of Industry 4.0 principles at Integra has helped the organisation better reflect the kind of world their staff live in away from work. While helping create a more modern workplace and integrating the benefits of technology, Erika explains that the company-wide transformation has a role in retaining their current staff, as well as attracting the next generation of engineering and manufacturing talent.

As Erika says, finding good people is very difficult: “Young people in manufacturing are not as interested in the manual labour side of it. Now that we're integrating digital with manual, it's really interesting and really exciting for the staff.

As well as a shift away from manual labour, Erika believes the ability to see how the parts and the manufacturing process integrate to form a finished project will also have a positive impact on enticing and retaining their next generation of workers.

“Often, operators will be making something but they don't know what they're making it for. They find it difficult to visualise their contribution to the end result, and that can sometimes be a little bit tiresome. Now, though, they can see exactly how the components they're manufacturing tie in with the product itself. They know that the product's being developed for a certain company but now they can also see how these components fit into products in a certain way. There’s a bit of pride and a lot of job satisfaction that comes out of that.”

Having a younger, more tech-savvy team – a workforce familiar with gaming, devices and computers – has also made Integra’s 4.0 transformation smoother and more collaborative, which, as Paul explains, has helped them achieve their aims without excessive pain and return trips to 'the drawing board'.

“The interface for the production team is actually more intuitive to them than what paper drawings are,” he admits. “It's far more intuitive for them to be working from a digital drawing than it is to go back to this old-fashioned 2D drawing, so the ability to go straight to a 3D format has been a far more logical approach.”

“And they look really awesome!”

Words of Advice

While far from finished, the journey Integra has been travelling has provided them with some prescient insights on navigating their way through a future-focused way of running their operations. Their most important piece of advice for other organisations about to embark on a similar project is two-fold:

1. Ensure any company leaders buy into what you’re trying to achieve; and
2. Insist upon customisability.

“It's about working with your management team – your leadership team – to make sure they are able to convince the whole organisation that this is valuable,” stresses Erika. “Everyone's got to be behind it. Everyone's got to own it and they need to see the value in it.”

While what is the right platform will differ from industry to industry – and business to business – ensuring you have room for customisation is non-negotiable. As Erika notes, “I think if you're going to make a commitment to move down this path, and really make the most of i4.0 and all the various technologies and digital interfaces, you need to commit with some resources.”

Erika adds, “We have a doctor of computer science and an electronics engineer working side-by-side in-house with us. They make a really effective, well-rounded team. You have your electronics capturing the data, and you have your computer science expertise presenting it in a usable way. Then, you have the user interface on the shop floor giving us real-time feedback, and you have the engineers feeding their technical expertise and their information about product design through to the system.”

“It's been executed in a real-life environment where you've had all of the users tweaking it and designing it and working together to come up with a really good, robust outcome.”

For more information about introducing Integra’s DigiSMART kiosk technology into your organisation, contact Krystal Davis on (03) 9359 3133 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
See DigiSMART in action in this video

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Published in Blog
K2_WRITTEN_ON December 07 2020
Written by Erika Hughes