Dudelange, Luxembourg — Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd. is using new technology to digitise and automate production of moulds and components.
The company said key benefits include cutting delivery times to within one week — compared to a typical four to five weeks — along with cutting cost. Husky is implementing the technology in its Dudelange factory with support from the Luxembourg government.
Bolton, Ontario-based Husky intends to roll the technology out in its Canadian plants sometime after 2021.
Husky unveiled the technology Feb. 6 at its European mould products business headquarters in Dudelange. President and CEO John Galt showed a video to illustrate fully automated manufacturing cutting "steel-to-mould" time to 17 minutes and a vision of cutting delivery time to less than one week in the future. That means Husky will be better able to compete in delivery against Chinese mould makers, "speed being our first goal," Galt explained.
Husky calls the technology a "new generation operating model" (NGOM) to "provide a heightened, more accessible customer experience."
NGOM was developed as a Luxembourg Factory of the Future project with software provider Siemens AG and the Luxembourg Ministry of the Economy.
At the event, Luxembourg Economy Minister Étienne Schneider explained that the country's third industrial revolution has adopted a "Rifkin Plan," inspired by U.S. economist Jeremy Rifkin's social and economic theories. Schneider called NGOM "a pioneering project illustrating our digital innovation strategy in the priority area of Industry 4.0."
Siemens Board Member Klaus Helmrich said its MindSphere cloud-based Industry 4.0 open operating system is key to NGOM implementation, by using simulation for design, production and process optimization. Shortening engineering time means 50 percent faster time to market, he said, as well as development of new business models. These include "pay-for-use" machine tools instead of owning tools, shifting from capital expenditure to operating expenditure.
Husky has 918 employees of 33 different nationalities in Dudelange, including 23 apprentices. Some 18 employees have been NGOM team members since the fourth quarter of 2018 and 74 employees participate in "closed-loop learning," with €3.2 million ($3.6 million) of financial support from the Ministry of Economics as part of the Luxembourg Digital Skills Bridge program.
Galt said NGOM is about fully digitalized and automated moulds and mould core production by using the cloud to maximum benefit so either customers or Husky chose how Husky makes products. Customers should also be able to pay Husky to make moulds, instead of doing it themselves, Galt suggested.
The key NGOM benefit is reduction of order-to-delivery time from already relatively fast four to five weeks to two weeks or even one week. This is achieved by running the Dudelange plant practically without manual intervention.
Jean-Christophe Witz, Husky director of digitalisation, said it no longer takes a couple of days, but just 20 minutes to find the ideal solution for a project and pass it on to the shop floor for production. He admitted some steps are still manual, but that "this will change as we learn in the next phase more about the data we are capturing and will capture in future."
Plant Manager Jeanjot Benoit said, while passing a 144-cavity closure mould shop floor display, that Husky runs the Dudelange plant 24/7, with 15,000 out of 20,000 square meters of floor space used for production.
"Everything we produce is customised, all made-to-order, typically involving 14 steps for each component produced," Benoit said.
With the potential to take out 20 percent of the cost, the technology means better ability to compete with Chinese mould makers' prices in "markets where there is price sensitivity," Galt said. This should act as a driver to grow the business faster. It does not mean a loss of jobs, nor an increase, but staff will need retraining, a process of skills transition under the Luxembourg Digital Skills Bridge program, Galt said.
Galt said it is better to be proactive, with practical implementation of Industry 4.0 principles within NGOM, than to wait for someone else to become the leader in this area and forced to follow. Losing the technology edge would mean lost jobs and that is something that Husky wants to avoid, Galt said.
"As many things that were manual are now digital," Galt said NGOM aims to "achieve and sustain a top industrial profile," addressing challenges of consumers demanding more variety faster. He continued: "Our industry will undergo a dramatic transition as leaders emerge and demonstrate ability to serve these customers better. Many of the competitors and customers we know today are at risk, new leaders will be established. We want to be one of those leaders."
Galt boasted that Husky is "better positioned than any other company in our industry to capitalise on these opportunities." "We have the best people, innovation and development-focused DNA, so the innovative spirit that has gone into our products is now being applied to digitalization and breakthrough [end-to-end] process improvement," Galt said.
Galt stated further that Husky has the financial strength, clear vision, will and motivation to achieve this. The company has invested $15 million-$20 million a year in NGOM, so it will cost $50 million when fully running.
There are challenges, such as the Luxembourg location's relatively high cost base, the need to fully eliminate unnecessary and wasteful processes, and to ensure skills transition while "attracting, retaining, inspiring, and growing our digitalisation resources."
"It's not going to be easy," Galt said. "It requires exceptional people, endurance, commitment and ability to demonstrate real wins to build market confidence and create market pull."
Husky can exploit digitalisation to "attack our weaknesses and it can potentially to turn them into a source of competitive advantage," he said. This means faster delivery and better quality in the short term and, as scale increases, "we will cut time-to-market and deliver with unmatched greater efficiency."
In the longer term, Galt expects digitalisation to result in full business process and product integration.
"We are convinced this will deliver our customers an entirely new level of service. One that allows them to bring their product ideas to market with unmatched speed, confidence and design freedom," he said. "Everything is changing. If we don't, we will not be in control of our own destiny."
Siemens' Helmrich supported Galt's statements, referring to a McKinsey consultancy prediction that additional growth of more than €2.5 trillion ($2.8 billion) could be obtained though digitalised solutions for new data-based business models in Europe by 2025.
"It aids seamless integration of electronics, hardware and software, new material and processes and individualisation with high numbers of product variants," Helmrich said.
This digitalisation "can to help us bring back factories from China," he said.