Endeavour Awards Lifetime Achievement Award: Russell Hughes, Integra Systems

Russell is a mentor to the manufacturing community.

"I think one thing that Russell's instilled in what we do is not only embrace change but actually instigate it through innovation, and that really sets us apart," said Paul Hughes, who proudly accepted the Lifetime Achievement Endeavour Award on behalf of his father, Russell.

Paul started Integra Tooling Systems in 1991, before dad Russell joined him and helped changed the company's focus. Its name had to change, too, and in 1993 father and son were working together at Integra Systems.

Integra is a family-owned product development and manufacturing company, specialising in engineering and designing products and components built from steel and aluminium. It has three divisions – Integra Development, Integra Manufacturing and Integra Products. It offers a variety of product development and manufacturing services.

Russell is the company's Engineering Director, and at 72, is continuing a proud career that dates back to 1957, beginning at as an apprentice at the Maribyrnong Ordnance Factory. From there, Russell moved to Caterpillar's Tractor Factory where engineering design became his specialty.  

Russell later became an engineering and design contractor for companies such as Ericsson, International Harvester, Ford (Geelong and Broadmeadows), Zenford and General Motors Holden. Russell gained a vast range of skills and experience and became the Senior Engineer for Sidchrome.  

He took on the general manager role with Rymer Lighting, a Division of Howard Smith Industries, which then became Thorn EMI. During Russell's 17 year tenure at Rymer Lighting, he was promoted to managing director, and manufacturing and engineering director of Howard Smith Industries and lead the growth of Rymer Lighting from a $1m per annum turnover to $33m per annum.

In 1993, Russell joined Integra Systems as Joint Director with his son, Paul Hughes to develop his dream of harnessing innovation to develop engineering solutions.

"It's been our constant drive for innovation and our trying to do things a little bit different," said Paul of the company, and father Russell's, approach. Russell's inventive nature led him to develop the world's first high speed Coil Processing Line (called Punch-IT Coil Processing), built with Paul, which was ultimately Integra's first production machine.

Russell identified a niche in the Australian market for a linear high speed coil processing line that would rival the steel punching competition by punching steel components at a rate that would ensure components less that 300mm wide were produced economically.

Between 1993 and 1998, Integra Systems brought Russell's idea to fruition and Russell and his son Paul designed and built these machines for a range of customers. The Punch-IT linear coil processing line is a five-axis system consisting of an electronic feed system and a series of four punching stations suitable for most linear punching applications.

Punching at a rate of 120 strokes per minute, coil is consumed and converted to finished parts at a rate of 20 linear metres per minute, at least six times faster than a turret punch press.

The Punch-IT line was so technologically advanced that the University of Melbourne's Engineering Professor, Colin Burvile, presented a paper on the machine at the International Conference of Engineering Design (ICED).  

In 1999, a strategic decision was made by Integra Systems to build an in-house Punch-IT line for component manufacture, and became the first production machine and manufacturing foundation.

Russell's Punch-IT Coil Processing Line invention, engineering know-how and manufacturing experience lead to the foundation of Integra Systems and the variety of superior services it offered. The services offered now span beyond the Punch-IT Coil Processing Line, to a complete a manufacturing solution portfolio, but the Punch-IT line is a clear manufacturing differentiator for Integra. Russell is a mentor to not just his son and all at Integra, but to those at the University of Melbourne Engineering Design Group, where he is a member.

"It feels great that he's been recognised for his efforts in the engineering and manufacturing industries," Paul told Manufacturers' Monthly.

The company is also proud of their veteran Engineering Director, saying  "Russ was a finalist against others who are also significant contributors to the industry but he was recognised for his innovation and mentoring qualities and his 'never say die' approach to nutting out solutions".


Image: Paul Hughes, who accepted the award on behalf of his father Russell