Re engineering the sheet metal industry

Val Pavlovic looks at how a new method of performing a traditional task is offering a solution to the skills shortage in the sheet metal industry.

Val Pavlovic looks at how a new method of performing a traditional task is offering a solution to the skills shortage in the sheet metal industry.

DESPITE a turn towards a slight slowdown in nationwide economic growth in the last 18 months, sheet metal machinery specialist Maxitec claims its industry is still moving forward, but a skills shortage has developed.

With technical skills shortages a symptom of Australian industry in general, management at Maxitec is contemplating searching overseas for service personnel, such is the critical state of affairs.

Sales and Marketing Director of Maxitec, Andrew Bentrup, says the company’s natural preference is for a local appointment, but choice may be limited.

“Amid testing times, the industry is growing, and we are looking to further expand our services and capabilities,” Bentrup said.

“But the current skills shortage means it is very hard to acquire people qualified in the service side of this industry.

“Industry commentators have for years been berating governments at all levels to maintain the numbers of skilled trades graduates that come through the ranks, but it is well known we dropped our guard in the last two decades and symptoms are breaking out,” he explained.

According to Bentrup, the company is in the middle of a growth phase and looking actively to hire people in more positions – especially as service personnel, but finding good quality service people is proving difficult.

He attributes this to Australia’s neglect in maintaining the numbers of technical apprentices coming through the ranks is now coming back to bite us.

“As hard as we tried to avoid doing as such, with the skills shortage here the level of quality people is quite limited so we are extending our search overseas,” he added.

Re engineering solutions

New technologies are providing manufacturers with the means to overcome efficiency obstacles, helping to increase productivity and fill the gaps created by lack of skilled workers.

While the automated cutting of sheet metal is not particularly new to industry, the manner in which engineering drawings can now be created, certainly is.

Traditionally engineering drawings were printed out on hardcopy, so every time a test piece was cut, it would be compared to one of these drawings and if the piece fails, many hours would be spent changing the drawing until a workable finished product was produced.

Now the fabrication sector is armed with a new powerful tool – re-engineering – which does away with engineering drawings altogether.

Maxitec, can perform the design of entire jobs in a digital environment before a single part is produced – and it takes just one part to test for accuracy.

Almost every time, the result is near-perfect and if there is any slight anomaly it can be quickly adjusted so production is not affected whatsoever.

Re-engineering is highly suitable in most sheet metal machinery such as a punch/press or laser. An operator can take the first part off and within 15 to 20 seconds the software running the equipment returns a report.

This facilitates instant and accurate changes so the operator can keep working rather than sending away checks against engineering drawings, so effectively it provides reverse engineering.

There is no need to redraw the engineering drawings which could take about eight hours work. Now the user receives an instant ‘snapshot’ of the job and work begins.

Maxitec 02 8536 5800.