Adarsh reimagines their business model with help from cobots

Perth-based manufacturer, Adarsh Australia, leveraged the power of technology to diversify their business, adapt to skill shortages, and overcome supply chain issues in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Established over 25 years ago, Adarsh Australia was originally an engineering business with capabilities spanning fabrication, CNC machining, injection moulding, and casting and forging. Today, the company services a diverse range of industries such as mining, defence, sub-sea projects, automotive, agriculture and health.

Like so many Australian manufacturers, the COVID-19 pandemic afforded Adarsh the opportunity to rethink their business model.

As Faz Pollard (Director, Adarsh Australia) explained, “During the pandemic, we got involved with the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research and the East Metropolitan Health Service’s Centre for Implant Technology and Retrieval Analysis (CITRA). We manufactured 10,000 face shields for frontline health workers to boost Western Australia’s personal protective equipment supply.”

“We saw the pandemic and resultant supply chain issues as an opportunity. This once-in-a-lifetime event gave Adarsh the chance to examine our operations, supply chains, and workforce, and reconsider how and what we were manufacturing,” said Faz.

Adarsh worked closely with CITRA, The University of Western Australia, Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research, Western Australia’s Department of Health and Chief Scientist, Professor Peter Klinken, to produce prototypes of the face shields. The prototypes were taken through to production, with two types of shields manufactured: a standard shield to be used by general hospital staff, and a specialised shield for ear, nose, and throat surgeons.

“We assembled the initial batch of face shields manually, to ensure production deadlines were met. But, with the labour shortages that all of Australia is facing, and to keep costs down, we decided to invest in advanced technology: cobots. The first cobot cuts pieces of foam into the correct sizes, applies glue and affixes the foam to the face shield. The second cobot cuts the plastic straps to size and rivets them,” said Faz.

The Power of Government Procurement Practices

One of the key aspects of the success of this project was the commitment made by the Western Australian Government to purchase the face shields. This is a commitment that Faz believes is essential to the Australian manufacturing industry.

“Australia’s governments have the opportunity to use procurement as a lever to encourage local manufacturing. By offering local manufacturers long-term contracts and bulk orders, our governments give the industry the confidence to invest in technology. This investment then fosters upskilling, the ability to compete on the global stage, and so much more. Local procurement policies help foster advanced manufacturing,” said Faz.

Diversity Builds long-term Sustainability

As a result of their investment in advanced manufacturing technology, Adarsh Australia has experienced a range of benefits.

“Manufacturing high-volume products like the face shields is repetitive. Employing technology like cobots improves the health and safety of workers by eradicating repetitive work,” said Faz. “We’ve also had the opportunity to upskill our staff. Rather than applying glue to foam, our team can learn how to program robots. This leads to a more satisfied, more engaged workforce, which is essential given current skills shortages in Australia,” said Faz.

“Plus, we invested in cobots with a 12.5 kilogram payload. This means that if the manufacture of face shields disappears offshore, we can redeploy the cobots on our CNC machines to load parts, particularly on some of the more repetitive CNC jobs we have. All we need to do is replace the cobot’s adapter and gripper.”

“The more diverse your business is, the more sustainable it is,” said Faz.

Lessons from the Industry

“When it comes to manufacturing, you need to learn how to crawl, how to walk, how to run, and then how to jump. You cannot skip steps two and three and go straight to being an advanced manufacturer,” said Faz.

Adarsh Australia followed this process not only when making their recent investment in cobots, but when they branched out into 3D printing technology a few years ago.

“We own three different types of 3D printers that deliver three different commercial prototyping methods—Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM), Stereolithography (SLA), and Selective Laser Sintering (SLS). Each 3D printer and printing process has its own advantages, depending on the type of prototype or part that you’re trying to print. We didn’t rush out and buy the first printer we saw. Initially, we bought cheap printers, learnt on them, and came to understand their issues before investing in the print farm that we have now. We made sure we understood all the limitations and capabilities first,” said Faz.

“Investing in technology is definitely worthwhile, but, you need to research what it is you’re investing in. Do your due diligence. Don’t buy the latest and greatest machinery, just for the sake of it. All too often, manufacturers run their own race and forget to talk to others working in the industry. If you know of a manufacturer who has invested in the technology that you’re thinking about buying, pick up the phone and speak to them. Ask them about the benefits and pitfalls. Learn from your industry colleagues.”