B&R Enclosures: collaboration key to delivering value throughout the supply chain

Last week, Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, the Hon Karen Andrews, visited B&R Enclosures. While there, Minister Andrews toured the facilities, spoke to people on the factory floor, and conducted a round table to consult industry on how best to emulate the success enjoyed by B&R Enclosures.

Established in 1955, B&R Enclosures’ success could be attributed to its decades of experience. The family-owned business has been manufacturing residential, commercial, industrial and mining enclosures, data racks and cabinets, and switchboards for over 60 years.

In reality, it has been B&R’s ability to build on their experience, and move smartly with the times, that has seen the Brisbane-headquartered manufacturer grow and succeed. B&R Enclosures is carving out a real point of difference by transforming its business through digitalisation to ensure that the company can compete effectively within the global marketplace and generate long-term success.

“We’re an Australian manufacturing business of some 60 years’ heritage. We were started by my father and we’re pleased to be able to employ nearly 400 people,” said Bridges-Taylor.

“As well as providing standard product solutions to the general market, we collaborate within value chains, work together and create a unique proposition.  That way Australian companies like B&R win business in major projects.  ”

“To be competitive, to have a right to exist in a supply chain, you have to add value.  Technical and service leadership is how B&R does that,” said Bridges-Taylor.

Turbocharging agility, DECISION MAKING and customer service

B&R recently undertook an Industry 4.0 project designed to make more information, more up to date, and more accessible throughout its entire operations, reducing waste and turbocharging the company’s agility, decision making abilities, and customer service standards.

Anything manufactured by B&R Enclosures will now have a ‘digital thread’ associated with it, making relevant information about its history and destination readily available to employees. It will allow B&R Enclosures to keep up with the market shift from commoditised, low-variability production to an increasingly customised, smart and competitive manufacturing model. The managed accessibility of information throughout the shop floor will enable much better responsiveness to changed customer demands, with real-time reprioritising and rescheduling of different jobs possible.

The University of Queensland and Red Button Group were among five organisations involved in AMGC’s collaborative project, assisting with development of the new system. Skills concerning new methods can often get caught within the walls of universities and take time to filter out within industry.  According to Bridges-Taylor, the linkage with University of Queensland provided a competitive edge.

Sharing Ideas and Experience

B&R has also been involved in another of AMGC’s collaborative projects: the Dassault Virtual Shipyard Program. The Program is helping Australian manufacturers seize the opportunities presented by Industry 4.0 within the global defence supply chain so that they are equipped to play a leading role in the Federal Government’s $90 billion Naval Shipbuilding Plan.

It is the nation’s first digital training program, specifically designed to help local small and medium enterprises (SMEs) build their Industry 4.0 capabilities. All participants learn how to collaborate, comply, plan, design and build in a 3D virtual environment, developing world-class Industry 4.0 skills to catapult their company’s prospects for participation in global supply chains.

“We embraced the opportunity to participate in the Virtual Shipyard, and learn more about the product lifecycle management tools that are just an important part of digital transformation. While on the course, our team realised their focus was too narrow and by broadening the scope of our technology and solution, we could broaden our service offering. So, what started off as learning about systems and technology, came to be implementation of a complete collaboration platform to manage technical discussions with customers and broaden the value proposition,” said Bridges-Taylor.

“Through this project, we were in contact with people and other businesses who are also taking action and happy to share ideas and experience, so that as a community, we become more capable and we achieve better competitiveness for Australian manufacturing as a whole.”

Embracing the change

“Collaboration is important, particularly in Australia, because the manufacturing segment is largely made up of SMEs, the majority of which are smaller than 20 people. The fourth industrial revolution is quickly changing how business takes place in the industrial space, which presents challenges and opportunities—more opportunities than challenges if you’re up for it. There is a range of skills and resources to be developed, that are way beyond the capacity of any one company in the SME space. So, to build capability and deliver value, collaboration in a supply chain is a fairly sound strategy,” said Bridges-Taylor.

“And it’s not just collaboration amongst companies. It’s with technology providers, the universities, TAFE colleges, and with government initiatives like AMGC. After that, it all comes down to delivering value and a superior experience for your customers.”

“I truly believe that the changes that are happening in manufacturing today present great opportunity to provide quality jobs in all communities, whether they’re regional or in the cities. Industry 4.0 is different to past industry revolutions in that the jobs are moving away from smoke-stack style factories. Manufacturing is becoming cleaner, more sustainable and can exist on smaller sites.  Now manufacturing can be distributed closer to the customers and where people live. It can be responsive and customised, which socially presents more opportunities and really interesting jobs.”

“It’s pretty easy to get excited about what manufacturing could be 10 and 20 years from now by embracing the change,” said Bridges-Taylor.