Coengineer Delivers for James Hardie

James Hardie is one of the leading building product manufacturers in both Australia and the US. They’re all things cement, cladding and fibre-reinforcement, and are innovatively and ethically guided, with an area focused on sustainable projects. One of their core values is to “challenge convention within the construction industry and lead the way in delivering innovative building products and solutions”. In a nutshell, they’re progressive and innovative, and they’re always looking ahead.

It’s this design thinking that brought us to them. Their Research & Development team had invested in a new processing machine. They went to an offshore supplier, and while this company is strong when it comes to machine design and construction, they’re weaker when it comes to automation and process control. This new machine required programming and optimisation, and Coengineer was contacted to provide this engineering support to James Hardie.

The Problem:

The process machine was purchased and delivered to site months prior to us joining the project. Whilst the machine was installed correctly, opportunities were identified to improve the process and ensure that it functioned correctly. At the time, process control issues caused the machine to stall, fault or get stuck. Progress on the research project was delayed, costing the company in both time and resources.

It was at this point that Coengineer was called in and after about a week of analysing the process, machine, and the electrical, instrumentation and control systems, we discovered a number of opportunities for improvement. This included improving the safety circuit, correcting electrical drawings and optimising the automation code.

The Solution:

After clearly defining the scope of the project, we put together a tailored solution to achieve the key performance indicators set by James Hardie. At Coengineer we pride ourselves on bridging the gap between technology and business, and we utilised our extensive experience in both worlds to meet the business requirements with a technical solution. A range of options were reviewed, with selections made based on those that best supported the key objectives. For example, we chose to utilise and modify some existing sections of code, while completely rewriting others to achieve required functionality. Replacement of the VSD’s for servo drives, although an enhancement, was not a critical first step forward and so was recommended as a future option.

Supported by good processes and focusing on key business drivers, we redesigned the automation system, adding extra sensors to optimise process control, as well as writing solid automation code that is easy to maintain and modify. To support the redesigned code, we reissued the electrical drawings and design specifications. The safety system was also optimised. This lead on to a thorough process of re-testing and re-analysing to ensure all issues were resolved. We basically overhauled the whole system.

This process took just three months, during which we were able to respond quickly and ramp up a team of experts to deliver the project with very short notice.

As our automation partner, Coengineer have been invaluable to our operation. Recently they helped us design, modify and commission the control and safety systems on one of our new machines. Their transparent approach and specialist experience resulted in a quality outcome. Very pleased. – Steven Terzian, Head of Research and Development, James Hardie

After the system was running correctly, it became as simple as flicking a switch and watching the machine produce sheet after sheet. The new code allowed the James Hardie team to transparently draw on key performance indicator data to further optimise the machine. The net result was a faster more valuable and cost effective machine. Not only did we achieve the project objectives by resolving key issues, we improved the overall system, delivering a win for James Hardie.

It’s projects like this that highlight the importance of having the right automation partner. Automation can appear to be such a small part of the overall project, but it can quickly become a much larger issue. Understanding the true business cost of a poorly automated system is an important discussion that we’ll continue to have. At Coengineer we begin with the end in mind, and as cliché as it sounds, we know that “time is money”. We had a team onsite within the week for the James Hardie project, resulting in progress being made immediately, and continued to add engineers to the team as the project progressed in order to support the client and achieve the tight timeframe requirement.

At Coengineer we offer complete project solutions by clearly defining business objectives and drivers. We value the ability to measure tangible improvements, and this project with James Hardie is a shining example of how when investing in the correct automation partner, you invest in the most cost effective, long-term solution.

Coengineer is Australia’s leading team of automation specialists. Our dynamic team of engineers and project managers are experts at driving bottom line business objectives through automation. If you’ve got an automation challenge, or are looking for a long-term partner to support you, don’t hesitate to get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.

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