Intelligent Production Lines for Rebar Smart Manufacturing Product
Help Solve Manpower, Quality and Land Use Challenges
(Hong Kong, 13 July 2022) The Hong Kong Productivity Council (HKPC) today announced the signing of an collaboration agreement with Smart Technology (Global) Limited (STGL) which has commissioned HKPC as Industry 4.0 (i4.0) technical consultants to design and build four intelligent production lines for prefabricated steel reinforcing bar (rebar) parts. These lines aim to meet the local market demand for increased production and quality improvement of steel products, and at the same time to solve the shortage of skilled workers and land use. The project has also successfully applied for the Re-industrialisation Funding Scheme of the Innovation and Technology Commission of the HKSAR Government, receiving a subsidy of about HK$3.9 million.
Witnessed by Mr Mohamed BUTT, Executive Director of HKPC, and Ms Adeline LEUNG, Vice-President of STGL, Mr Edmond LAI, Chief Digital Officer of HKPC, and Mr Joe LEUNG, Director of STGL, signed the collaboration agreement at STGL’s new production site at Yuen Long INNOPARK today.
Hong Kong’s bar bending and fixing trade is facing many challenges in recent years. For example, the population of skilled workers is ageing. At present, the average age of ordinary bar bending, cutting and fixing workers is 45.5 years old while that of skilled workers is 52.4 years old. With young people perceiving it as a job for the older generation, attracting new blood to join the trade has been very difficult. In addition, as construction sites in Hong Kong are small in size, the space to bend and cut bars onsite is scarce and industrial accidents can easily happen. Together with a lag in the adoption of advanced construction technologies, there are also the issues of rebar quality and work-related accidents one has to contend with. Currently, there are only four approved off-site rebar prefabrication yards in Hong Kong, which can only meet 11% of the total rebar demand. In light of these challenges and the market’s ardent demand for increased production of prefabricated rebar parts, STGL sought HKPC’s assistance for the provision of tailored technologies and professional support to address its pain points and needs, for example, focusing its on its request to produce of small-sized prefabricated rebar parts with a diameter of usually less than 16 millimetre. From finding a suitable production site to designing the new intelligent production lines, HKPC does not only meet the demand of STGL but also supports the current development direction of the HKSAR Government to promote the off-site production of prefabricated rebar parts.
HKPC provides one-stop service for STGL, from the layout of the production plant; the design and set up of data collection and network security topography, production equipment specifications, digital system and peripheral equipment specifications; construction of industrial Internet for equipment connection; assembling production lines; setting up data visualisation systems and production operation dashboards; establishing mechanical intelligent auxiliary systems; to a series of enterprise digital integration systems related to intelligent manufacturing, enabling STGL to realise the intelligent production of rebar precast parts.
HKPC will prepare the layout of the intelligent production lines according to STGL’s factory environment and its management expectation on production needs. With lean production as its goal, it will consider factors such as the dimensions of existing and to-be-purchased equipment, work and material flow, safe operating areas, environmental hygiene, noise and safety requirements, and optimise the production process of rebar precast parts without affecting other processes and with minimal moving distance, to reduce the occurrence of crossover and reverse flow. Then, HKPC will formulate an intelligent production line upgrade plan to realise real-time generation and provision of data and information for all operations based on Ii4.0) standards. A digital enterprise operating system will also be established, employing a digital order management system and an internal logistics tracking system for the digitalisation of sales order management, keeping tabs on management to delivery, and tracking the production progress and delivery status of the orders. STGL will be able to obtain real-time tracking information and related customer information on all process handovers, material out/inbound and production quality records to achieve remote monitoring of production, paperless operation and descriptive data analysis, thereby leading to significant increases in both efficiency and production capacity. In addition, HKPC will provide i4.0 technical and operation training for STGL management to familiarise with real-time tracking of production status and remote monitoring of production lines.
Mr Mohamed BUTT, Chief Executive of HKPC, said, “HKPC has been promoting the upgrading and transformation of various industries in Hong Kong with innovative technologies through R&D. I am very pleased that this project will help the construction industry to solve various challenges currently faced by the bar bending and fixing trade. By leveraging the advanced technologies of i4.0 such as sensors, data analysis, the Internet, advanced human-machine interface, robots, image processing, artificial intelligence and other technologies, it will address the production and operation pain points and achieve upgrading, transformation and intelligent manufacturing. The introduction of intelligent production in the bar bending and fixing industry is expected to further promote the large-scale development of Modular Integrated Construction (MIC) in Hong Kong, and serve as a model for other trades in the construction industry. At the same time, it is expected to improve the accuracy, quality and safety of building structures, and contribute to providing and stabilising Hong Kong’s future huge demand for prefabricated rebar products in basic infrastructure and public housing, as well as nurturing mid-to-high-end talents and creating new job opportunities.”
Mr Joe LEUNG, Director of SGTL, said, “We are delighted to receive the technical support and professional advice of HKPC, so that we can apply innovative technologies in the bar bending and fixing trade. As the smart manufacturing of rebar products mainly creates the conditions for MIC, we hope the successful establishment of four intelligent production lines for rebar precast parts to enhance our production capacity, quality and safety. It is expected that the output and quality will rise by 50% and 70% respectively. At the same time, it can save 30% of production costs, reduce rebar surplus material waste by 90%, and cut inventory and logistics costs by about 20%. In addition, the intelligent production line is expected to attract people of different ages and genders, and can increase the proportion of medium and high-tech talents, as well as further improve the working environment, occupational safety and health.” Mr Leung continued, “We hope to promote electricity consumption reduction at construction sites and ultimately achieve zero electricity consumption through Rebar SMP (Smart Manufacturing Products).”