University expanding clouds for manufacturing
Auckland researchers are developing "cloud" technology to allow Kiwi manufacturers to share their resources and gain greater critical mass.
The researchers from Auckland University's engineering faculty, say "cloud manufacturing" can help companies maximise their capacity.
"For example, a company may have a piece of machinery that is sitting idle for 50 percent of the time, which is a waste," said project leader Professor Xun Xu.
"But if it were to hire that piece of machinery out by offering it as a cloud resource it could be used by another company. For both companies it's a 'win-win' situation."
The Cloud Manufacturing Platform project is thought to be a first for New Zealand and one of only a handful in the world.
Prof Xu said the hope was that by making resources such as software tools, equipment and fabrication capabilities available to other companies, manufacturers might partner up on more substantial projects.
"It's a good fit for New Zealand companies because they tend to be small in size so it's difficult for them to take on big projects.
"But with cloud manufacturing, if projects are too big for them to handle alone they will be able to access resources from other companies or to partner with other businesses."
A one percentage increase in the productivity of the manufacturing sector would add an estimated $250 million to the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Prof Xu added.
A pilot programme will be run with a number of companies later this year. Prof Xu has also been invited to address the first annual world conference on cloud computing, "CloudCon 2012", later this month in Dalian, China.