Facteon People: Meet Weiming & Joseph

Meet the newest members of Team Facteon. Weiming and Joseph are the latest additions to our growing Digital Manufacturing and Automation team. This area of our business is evolving rapidly as manufacturers are scaling up and retooling for the digital future.

As an Automation Engineer, Weiming’s work focuses on the commissioning of automated production lines. Joseph’s role as a Full Stack Developer requires him to work closely with manufacturers to develop the latest IIoT solutions for factory digitisation.

How did your engineering journey lead you to joining Facteon?

Weiming: I moved to New Zealand in late 2019. I’d spent the last six years or so working in a variety of automation roles in Beijing, China.

My role with Facteon has been an interesting learning curve. I was previously in product management roles where you are an expert in a particular solution. Many of the technologies Facteon works with are specified by the customer. So, I’ve been working with a range of manufacturing systems. I’ve also been very involved in the engineering process which has taken me back to my early days of working to design and integrate automation systems.

Joseph: I also relocated to join Facteon. Rather than moving across the world like Weiming, I moved across the country. I moved from Dunedin in the South Island to Auckland in the North Island of New Zealand.

I had a strong interest in robotics as a kid. My Dad bought me an electronics kit. He, of course, “borrowed” it and returned it to me complete.

Between high school and university, I took a gap year. During this time, I worked in various roles. One I enjoyed was working in a factory. While it was physical work, it helped me to understand manufacturing from the inside out. Now that I’m in a role where I’m working with manufacturers, I have a greater appreciation of the challenges they’re facing.

What is the most significant barrier preventing manufacturers from realising the potential of their facilities through automation?

Weiming: There are two barriers that hinder manufacturers from starting their automation journeys.

The first is the need to invest. Often, manufacturers note a lack of funds as the reason they haven’t yet kicked off an automation journey. The solution here is to start small. It’s not all or nothing. So, start with a pilot project. This allows manufacturers to demonstrate the value of automation through a lower cost and risk approach.

Another barrier is that manufacturers are time-poor. However, the short-term downtime incurred now to implement a powerful solution will result in incremental gains over time. It’s key to take a long-term view so you can start taking steps towards prioritising your facility’s future state.

Joseph: Many manufacturers don’t realise what can be achieved in their facility through smart automation. As Weiming mentioned, it’s not all or nothing. Manufacturers often know that there’s a need to automate. However, they can’t justify the downtime required to implement an automated solution. For that reason, I encourage manufacturers to focus on a single process they want to improve. The implementation can be actioned in a way that aligns with your long-term business goals while minimising disruption in the short-term.

What motivates you to come into work every day?

Weiming: When some companies go to implement a digitisation project, they assign the job to the IT team. These teams often lack knowledge of machinery and how they can roll out the digitisation project without compromising production.

In my role, I’m able to get stuck in with a variety of implementation projects. So, we’re bridging the IT and OT gap by handling the digitisation project end to end. It’s rewarding to be able to work closely with manufacturers and to see their operations evolve to deliver effectively for their customers.

Joseph: The challenge here at Facteon is quite different to my prior roles. It’s a different and more diverse team environment so I’m able to work with engineering automation experts and other specialists to better understand the manufacturers we work with. The end to end nature of Facteon’s work is unique as it ensures such a breadth of knowledge in house. It makes interesting work for me while providing manufacturers with confidence that every box has been ticked at the project’s completion.

What is your advice to manufacturers looking to kick start their automation journeys in 2021?

Weiming: Take that first step into automation this year. There are risks with any project or new technology. However, those risks can be effectively managed by working with an expert committed to understanding and supporting your operations at every stage.

Joseph: I agree, just give it a go. If it doesn’t work, you won’t be in a worse position than you are right now. Instead, you’ll know that the idea or technology you were convinced would work isn’t right for your process or business. It’s better than treading water. The manufacturing landscape is changing and your business must too.

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Joseph Thompson & Weiming Zhao

Joseph Thompson & Weiming Zhao

Full Stack Developer & Automation Engineer

Joseph’s role as a Full Stack Developer is centered on the development and enhancement of smart IIoT solutions for manufacturers of all sizes. Prior to joining Facteon in late-2020, Joseph held a variety of software development roles in the healthcare sector. Joseph’s depth of experience is backed by a Bachelor of Information Technologies from Otago Polytech.

Connect with Joseph on LinkedIn

As an Automation Engineer at Facteon, Weiming is focused on the commissioning of large-scale and fully automated production lines. Weiming is involved at every stage of a project from the integration of new technologies through to machinery installation and troubleshooting. He has now returned to his engineering roots since working in a variety of product and industry management roles in China. Weiming holds a Masters of Electrical Engineering, specialising in power electronics.

Connect with Weiming on LinkedIn