THE WILEY MACHINE
Written on the 10 October 2014 by Laura Daquino
WILEY has added another accolade to its list, signalling the food facility engineer, designer and project manager isn’t stopping in its tracks any time soon.
The multi-discipline company is focused on being on the cutting-edge of innovation and seeking out complex projects to sharpen its edge.
This includes one of its most recent projects born out of a partnership with JBS Australia, the nation’s largest meat processing company, to create a self-sustaining biogas facility.
The awarded facility captures cattle emissions to power an existing natural gas-fired boiler plant, reducing annual greenhouse gas emissions by 89 per cent and saving more than $1 million a year on natural gas costs.
For this project, Wiley was awarded the top award for Innovation in Environmental Management at the recent Queensland Master Builders Association (QMBA) State Awards and is now in the running for the national award.
The company took home the same category for the project at the QMBA’s regional awards earlier this year.
Managing director Tom Wiley says spinning a fresh perspective on projects is Wiley’s speciality, and the company has the track record to back this up.
Delivering an environmental processing solution for a heavy emission producer like JBS Australia is a prime example, and also worthy of a mention is Wiley’s commercialisation of new Queensland technologies in the sugar cane processing sector.
“Some structural developments are so complex that they need a fresh perspective to deliver a practical, effective, and in this case, an innovative solution – that’s something our company prides itself on,” says Wiley.
“We’re also a human-centric organisation, which means our capabilities lie in the knowledge of our people to problem-solve and work in collaboration with clients and partners to deliver exceptional outcomes.
“Rather than shy away from complex projects, we actively seek them out to continually evolve our thinking, processes, and solutions.”
Through Wiley’s innovation in food facilities, the business is setting an Australian industry benchmark.
While the organisation continues to grow in Australia, it’s begun strengthening its capability across Asia, a region Wiley views as abundant in opportunity considering the Asian middle class is set to grow at 130 times the rate of the Australian population to 2030.
Wiley says his company has received a number of enquiries for its services in the broader Asian region over the last five years, to which he has recently responded with setting up a permanent base in Kuala Lumpur.
“We have already developed a successful network of clients in Australia, including JBS Australia and Primo Smallgoods, so are confident that we can gain a significant strategic advantage in Asia with a local cost structure,” says Wiley.
However, he says that while Asia presents opportunity for the business, it’s not as simple as taking the business from A to B, replicating local operations and reaping the same results there as in the Australian market.
“There is a perception that Australia is the food bowl of Asia but a report released by KPMG this year has indicated that in the decade 2002 to 2012 Australia’s ranking as food supplier to Asian countries dropped significantly,” says Wiley.
“This presents a challenge for our industry as it shows that Australia’s market share in Asia is being usurped by other nations, mainly because food producers are not succeeding in balancing market demands with productivity and profitability.
“To capitalise on the demands and opportunities offered by the Asian food industry, we really need to continue thinking and designing differently to maximise labour productivity and make best use of technological innovations.”
With all this talk of technology and systems, one could assume Wiley is integrating machinery and robotics into clients’ businesses with little need for a human touch.
He admits technology is the biggest growth area – and sees intelligent, safe-functioning robots performing repetitive tasks as being integral to their clients’ operations in the future – but is far from going Artificial Intelligence to the extreme and discarding people.
“Robots that are capable of performing repetitive tasks with the same efficiency as current manufacturing robots, but have the added ability of working safely and intelligently next to people, are going to create a better future for our clients’ businesses,” says Wiley.
“For example, there are robots that have a 99 per cent accuracy rate in identifying anomalies in products, such as bones in fish fillets, and can also conduct image analysis to identify the muscle type, breed and age of meat.”
Evidently, this makes them sharper and smarter than the average human, but by no means minimises the importance of highly skilled people to operate them.
“Our focus will continue to be on human-centred design and improving the way people work within and relate to the technology used in food processing,” says Wiley.
“We apply this core value to our own workforce through technologies like Building Information Modelling which showcases the design of a facility in 3D, providing our clients and their stakeholders with a real-time, real-life understanding of the project, therefore increasing their confidence in the project details.”
The approach is working for Wiley, made evident by the company’s staff turnover averaging at only five per cent per year, who contributed to a revenue of $81 million in the past financial year.
“At the end of the day, using technologies that improve productivity for people is important because the intangible advantage of an engaged workforce is one of the most important assets to the food facility of the future.”