Answers to cost-effective R&D closer than you think

In fact, Frank Soto of Soto Consulting insists, poor recognition of internal capabilities often stifles R&D potential for companies across the minerals production spectrum and has them forget profits can be derived from innovation and engineering.
?R&D is definitely somewhat of a capital investment for Australian companies, but time and again we have spotted a communications gap between departments within the one organisation, and this is under-utilising a massive resource for owners, managers and shareholders,? Soto said.
Soto Consulting has assisted many companies in mining, transport, manufacturing, agriculture and public infrastructure works with their R&D work to partner them and take matters forward for both.
?In one massive fabrication plant, processes in its metalworking sector varied considerably from processes performing parallel tasks in its bulk materials handling sector,? Soto explained.
?This is purely because the management in one sector doesn?t talk to management in other departments. Hence, they don?t maximise knowledge share plus ? and this is the very obvious factor ? this non-communication limits the high technical output they would achieve if they all moved forward and developed products and solutions in unison.
?But the advantage we have is in coming from the outside with so many years experience, we can instantly recognise the R&D potential, subject to its economies of scale. Simply by walking from one part of a plant to another, we can see straight away what can be used to maximum effect in other sectors within that business.?
Part of the R&D investment challenge for Australia?s industrial companies, according to Soto, is to know which software programs from an ever increasing list of options are the right ones for specific applications and are powerful enough to give the required result.
Yet choosing software suites should play second fiddle to something Soto considers more important ? the ?vision? that drives an R&D project.
?From our experience, some of the most successful R&D projects by Australian companies were driven by criteria for improving lives at the workplace or at home,? Soto said.
?There is so much now in the engineering industries that can be achieved through calculated and strategic R&D, and where Soto comes in is with our superior tools and integrated approach to achieve high end results.
?But we do it in very close association with the client company. We want to know the business we are designing for because if we don?t understand the fundamentals we can?t migrate the design principle to produce volumes or to optimise how it improves people?s lives.?
Soto?s efforts have not gone unnoticed either. At a recent i3net visit organised for the New South Wales region of Illawarra, the likes of Fortescue Metals Group definitely took notice of the Soto Group?s capabilities and edict.
Among its strengths, Soto counts its ability to provide design and engineering support for customers to the extent it practically becomes an in-house engineering resource.
Designs for cement manufacture, steel manufacture, underground mining and general product development projects are traditionally areas of high involvement and innovation.
Across many disciplines, the company?s services include consultancy, audits and inspections, certification and verification, research and development, computational simulations, product design, machine design and forensic engineering.
?We sign a confidentiality agreement to keep everything private then get involved with prototypes and the evolution of prototypes through to finished products or processes,? Soto said. 
?We use all our skills to cross reference our extensive knowledge across engineering verticals; for example, design advantages that are seen in steel manufacture are often mirrored in mines, and vice versa.
?We know that for R&D to succeed we must bring technology and ideas from all industries and mesh them to deliver for the client in modern Australia.As an industrialised nation, we can?t remain stagnant with R&D just because manufacturing has decreased and skills are being outsourced.
?We?re here to support manufacturing and have shown that what can start out with a simple consultation and analysis can lead to a watershed moment in R&D and increased business that is totally domestic,? Soto concluded.  
Source: Soto Group

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