Keeping in mind the current challenges in the Indian manufacturing sector, Siemens PLM Software in collaboration with EM, recently held a conference at Bengaluru. At the conference, several topics were explored, which included how to meet diverse customer needs and improve machine/equipment availability while ensuring improved throughput for the customers. More specifically, the ways to attain competitive advantage by being a future-ready machine builder was explored along with utilising new technologies to build smarter machines and equipment.
The objective of the conference was to address the challenges faced by manufacturers in the current scenario and a plan was formulated so as to capture and re-use organisational knowledge, enable collaboration across roles to facilitate smarter machine building, optimise systems design & reduce physical prototypes, optimise manufacturing processes & time-to-market, reduce product development time and costs and achieve early-concept and electro-mechanical validation. The seminar kickstarted with a guest keynote address from Ganapathiraman, Vice President & General Manager, ARC Advisory Group—India & South East Asia, who spoke on the overall challenges in the Indian manufacturing sector and the need for adoption of the latest technologies.
The conference then proceeded with the panel discussion on ‘Building smarter, more functional & easy-to-maintain machines & equipment’. The panelists of the discussion were Ravi Raghavan, CEO & Managing Director, Bharat Fritz Werner; BC Rao, Managing Director, Kennametal India; Dr Vishwas Puttige, Head-R&D, OSD, Ace Manufacturing Systems; V Niju, Director, Frost & Sullivan; S Sundariya, Business Head, Machines & Precision Components, Wendt India and Nilotpal Kumar, Sales Consultant, Siemens PLM Software. The discussion was moderated by Shekhar Jitkar, Publisher & Chief Editor, EM.
Challenges in adopting the latest technologies
The panel discussion started with Raghavan observing the current scenario and the challenges which Indian manufacturers are facing in adopting digitalisation. He explained, “India has a unique mixture in the manufacturing industry. Irrespective of the size of the company, there are levels of digitisation as primitive as what was part of Industry 2.0. At the same time, there are some small companies, which are very advanced. They may not have adopted the new technologies but they are aware and ready to make that leap. This is the most challenging part. When a company decides to go for digitalisation, it would also want its partners to be part of that same journey so that their entire process of manufacturing gets transformed. However, some of them may not be ready for this and that can often be a roadblock in their overall change and progress.”
Making further notes regarding Industry 4.0 in the Indian context, Raghavan stated that the industry has been guilty of glamourising it. He elaborates, “Major players of different industries should tell everybody in the supply chain of what the reality is. This will allow partners to practically and efficiently implement Industry 4.0 in their processes, even if done so in a small way at this stage. The returns of this path will be much higher in the long-term.”
Agreeing that the scope of Industry 4.0 is vast, Dr Vishwas labeled this as a challenge and explained that it is important to focus on very specific aspects within this vast expanse of Industry 4.0, which will be applicable to machine users. Speaking on their company’s strategy adopted towards digitalisation, he shared, “As solution providers of machine tool manufacturers, we ensured a close interaction with our customers, decided to understand what specific pain points of theirs would be solved using the digitisation process and we were able to articulate this into good products, which we could bundle along with our products or even provide it as an interface on other manufacturing technologies.”
Moving on, Niju suggested a more cautious approach in adopting Industry 4.0 in the Indian scenario and elaborated, “Industry 4.0 originated in highly industrialised economies as a means to take them to the next level and create a new kind of employment for them. Thus, if we adopt it blindly, it will involve a major risk for us. This is where the Indian industry will have to be careful. All the solutions to the Indian manufacturing industries’ problems do not lie in Industry 4.0. Manufacturers have to be careful as to what needs to be adopted, keeping in mind the current scenario and the changes that will be seen in the next two years, while considering domestic demand, export potential, and other such factors.”
Calling the digitalisation process a ‘cultural transformation’, Rao shared his company’s strategies in this regard. “First, we started looking inward and trained our employees to adopt the digitalisation process. We found out that we have to work with not only our customers but at times, even with our competitors. This kind of shift required us to be more transparent. As far as standalone machines are concerned which are already IoT-enabled, we had to figure out what the IoT means for the customer. That is where user-specific solutions need to be provided, where we are currently working and this is a challenge for us,” he remarked.
Adaptability of Industry 4.0 in Indian industry
Underlining the need for the Indian industry to make the right selection of technology which caters to their specific needs, Rao stated that internal preparedness is key. “Firstly, there have to be a lot of awareness sessions in terms of seminars that have to run in the industry. From that, manufacturers have to figure out what is it that they are looking for. Manufacturers will then go step-by-step looking for a cost-effective implementation especially in the Indian context. They have started exploring, but it will take some time for us to fully adopt these technologies,” he pointed out.
Further commenting on the buzz that Industry 4.0 has created in the Indian manufacturing sector, Niju agreed with Rao and stated, “For any industry segment to pick it up, there has to be a more narrowed down discussion that has to happen within that industry segment. The Tier-1s will typically set the agenda because they are more resource-rich and they will be the ones who set the trend. However, the pros and cons part about this kind of digitalisation process is that it is not just going to impact them but it is going to impact everyone down in the pyramid. So, it is imperative that all of us come together and start the discussion.”
Need for an Indian model
Differentiating between the circumstances from where Industry 4.0 originated and the Indian scenario, Raghavan stressed the need for an Indian model when it comes to digitalisation. “When we set up the system, we are not going to be an individual machine. So, how well it talks to the machine built by another company, infrastructure built by somebody else, are the protocols which are going to be the same. These are the challenges where we have to adopt them,” he added.
Stating further challenges, he said that as a nation, we cannot make it as a great movement if it is not directed from the top level. He explained, “We have no standardisation of protocols yet. Even simple electrical configurations are different in different equipment. This is going to be a major challenge for us in the future. Also, it is going to be more chaotic if we don’t address this now because there will be so many things that people would have done differently that combining them together will be a challenge for us as a country. Every company or individual industry may do well but it lacks an integrated approach, nationally. This will be the real challenge in India.”
Overcoming challenges through digitalisation
Speaking on some of the challenges with which tools of digitalisation can help, Dr Vishwas stressed, “Today, the batch size of manufacturing has shrunk to almost a single digit. So, the expectation of customers is the best of features and options but at a cheaper price. This can be a challenge when product development cycle itself has shrunk. There is no proper seamless integration of development in the process, which links it to the marketing of products and eventually, to the execution and servicing of it as well. Also, there is a lot of human intervention and inefficiency that has crept in. Thus, in terms of digitalisation, there are tools which cover a big part of this concern and digitalisation tools will play a dominant role in terms of being able to reduce the development phase, and most importantly, knowledge management, which is also a concern.”
Sundariya was of the opinion that it is our responsibility to see how we can satisfy the ROI and how we can be smarter in producing here in India so that it reduces the second-hand machines that are coming into the market.
Addressing the issue of second-hand machines, it was investigated whether digitalisation can be incorporated in 30-year-old machines. This concern was addressed by Kumar, who emphasised, “To some extent, it is possible to retrofit an existing machine and add digital technology to it.”
Roadmap for digital transformation
Underlining the need for a roadmap in order to achieve digitalisation, Raghavan shared, “Companies must have a step-by-step plan to reach the next level of digitalisation. However, as industry bodies, we have to learn to collaborate, which is a challenge for us especially in India. If we start doing that, we will build an ecosystem, which is currently missing in our system.”
Encouraging manufacturers to take the first step and not to get bogged down by Industry 4.0, Dr Vishwas suggested looking at simple tools, which will help companies to become energy efficient and also urged utilising simple productivity improvement aspects using digitisation.
Stressing on the need for collaboration and the importance of the involvement of academia in the process was Niju, who explained, “Academia can help speed up the process. The government can get involved, apart from being a regulator, and create some centres of excellence, which can be funded partly by the industry and partly by the government. This will again be channelised back into the industry. Also, a long-term plan has to be worked out and then, the industry will have to look at what are the tactical routes within that. Thus, joint effort & collaboration of the industry, academia and government is a must.” Sundariya also believed in the involvement of academia in the digitalisation process and stressed on skill development, which is a necessary ingredient in moving towards a higher level technology and its implementation.
Sharing his approach for formulating a roadmap towards digital transformation, Rao stated, “I will look at this from two perspectives—internal and external. Internally, within the organisation, I would recommend to talk about it, expose more number of employees right from the top management to the bottom. And each one would be looking at what is in it for them. So, that is what we should be able to successfully communicate and show them the benefit. The second approach is external. The preparedness for this has to come from the government, academia and the industry. This will require tremendous amount of collaborative effort.” Showcasing an optimistic view, Rao further iterated that with a strong base in science and IT, India is well-positioned to succeed in this journey.
Kumar put emphasis on self-assessment and opined, “As far as customers are concerned, self-assessment is the place to start, which involves analysing where you are in the digital spectrum, where you want to go and how does it align with your organisational goals.” He further informed that Siemens is supporting government’s skill initiative programme and is helping give graduates an exposure to the latest technologies so as to bridge the gap between industry and academia. The discussion was concluded with all panelists agreeing to the fact that collaboration is key for Industry 4.0 to be a success in the Indian context.
Advanced machine engineering for industrial machinery
Discussing further on leveraging digitalisation to build smarter, faster and cost-effective machines, Kumar presented the session on a framework which helps to incorporate digitalisation practices in machine building. He also touched upon the importance of digitalisation in meeting industry challenges and spoke on the solutions from Siemens, which can help manufacturers in adopting a digital platform. “This can help them in enhancing their production process and bring about better quality of products while achieving higher efficiency,” he concluded.
Jitkar summarised the discussion by stating that while there are projections on the rate of adoption, advice on where and how to get started in the digitalisation process, how much is to be invested and what kind of manpower is required to fulfill those objectives, one mandate is clear—that we must act soon. He emphasised that we need to be early adopters and look out for prospects and opportunities for where we can start the digital transformation so that we are not left behind in the global competition.