Over the years, the manufacturing industry has developed in leaps and bounds, not only in terms of technology upgradation, but also across the adoptability of modular and smarter machines so as to become competitive and future-ready. In doing so, some challenges faced by the manufacturers are: developing configurable, modular systems to meet diverse customer demands; building cost-efficient equipment/machines with improved designs and better energy efficiency, reduced lifecycle cost and easy maintainability; and focus on operational improvements, while keeping an eye on strategic imperatives.
These goals are compounded by the fact that today’s new product development (NPD) process is encompassed of countless decision points and parallel work flows across multiple disciplines that take place in a global milieu. As such, organisations need a product lifecycle management (PLM) platform that empowers companies to accomplish their complex business environment. This was recently explored & discussed at Ahmedabad, Gujarat, with EM and Siemens PLM Software, in association with IPI (Indian Plastics Institute) and ITAMMA (Indian Textile Accessories & Machinery Manufacturers Association).
The conference was inaugurated by Abhay Upadhay from the Governing Council of IPI & director of MIFA Systems, who traced down the journey of automation in all verticals of the industry. This was followed by a guest address from N D Mhatre, Director General—Technical, ITAMMA, who shared the technological progress of the textile engineering industry. “Creating an ecosystem for innovation is very important. ITAMMA is helping the textile engineering industry in enriching their knowledge and enhancing their businesses,” he said.
Highlighting the requirement of leveraging digitalisation across industries, Dr Arvind Patel, Managing Director, Sahajanand Laser Technologies, gave an overview of the current day situation wherein automation and technological advancements have become pivotal. “Industries today need automation, cost-effective manufacturing practices and high-level technology applications,” he opined.
Adaptability of advanced technologies
The focus of the event was a panel discussion organised by EM on ‘Leveraging Digitalisation for Building Smarter, More Functional & Easy-to-Maintain Machines/Equipment’. The panelists of the discussion were Shirish Divgi, Managing Director, Ferromatik Milacron India; Vinay Bansod, Chief Technology Officer, Windsor Machines Ltd; Yash Parikh, Automation Engineer, Neoplast Engineering; Maulik Patel, Executive Director, Sahajanand Laser Technologies; Somil Gupta, Alliance Manager, Bosch India and Nilotpal Kumar, Industry Consultant, Siemens PLM Software. The discussion was moderated by Shekhar Jitkar, Chief Editor, EM.
In the present day, digitisation has become an integral phase in every business enterprise. On this note, the panel discussion was themed on the challenges faced by manufacturers to achieve the digital transformation. Overviewing the current machinery & equipment industry, Jitkar asked the panelists to opine on the acceptability of such advanced technological models into their operations. Answering this, Gupta specified a major potentiality in the given market. He also explained, “People are taking up data from the machine and putting it to the cloud. Industry 4.0 is a much larger and broader concept. In this context, there are three major dimensions, especially for the machine manufacturers to achieve the level—how to make machines more intelligent, how to collect data from different sources and integrate it into a single source and lastly, how to implement this in the entire organisation.”
Underlining his opinion on the machinery sector, Divgi commented that the Indian industry has witnessed a remarkable leap in addressing the manufacturing, design and service of industrial machinery. Speaking on the plastic machinery manufacturing, he said, “Currently, the industry is able to contribute around 40-50% of the total machines expected for the Indian market. As such, the remaining 50% is our area of challenge and scope and can be achieved through technology. Over the years, there has been a change in the mindset of individuals and people are today more concerned with the customer demands. This shift is an enabler to scale the existing gaps.”
Sharing his experience on the adaptability of Industry 4.0 in machinery manufacturing, Parikh averred that machinery manufacturing industry has to see the feasibility of adopting any new technology. “A major component in the technology adoption is the cost factor. However, considering the customer demand, it becomes inevitable to drive through the digital transformation,” he suggested.
Representing laser machines among the panelists was Patel, who opined that along with the machine manufacturers, customers are also in need to adapt to the growing technology standards. “The ERP system, CRM and the service mechanism in an organisation needs to be digitised. Also, people have to graduate themselves from using excel sheets in their operations to adopting digital platforms. Regarding reaching the Industry 4.0 level, as compared to the western world, India still has a lot to develop, but the level of awareness is certainly growing,” he commented.
Accompanied with the adaptability of advanced technologies comes a greater need for investing into such technologies. As per Kumar, “Industry 4.0 is the vision to reach the maximum level of manufacturing productivity based on technologies like cloud, advanced analytics, machine learning, Additive Manufacturing, horizontal/vertical integration, IIoT, etc.”
Connecting product development with processes
For accomplishing a digital journey, connecting the product development closely with the manufacturing processes is indispensable. Taking this forward, Gupta recommended having a structured data in a firm that is consumable and executable. “We need to have the data connected in all the departments of an organisation. We need to understand whether the design engineer is aware about the field failures, whether the voice of customers gets reflected to the system, does the experience of the maintenance engineer get captured, are the specifications communicated in time with the procurement team and vendors and so on. As such, there are some loopholes in the way data is being stored, on how information is being shared, and the technique in which processes are organised. Such issues can be addressed by consolidating data,” he explained.
From the technology strategy point of view, Bansod briefed on the challenges faced in the industry. “In a manufacturing company, data synchronisation is needed to avoid delays in the manufacturing processes, which in turn reduces operational excellence. Therefore, we need to get an ERP system that clearly integrates all processes into one source. This can lead to better decision-making and designing the products faster.” Parikh agreed to the same.
According to Divgi, the biggest challenge is to comprehend the customer needs. “Understanding the customer’s pain points is vital. It can include the costs of spare parts or maintenance or the lifecycle costs and technology knowledge. Helping the customers and adding value to them can generate benefits to us,” he said. Speaking on similar lines, Patel stated that the product development and manufacturing processes must be tightly linked to each other through digitalisation.
Explaining further, Kumar pointed out that global manufacturers have advanced from the product twin to the process twin and plant twin. “Any product needs to go through three phases—ideation, realisation and utilisation. This is the journey which we need to take,” he clarified.
Modeling smarter equipment
In order to make machines smarter, it is important to make them maintenance-free and energy-efficient and at the same time, fulfill the requirements of customers. When Jitkar asked the panelists on ways to achieve this, Gupta suggested that with changing customer requirements, it is crucial to implement an appropriate planning technique. “For this, we need to understand the expected potentiality of the machines in the next five years; create product platforms that could serve base for further customisation and leverage such technologies. To build configurability and flexibility without adding any costs, we have to take into account a lot of functions—both in the product and cloud,” he shared.
To make the equipment smarter, it is noteworthy that the existing infrastructure supports the advanced technologies. Emplacing this, Bansod asserted that for companies, which have not reached the Industry 3.0 mark, process improvement could be a big change for them. “For us, product development plays a vital role. The challenge here is of varied customer demands. To make the product development cycle fast, we have thoroughly worked on standardisation and variety deduction,” he said. Moving ahead, Parikh explained, “Existing shopfloors have the capacity to do everything. It only depends on how you manage it and how disciplined people are. The people working on shopfloors need to be properly skilled with the required level of awareness.” Adding further, Patel suggested that adequate training is instrumental for shopfloor workers to adopt advanced concepts. “A training culture needs to be implemented within the organisation, wherein sharing of experience can materialise,” he said.
Becoming future-ready manufacturers
Becoming future-ready parallels with the vision and the capabilities to compete in the world of tomorrow, and have a larger purpose to remain relevant to society. When Jitkar asked the panelists on the way forward to become future-ready manufacturers, Gupta emphasised on the need to invest in people, re-skill them, incorporate IT with software into machines, as well as keep a good stock of the data.
Agreeing to Gupta, Bansod mentioned that for capital equipment, it is imperative to make the machines faster. “Machines should be able to communicate with customers and back to the manufacturers. The machines can give many indications, which if tapped properly can give us the opportunity to perform predictive analysis on them and reduce downtime,” he said.
As per Divgi, to become future-ready, the products must be reliable, aesthetic and easy to operate. Stressing on the industry-academia partnership, Parikh recommended an upgradation of the skill-set of people working on the shopfloors. He further opined, “To invest more on people, it’s important to train them. Educational institutes should tie up with industries and the technology of integrating automation with IT should be made available to the Indian institutes.”
Given that digitalisation is a key to enable future-ready operations, Patel opined that companies should be more competitive and bring in modularity in terms of new product development in such a manner that it fits into every customer’s necessities and shopfloors. Speaking on digitalisation, he said, “It helps in understanding what a customer is trying to convey, and what we need to understand out of him. This will let us anticipate the needs of the customers and work towards it.”
The discussion was concluded with Kumar’s idea of listing down the short-term and long-term goals, and at the same time, evaluating measures to technology in a better fashion to become future-ready.
Overviewing on how leveraging digitalisation can help build smarter, faster and cost-effective machines, Kumar pointed out, “Today, there is an ample availability of resources in the industry. It all depends on how we leverage the technologies as per our needs.” He further stated the importance of digitalisation and industry challenges from the industry perspective as well as briefed on solutions to make the production efficient and error-free.
Jitkar summarised the discussion with addressing the bottlenecks faced by Indian manufacturers in terms of customer requirements and adopting the latest technological practices to become ready for the future. They need to focus on data management and ensure that the data is precise and well-managed so that every department in the company can access it. They also need to pick up the accurate technology as per their needs and upgrade the existing skills at the shopfloor. Lastly, the manufacturers need to fulfill the customer’s orders in minimum time and be flexible enough to accomplish their orders, modifications and changes.