According to experts from the global industry, today, smart manufacturing is on a transformation journey. Flexible factories and demand-driven supply chains will change manufacturing processes to allow manufacturers to customise products to individual needs. Customers will ‘tell’ a factory what car to manufacture, what features to build into a personal computer or how to tailor a pair of jeans for a perfect fit. These will not be incremental or gradual changes — they will be game-changing, marketdisruptive innovations in products and processes. It is also believed that smart manufacturing will deliver a similar, extraordinary shift in the competitive landscape of the Indian industry. The software services sector is the key knowledge component in India, and since Industry 4.0 combines traditional manufacturing with IT and the Internet of Things (IoT), India can become the major industrial hub in Asia if it plays its cards right. Sharing insights on the present situation and the factors to be considered enabling Indian factories to be future ready are industry experts Chandrashekar Bharathi, Managing Director, AceMicromatic MIT; Amit Kumar Srivastava, Regional Sales Head - India & Asia Pacific, Robert Bosch Engineering & Business Solutions;Rajesh Khatri, Executive Director, TAL Manufacturing Solutions and Arunkumar Janarthanan, Associate Director, Automation & Electronics Practice, Frost & Sullivan.
Future-ready factories in real terms
‘Future-ready’ will be driven by ‘present-ready’ and extensibility to emerging standards / platforms / use cases. Highlighting the need of the hour for factories, Bharathi says, “Today, it is being able to eliminate operational losses and significantly ramp up shopfloor productivity horizontally and de-skilling of operational staff, by being able to seamlessly access key production and asset data electronically; and have analytics from run-time data drive optimisation. Extensibility can take the form of supporting generic IoT frameworks, support for protocols, and connecting disparate islands of data to provide true shopfloor to top-floor integration and visibility.”
Janarthanan opines that future-ready factories are those that have adopted profitable and innovative manufacturing practices, thereby, enabling optimal resource utilisation with a continuously shrinking carbon footprint. He further shares, “Real-time visibility of distinct supply-chain activities fostering process improvements, and fast response to changing market demands are important characteristics of any future-ready factory. Facilitating business centricity instead of plant centricity is the ultimate aim of any futureready factory.” He also avers, “Seamless interface and connectivity between different equipment and ultimately an integrated shopfloor and board room are important characteristics of a smart factory.” Speaking on the benefits of establishing industrial mobility, cloud, Big Data and advanced cyber security solutions, he adds that this would help manufacturers to optimise the implementation process and create fast track and seamless approach for future technology adoption.
Taking forward the factors driving towards smart manufacturing, Srivastava says, “1970s was the era of production of goods in mass, but now our customers are asking for customised products in mass. They also want to give their input during the design and production stage. All this requires your factories to be flexible and networked so that it responds to your customer needs.” Further explaining this, he adds, “Flexibility will require a very high availability of operating resources. The shopfloor will be networked. It means relevant information like machine break-down,delays to order, missing parts, personnel or resources will be shared in real time between people and systems involved in the process. This means that by just putting latest machines and systems, we will not build factories, but that will require us to upgrade on all three fronts – people, processes and technology.”
Sharing his thoughts on the driving factors, Khatri says,“The need for manufacturing organisations to be hyperefficient while providing extreme flexibility with mass production capabilities for individual customisation is driving companies to consider ‘factory of the future’ initiatives. Cost-competitiveness with agility, innovation and flexibility are the new mantras for success.” He further perceives that the smart factories of the future will be a product of IoT, automation and IT working together - connecting equipment, eliminating silos, exploiting data and taking automation to a whole new level. However, moving from a traditional factory to a next-generation factory is a daunting task, he feels. “It requires not only an empowered management team to drive the change and implement the vision, but also the need for rethinking the traditional organisation and a substantial investment in new technologies,” he shares.
Are we future-ready?
Bharathi opines in short that factories in India are not future ready. He further clarifies, “While there is increasing awareness and some of the top tier companies have initiatives in that direction, the majority of companies may still view such efforts are a ‘nice to have,’ rather than a value-added competitive edge. Where companies do realise that, they may be hobbled by allocation of priority and resources to manage and drive initiatives to make factories future ready.” Srivastava also agrees that today majority don’t seem to be future ready.
However, he conceives that heavily regulated companies like pharma and healthcare have good level of automation and systems in place, whereas Janarthanan observes that oil & gas and automotive industries are at par with global trends. However, he envisages that adoption of advanced manufacturing solutions has not been uniform across sectors - such as in food and beverages, consumer packaged goods, mining, water and waste water, etc, where the investment in automation solutions is not at par with global norms.
Further explaining on the nature of factories, Srivastava points out, “We have two kinds of factories in India – one which has been set up by large MNCs whose parent companies are quite matured and automated. Hence, when they set up plants, they use a template, which ensures certain degree of maturity in terms of process and systems. There are other set of companies who have grown ground up and, hence, they have legacy systems and machines. But both of them have to go through this journey.” Given the perspective of most factories in India are not future-ready, Khatri notes that the adoption of MES / PLM at an integrated level still is at low levels. He adds, “With the density of robots at ~ 2 per 10,000 industrial workers, automation also is at a very low level as compared to developed countries where the density is > 350- 400. Internet connectivity remains unreliable.”
‘Factory of the future’ initiatives
Addressing the specific pain points, Bharthi remarks, “Implementing a focused pilot would enable buy-in, awareness and foster a value oriented outcomes based culture – making the intangible tangible, and create the foundation for building towards a technology enabled smart factory.” Srivastava recommends that companies should evaluate how their business is changing and design a roadmap to build a smart factory, which can adjust to their customer needs. “The integration of information across machines, systems and people is a key element in this journey and, hence, they should definitely build a consolidated view of their operation,” he shares.
Khatri asserts that a systems approach to manufacturing processes, standardisation, adoption of automation and IoT seem to be the first steps to make the business enterprises future-ready. “In order for the plant to operate in a dynamic, integrated, mobile, real-time connected environment, it is essential to have shopfloor connectivity and collaboration, logistics, asset and supply chain tracking, operations workflow automation, unified communications, control system flexibility, security and personnel tracking, and integrated business and plant data,” he states.
Janarthanan perceives that as a starting point, a smart factory in India can be expected to focus on enhancing operational excellence, rather than on capacity creation. “As manufacturing facilities move towards the smart factory concept, there will be a need for real-time performance management across multiple facilities. Adoption of advanced solutions leads to high levels of data availability, which will further create a need for robust control, capable of converting it into actionable intelligence and enhanced operational excellence,” he adds.
Focus on standardisation
Industry 4.0 will require standardisation at multiple levels – processes, connectivity, systems and people maturity. With the advent of newer technologies, the technological integration can be achieved especially in India, where there is large IT workforce. Srivastava claims that the challenge will be at people and process level. Emplacing his thoughts, he further emphasises, “The need for integration will itself drive this standardisation and this is what we are seeing in Europe, where home appliance companies are collaborating with energy producers and forming consortiums like EEBus or projects like AllJoyn by Qualcomm which facilitates interoperability among connected products and software. We will initially see such standardisation happening in specific eco-systems which will expand to other industries. Any open source project will speed up such standardisation.” However,he insists that excessive process standardisation will not be in line with smart factories principles, which promote decentralisation of decision making.
Commenting on the initiatives to be taken for standardisation, Bharathi states, “Larger companies can play a key role in making themselves future-ready, and may demonstrate such concepts through vendor development activities. Incentivising their supply chain to adopt such initiatives will go a long way in getting the entire value chain to consider standardisation. Government actions to encourage adoption of future-ready technology initiatives using tax and fiscal policy may also serve as a catalyst.”
Khatri accords that industry focus has already shifted towards modular manufacturing and standardisation. Citing an example from the automotive segment he says that today the variants of vehicles are built on a common platform. “More and more producers are embracing the Made-to-Order (MTO) and Configure / Engineer-to-Order (CTO/ETO) production models as against the Make-to-Stock (MTS) – this is possible only through standardisation and analysing the complete product life cycle. The reality is that standardisation has become a necessity to remain competitive in market,” he explains.
Janarthanan mentions that open and standard protocols that are vendor agnostic is an important requirement for any smart factory. “Adoption of platform based approach can also help simplify the complexity associated with multiple hardware and software solutions. It can facilitate smooth integration of multiple devices leading to effective monitoring and reduced development time,” he notes. “In the Indian context, it is important for solution providers to understand the end users’ requirement and offer solutions that are customised and specific towards addressing the challenges of a particular user,” he adds.
Ensuring data security
Smart factory definitely requires a lot of integration and data exchange between the various partners in the ecosystem. And hence they are exposed to cyber attacks andindustrial espionage. Contributing to the subject further, Srivastava adds, “Reliability of network and resources is very crucial for guaranteeing uninterrupted running of the plant. The telecom network has to highly reliable and should have back-up layer incorporated in it. As far as accessibility of data security technology goes – yes it does exist and we have seen how Indian IT companies use this technology to service their multinational clients in financial and insurance domain. In terms of reliability of the network, well with frequent call drops, it does put a question mark. But for sure this can be achieved by having primary and secondary lines in place. The companies will also have to invest in DR/BCP processes designed specifically for the plants.”
Bharathi also feels that penetration of high grade data and security frameworks is currently low at most factories. However, with data bandwidth now becoming available, he says, “Reliable and affordable, data security and protocols may be implemented using cloud concepts, which can usher in rapid scaling as well as lowered operational costs.
” Taking a different approach, Khatri believes that though most factories are equipped with the latest enterprise systems, seldom are these systems deployed across business processes to have totally integrated operations. He further says, “Telecom and IT infrastructure in the country is still evolving and remains at best unreliable. The manufacturing set-ups do not have large enough scale to support investments for big data and connectivity with a reasonable ROI.” He also avers, “With connected factories, the risks come in the form of hacking, data theft, and industrial espionage. Cyber-attacks and viruses can potentially bring networked and smart production systems to a standstill. Robust cyber security standards may have to be introduced in order to provide a secured communication environment.”
On a concluding note, Janarthanan adds, “Business continuity measures in the age of disruptions holds prime importance. Increasing regulatory pressure across different industries has necessitated serious focus on data security and reliability by various solution providers. Solution providers are already offering solutions and services that can help end users address their cyber security and reliability concerns. ☐