The pace at which changes took place in the manufacturing sector a few decades ago was far less than what is happening today, and the plant leadership has to be visionary, equipped & skilled enough to take charge and put technology to its best advantage. We have no choice but to adopt the technological advancement to our advantage, if not proactively at least concurrently, lest we are left behind and end up into the oblivion. The Cover Story features a series of interviews where plant leaders from various manufacturing companies discuss how they and their teams work towards achieving and sustaining excellence in manufacturing, challenges in today’s rapidly changing technology world and a competitive business environment and the impact of digitalisation on manufacturing.
With the manufacturing sector undergoing transformation globally, how ready are Indian manufacturers and their factories to adopt the advanced digital technologies, such as Industry 4.0/IIoT, Additive Manufacturing?
We see India no different than other countries in terms of getting ready to skill up and catch up with the new age in manufacturing. Manufacturing leaders in the country have been making the move from 5-10 years ago. It is a gradual transformation instead of an abrupt change, similar to the move from other analogue to digital technologies.
It is, however, also a collective and holistic effort for manufacturers to migrate into Industry 4.0, or a data driven manufacturing workflow, as one cannot live without the other (e.g. digital content aka CAD for digital printer, IIoT or automated API functions for traceable production schedule). Companies must be ready to switch to a more data-driven and open mindset to be able to make the best out of this transformation.
How do you address questions, such as, “how relevant the new technology is for my kind of business” or “what is in it for me”?
Our experience tells us that Additive Manufacturing can be relevant to customers from all walks of life, spanning across manufacturing but also relevant to organisations without tangible products to develop, such as, education, medical, aerospace and defense, and other smaller sectors. As the global leader in additive solutions, Stratasys helps customers in adopting the digital trend, bringing customers up to speed with 3D printing solutions.
Most customers come to us not knowing exactly how the technology can be integrated into their existing workflow and some are not sure about switching from current processes to adapt to this transformation, but eventually yield very promising results in finding a 3D answer to long-standing challenges that could not be resolved, or some challenges that they did not realise until a consultation session with our experts. For example, our recent collaboration with Honda Cars India for an AM-based solution for their existing complex jigs and fixtures for weld line, demonstrates the immense possibilities that exist for AM adoption in manufacturing. The additively manufactured jig resulted in significant weight reduction, lead time reduction (both above 60%), and conversion of metal to plastic part with ergonomic design enhancing employee health and safety.
What impact will Additive Manufacturing/3D printing have on the value chain? Do we need change management and change in the approach, when it comes to the plant leadership?
Additive manufacturing is not going to immediately replace existing manufacturing methods, as each has its unique strength. But the rise of AM poises new opportunities for business, thus changing the way companies usually manage their product development cycle and supply chain. A typical example would be the streamline of prototype production that combines multiple steps (sculpting, cutting, sanding, colouring, polishing etc) into one print job in multi-material and multicolour. Another great example would be tooling department in large manufacturing plants, where operators are provided with more customised tools that help them to be more responsive to assembly and labour-intensive work using customised tools.
To conclude, company contributors, like everyone, need to adapt to the new process and workflow like they have previously done with their mobile phones – changing from black and white screen mobile phones to smart phones.
How to attain competitive advantage by being a future-ready manufacturer with the help of advanced technologies, such as, Additive Manufacturing/3D printing?
Like any other new and rising industry, 3D printing solutions providers continue to research and develop new solutions, and new ideas and products are launched very regularly, as the whole industry matures and consolidates. Our recommendation to users or companies looking to join the 3D printing revolution is not to hesitate and reach out to collaboratively explore even though they have not discovered any problem with their existing processes. To be the pioneer, organisations should be open to options and possible changes, new ways and new ideas that they have never thought of. Technology is about being smarter and faster, first time every time and keep repeating the process with new developments.