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A glimpse of the panel discussion on "Building smarter, more functional & easy-to-maintain machines" recently held at Pune. The participated panelists included (From L to R): Vivek Nanivadekar, Executive Director, Fibro India Precision Products; Nilotpal Kumar, Industry Consultant, Siemens PLM Software; Shekhar Jitkar, Publisher & Chief Editor, EM (Moderator); BP Poddar, Vice President, FEMCO India; Arundhati Thomas, Managing Director, Plazma Technologies and Aditya Ratnaparkhi, Chairman, Electronica Plastic Machines.

Image: EM

Digital Manufacturing Building machines for tomorrow

May 18, 2017

Besides optimising products and upgrading technologies, the Indian manufacturing industry has been undergoing a sea change over the last decade. Today, there is a need to connect all the pockets of the machining process and illustrate a different picture of data management to ensure competitive excellence in the global industry. In this context, EM and Siemens PLM Software, along with MCCIA—Mahratta Chamber of Commerce, Industries & Agriculture, had recently organised a panel discussion on ‘Leveraging Digitalisation for Building Smarter, More Functional & Easy-to-Maintain Machines’, at Pune. A post-event report…

Becoming future-ready has become the buzzword in and across industries today. In this regard, when the manufacturing industry is taken into account, varied market demands and regulatory mandates necessitate industrial machinery companies to uninterruptedly revolutionise and optimise their products. This calls for an urgent need for machinery/equipment manufacturers to unify global designs. Not only this, the engineering and manufacturing teams must make sure that they are operational on the same necessities, models and manufacturing plans, while meeting local demands.

To deliver high-quality, high-performing products, equipment/machinery manufacturers must connect product development closely with manufacturing process planning. These goals are compounded by the fact that today’s new product development process is comprised of hundreds of decision points and parallel work flows across multiple disciplines that take place in a global context. Organisations need a product lifecycle management (PLM) platform that enables their companies to flourish in this complex business environment by making smarter decisions and better products. Such ground-breaking knowledge was recently explored at Pune with EM and Siemens PLM Software, in association with MCCIA—Mahratta Chamber of Commerce, Industries & Agriculture.

The event started with the opening address by Wing Commander (Retd) Shalak Gandhi, Deputy Director General, MCCIA, where he briefed on how new technologies can increase the productivity levels and how important is precision in machines. He shared his thoughts on the changing scenario and increasing complexities of the industry and explained how with the present technology available, we can meet the availability levels & adapt to new requirements. This was followed by an interesting keynote by Vikram Salunkhe, Managing Director, Accurate Gauging & Vice President, MCCIA, wherein he threw light on the transition of the machines in India over the past decade, and how technologies like Industry 4.0 & IIoT are increasingly getting adopted in the manufacturing sector.

Building smarter & functional machines

The highlight of the event was a panel discussion on ‘Leveraging Digitalisation for Building Smarter, More Functional & Easy-to-Maintain Machines’. The panelists of the discussion were Arundhati Thomas, Managing Director, Plazma Technologies; Aditya Ratnaparkhi, Chairman, Electronica Plastic Machines; Vivek Nanivadekar, Executive Director, Fibro India Precision Products; B P Poddar, Vice President, Femco India and Nilotpal Kumar, Industry Consultant, Siemens PLM Software. The discussion was moderated by Shekhar Jitkar, Chief Editor, EM.

With an array of alterations witnessed in the manufacturing industry lately, the panel discussion was weaved to get know-how on the facets of advanced technologies being used in the manufacturing industry. While Jitkar briefed the session on the overall scenario of the machinery manufacturing industry in India, the panelists gave their views on achieving global competitive excellence in the product development & manufacturing processes.

On comparing the Indian standards with the current global scenario, Ratnaparkhi opined that the Indian industry has still a scope to grow. “India definitely has the capacity to meet the global standards, but requires a lot of work for this. This is where competition comes into play, especially the international competition. Over the last decade, the Indian industry has taken huge efforts to upgrade itself to the international level. In the machine tool industry, there are many companies exporting overseas, yet there are sectors which are struggling to implement the basic productivity systems,” he noted.

A lot has already been discussed about the Industry-Academia partnerships in the manufacturing industry of late. Creating further awareness on the need to build proper skill-sets, Arundhati focussed on foreseeing the future, which can be incorporated by implementing better skill-set in the current industry dynamics. “Students are coming up with automation in their mindsets. This needs to be channelised,” she explained. On the other hand, Poddar firmly believes that to become globally competitive, an upgradation of the supply chain system is essential. “The global industry is looking to partner with Indian industries, but we need to address whether we are ready to be integrated into their supply chain. There are a few hurdles to match the global standards, which includes a need for automation, infrastructure and required
skill-set. In my opinion, the industry demands a collaborative approach,” he suggested.

Refining operational performance

Not only do the growing demands need to be addressed, but handling global customisation and standardisation practices have also become a key element so as to improve operational performance. Themed around this, when Jitkar asked the panelists on ways to improve operational performance, Nanivadekar pointed out cost savings as the major challenge to be addressed in this regard. “Automation is one of the aspects where we can be more competitive in the global market. For the Indian manufacturing industry to grow, some products must be assigned separately for the export market. If 25-30% can be exported from a company, then the whole equation becomes profitable,” he averred.

Executing the practice of deploying digital platforms in this context, Ratnaparkhi mentioned the need to educate the Tier-3 and Tier-4 companies. “In the plastic machinery industry, for the Tier-1 customers, their Tier-2 & 3 vendors have to use remote monitoring system located where products are monitored daily by suppliers. As such, awareness in that direction is vital.” Touching upon the collaborative perspective, Arundhati viewed the scenario as a need to globally benchmark the Indian industry to bridge the gap by connecting the requirements of shopfloor to the topfloor. “This realisation makes them follow global standards, implement factory acceptance, production and dispatch parameters,” she clarified.

Recommending his suggestions to improve operational performance, Poddar briefed that not only do the products need to reach the market fast, but the acceptability of the product in the market is also important. “People have to reduce the time-to-market for products with the help of parallel engineering that needs to be incorporated among the marketing, design and other service teams,” he said.

Speaking on the next step forward to achieve operational excellence, Kumar averred that Industry 4.0 would mean differently to different people. “We need to leverage future technologies as per the demands of the industry. Siemens as a company has three goals for their 2020 vision—automation, digitalisation and electrification. For Indian companies to be competitive, digitalisation is requisite rather than digitisation. Our journey towards Industry 4.0 has to begin with pulling all different processes in an organisation that delivers value to customers and stitching it together after taking out the inefficiencies.”

He further stated, “Global manufacturers have graduated 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 to meet the current global standards.”

Ensuring faster operations

With time, there has been a growing need for manufacturers to bridge the gap between product development, manufacturing and market. Emphasising this, Jitkar further asked the panelists on how to ensure faster operation, better delivery and consistent product quality, while minimising lifecycle costs. Answering this, Poddar opined for a concurrent approach to take things forward. “This will make the products reach market faster and help in minimising costs as well,” he remarked.

As per Arundhati, there is a need to disruptively innovate for ensuring an effective collaboration with the market or customer. “The idea is to understand the customer’s needs and make them ready for the future. There is also a need to make customers a part of the entire manufacturing process. Right from the start, all the disciplines of the organisation need to work in parallel. So, once a problem is identified, the solution will be designed based on certain basic principles—a lot of standardisation of most of the solutions created. Given that we work with Artificial Intelligence and robots, it makes our work easier since we have all the building blocks ready. So, one can pick & choose what one wants and provide the customer with a modular structure. Thereafter, the customer can be guided stage-wise through the phase of Industry 4.0,” she suggested.

Moving ahead, Ratnaparkhi commented that many customers prefer factory-level customised products—a complete end-to-end solution. He further said, “Today, customers are coming up with an end product and in turn expect an end-to-end solution from us, wherein we supply the machines and mould, along with automation. In the plastic industry, robotics & automation has gone to the a next level. We are working with customers to provide them with the entire layout plan with exact specifications even before the construction starts.”

For Kumar, handling customisation starts with the platform-based approach. Usage of new technologies will make one walk through from the standard machines to a modular approach. He further stated, “During the product development stage, simulation is applied to see whether it’s meeting the performance criteria, mechanical & thermal stress, acoustics, vibration, etc. But this is a computer resource centric process and may not be optimum. As such, firstly, we create a physics model of the machine—of energy efficiency is the parameter to be optimised, we would make the physics part of the machine components that consume energy and then run simulation on it. This can analyse and optimise the machine model and save costs.”

Today, for making machines smarter, the manufacturer needs to know what is happening with that machine. For this, gathering the data to point out errors in the machine or a particular component is quintessential, he added.

Roadmap to become future-ready

The panel discussion concluded on the cognizance of manufacturers becoming future-ready, which also helps them to achieve competitive advantage. Taking this ahead, Ratnaparkhi vouched on having future-ready shopfloors. He suggested, “To become future-ready, one needs to capture as much data as possible. Recently, in our plastics machinery division, we have developed software to enable customers to get the data when the machine is running, its cycle time and also included the energy consumption details. This helped them to look at the problem deeply.”

Stressing on the need to invest more on skill development, Arundhati opined, “First, it is important to have our workforce future-ready by being present-ready. Secondly, we need to take the data management into data analytics on a day-to-day basis, so that we are ready with the probability of errors and, thereby, can continuously innovate.”

According to Poddar, meeting customisation and efficiently managing supply chain with agile or lean manufacturing methods is the roadmap to become ready for the future. “With regards to metal cutting industry, we need to design products ecologically, implement customisation at the assembly level and integrate automation with the machine tools,” he opined. Nanivadekar concluded on the need for modular construction in the machines to become a future-ready machine.

Leveraging digitalisation

Discussing further on leveraging digitalisation to build smarter, faster and cost-effective machines, Kumar presented the session on a framework of incorporating digitalisation practices in machine building, while addressing the industry challenges. He also touched upon solutions from Siemens for design engineering, design management and part manufacturing along with explaining the concept of synchronous technology and hybrid manufacturing.

Key takeaways…

Jitkar summarised the discussion in terms of understanding the challenges of Indian manufacturers and thereby improving profitability by seizing more opportunities through the right use of technology. They need to attain the knowledge of the advanced technologies, integrate the use of IT and automation, take data management to the next level of data analytics and make the supply chain efficient enough to handle pressures from manufacturers, serviceability and parts management. This will let them re-gain competitive advantage by being a future-ready manufacturer.

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