Keeping in mind today’s complex global market, manufacturers in the industrial equipment and machinery market need to embrace technological advances to improve plant productivity, compete against rivals, and maintain an edge with customers. The market demands maximum uptime on a day-today basis, while expecting that the products will remain productive for decades. The new reality for equipment and machine builders is that their engineers need to collaborate more in order to make complex decisions with less time to get it right.
Some of the other challenges faced by this sector include development of configurable, modular systems to meet diverse customer demands, building cost-efficient equipment and machines with improved designs and better energy efficiency, reduced lifecycle cost and easy maintainability and a focus on operational improvements while keeping an eye on strategic imperatives.
In order to meet these challenges, manufacturers have to be willing to embrace disruptive technologies and take the next step forward by adopting new product development (NPD) process. This latest technology will allow companies to compete in the global market by enhancing their product lifecycle management (PLM) platform, which is a key to flourish in today’s complex business environment. This was recently explored at Ludhiana, Punjab with EM and Siemens PLM Software, in association with ALMTI (Association of Ludhiana Machine Tool Industries).
The conference was inaugurated by Sukhdial Singh, Managing Partner, Rattan Hammers, who highlighted the strengths of Ludhiana’s industrial sector and its place in the global market. He noted, Ludhiana is Asia’s largest hub for bicycle manufacturing and produces more than 50% of India’s bicycle consumption of more than 10 million each year. The city also produces 60% of India’s tractor parts and a large portion of auto and two-wheeler parts.
Scope of Ludhiana as a manufacturing hub
Elaborating further on the need for Ludhiana to leadfrog its growth by adopting the latest technologies, Singh stated, “The machine tool industry in Punjab is modernising very fast. Hence, it is the need of the hour today to focus on leveraging digitalisation for building faster and smarter machines, which will aid the growing machine tools sector in Ludhiana.” Next, the seminar progressed to the chief guest address which was given by Rajesh Jain, Zonal Head – North II, National Small Industries Corporation (NSIC). He spoke on the importance of low cost automation solutions in today’s complex business environment.
Taking the next step ahead
The conference then proceeded with the panel discussion on ‘Building smarter, more functional & easy-to-maintain machines & equipment’. The panelists of the discussion were Manjit Singh Matharoo, CEO, Matharoo & Matharoo Inc; Sanchit Sharma, Team Lead, Metal Forming R&D, ISGEC Heavy Engineering; Major Singh, Managing Director, Jaewoo India; Pradeep Jain, Managing Director, Sandeep Machines and Nilotpal Kumar, Industry Consultant, Siemens PLM Software. The discussion was moderated by Shekhar Jitkar, Chief Editor, EM.
Underlining their opinion on Ludhiana’s machinery sector, both Matharoo and Singh agreed that the industry needs to develop when it comes to adopting the latest technologies which will help the local manufacturers compete globally. In this context, Kumar spoke of industry-academia collaboration, which helps in bridge the skill gap of our workforce. “In order to help with the knowledge or skill gap of our workforce, Siemens as a company, has tie-ups with academic institutes and colleges where engineering graduates are exposed to our Siemens software for free so that they can be industry-ready in terms of skills. In this way, we are going for industry-academia collaborations in order to bridge the skill gap of our future workforce.”
Adopting the latest technologies
Speaking on the significance of adopting the latest technologies, Jain explained, “In order to progress, we need to adopt the latest technology and once we do so, our product will definitely improve and match the international price. Building the skills of our workforce for the application of these latest technologies is another factor that can help us compete in the global market.” He further added that products produced must be of international quality so that the scope of export can be utilised. Also, things must be organised in such a way that companies can be on a strong growth path, by adopting the latest technologies.
Providing customised solutions
The next topic of the discussion was on the increasing demand for customised solutions from customers and the steps that manufacturers can take to cope up with this demand. In this context, Jain emphasised on the importance of design and shared, “Before manufacturing a machine, you must manufacture the drawing of that machine. You cannot produce a machine without making the drawings. Technology is the most important criteria in this regard.”
Kumar further added to this and spoke of the concept of modularity, which can specifically aid in providing customised solutions. He explained, “An important aspect of customised products is modular design. While catering to customised needs, a designer may find, for instance, that 60% of the machine design for five variants of the product is exactly the same while only 40% of that design may need to be changed to make it customised. Thus, taking this into consideration and designing accordingly will help take better care of the inventory, be more cost-effective and responsiveness will also be enhanced. This is the concept of modularity which can help with customised products.”
Also elaborating on the importance of design was Sharma, who stated, “It is important to analyse and focus on the scientific background of each component and understand it so well that we, as designers, are flexible enough to change the components and the size of the machine to cater to the needs of our clients and reach an optimised version of that machine. In this way, we can enhance our new product development process by building a strong foundation of knowledge of our mother machine and its components and starting to explore what changes can be made to this machine in order to develop a more sophisticated, functional and optimal solution.”
Matharoo stressed on the importance of a digital platform and averred, “In order to cater to customised products, the design must be made on a digital platform, which must be made keeping in mind all the engineering parameters so as to meet the customised design of the customer. Thus, it is essential to adopt the tools which will help formulise this design on the digital platform. Higher production, low cost and repeatability are some of the factors that in need to be kept in mind, while providing solutions.”
The next part of the discussion focused on the factors, which can be implemented by the local manufacturers of Ludhiana in order to compete globally. In this regard, Sharma said that the most important thing is to divide the machines into sub-assemblies and then depending on the parameters of the sub-assemblies, one should create a spreadsheet, which will help evaluate the machine’s motor input related to the bearings, and other factors. “When a customer wants an order to be delivered quickly, one cannot design the components in the machine at that given time. Thus, spreadsheets are a basic need for this transformation,” he averred.
He further added, “To achieve optimisation, working on 3D platforms and using appropriate software is the need of the hour. On one hand, while spreadsheets give us the first level information about the developments, 3D platforms give us an overview of the entire geometry as well as depict the lifespan of a component.” Often, when a designer is asked how old the machine design is, he does not have an answer. “However, using the analysis software can help us keep a track of the life term of the design and its spare parts,” he opined.
Speaking of customer demands, Matharoo shared, “There is a great need especially in the automobile industry to adopt automation in order to make faster products. Customers today want multitasking or modular machines wherein different models may need to be produced of one machine. Catering to this need is not possible without the latest technology and a digital platform which will allow manufacturers to formulate a virtual design,which is flexible and changes can be made.”
He further noted that for the small and medium scale manufacturers of Ludhiana, it is important to have a very big and competitive common facility centre, which includes a design facility, a small lab and large machine centres, where machine tool manufacturers can get the digital support at an affordable price to help them execute and produce their designs on a digital platform. Jain agreed to this and reiterated, “There needs to be a common design centre in Ludhiana to aid the local manufacturers. To compete globally, they must also be willing to adopt the latest technologies.”
Singh stressed on the need for low cost solutions and explained, “We will have to focus on production quality – only then can we produce low-cost machinery. We must also stress on customer’s requirement and focus on the technology used to deliver that solution. We have to make this solution process more productive and increase its quantity while increasing the number of vendors, which will help create a platform to develop the industry more openly.” He also spoke of the importance of digital design and noted, “To make a quality product, we will have to concentrate on the proper design of the product. We must not rely on designs that are a copy of imported machines but must build our own machine designs, keeping in mind the required
parameters. This will help us manufacture our machines at low cost while saving time.”
Driving towards transformation
Citing further reasons to adopt digitalisation, Kumar said, “As manufacturers, we need to put major emphasis on the way we run our factories, the processes that we implement to achieve higher efficiency, and our design process and we need to focus on improving these aspects continuously. It is worth noting that technology can help create a differentiation and adopting the latest technologies can help steer the productivity to a higher level.”
Also elaborating on cost-effective solutions, he shared, “We have proposed an initiative which is already implemented in Bengaluru where a handful of manufacturers from the same industry share the expenses of buying the software from Siemens and have a common set-up where all of them can use it to cater to their company’s needs. This is a cost-effective method which, if adopted, can also help the local manufacturers of Ludhiana spend less money while aiding them in adopting the latest technologies.” The discussion was concluded with all the panelists agreeing to the fact that digitalisation has become an integral phase in every business enterprise and must be adopted in order to compete globally.
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.
Jitkar summarised the discussion by stating that the first and foremost thing would be to acquire knowledge, build the skills and focus on our design capability. The emphasis on design and drawing aspects is especially significant in order to steer towards adopting digital platforms that are used to meet global standards and we must strive to have a common consortium of design where teams can work together. Skilling the workforce especially with the help of new solutions and software can also help with the visualisation of the virtualisation of designs and actual products so as to save time and decide on the facts beforehand. Thus, manufacturers must adopt the latest technologies and digital platform, based on their needs, in order to transit successfully towards achieving digitalisation so as to meet the global challenges in today’s complex business environment.