To create highly-efficient product development and manufacturing environment that fosters continuous & measurable product and process innovation, manufacturers need to adapt to a flexible and modular approach. Today, digitisation and advanced manufacturing practices have become the realism of rapidly-changing markets and varying economic conditions. This is resulting in an augmented emphasis on flexibility in both products and processes, and accumulative proportion of the overall innovation in a product happens to come from the interaction between product and process components. Therefore, an integration of product lifecycle management (PLM), factory automation and digitisation have become crucial for building a future of the manufacturing landscape.
To be successful in the current global industrial machinery market and to meet diverse market demands & regulatory mandates, it has become imperative for the industry to build machines that are smarter, more functional and cost-efficient with improved designs, easy maintainability & flexibility, and better energy efficiency. To achieve this, what it needs is appropriate advanced technology exploitations, for example, PLM, Industry 4.0, IIoT, etc. Such kind of technologies are, however, not yet exploited in many clusters of India. Though Rajkot has primarily come up as one of the prominent machine tool clusters in India, it is still a step back when it comes to the required awareness and expected degree of technology.
Serving as a common platform to let all ends meet, EM and Siemens PLM, in association with MTMA (Machine Tools Manufacturers’ Association), Rajkot, had recently organised a seminar and a panel discussion on ‘Building Smarter, More Functional and Easy to Maintain Machines & Components’, at Rajkot, Gujarat.
Building the industry model
Inaugurating the seminar was Dineshbhai Khambhayta, President, MTMA-Rajkot & Director, Gujarat Lathe Manufacturing, who presented the strengths of the Rajkot machine tool industry and the role of the association in the development of the industry in the region. Speaking on the ancillary support, he also informed that the Rajkot machine tool industry is able to manufacture machines with minimum infrastructure and investments, empowering improvement in productivity, and have flexibility in product diversification and inter-changeability of parts.
Reduction of manufacturing costs has become a necessity. Speaking on this, he further said, “With an ease of accessibility of information, customer demands have increased and they expect good quality machines at affordable prices. Therefore, to be at par with the competition, we have to accept business challenges and focus more on managing production costs, adopt new technology and automation practices, modify existing products, work towards new product development, strengthen ancillary support and supply chain management.”
As dramatic as the technological changes are, they seem to be the most evident symptoms of a deeper digital transformation in manufacturing itself. Complying this, the guest address of the event was delivered by Parakramsinh Jadeja, President, IMTMA & CMD, Jyoti CNC Automation. Jadeja briefed on the IMTMA initiatives that helped its members in their efforts towards upgradation and competitive excellence. “These initiatives include training sessions, international seminars, workshops, preaching government policies, etc.” Speaking on the evolution of Indian machine tool industry, he averred that in 2011, the machine tool consumption was Rs 12,500 crores, out of which 30% share was from the machine tool builders. “Following a decline to Rs 7,900 crores in 2013-14, the graph witnessed an upward trend and, now, targets to reach Rs 11, 000 crores in 2015-16. Also, today, automation and smart machines have made our jobs easy. We are working in an era of smart manufacturing and smart maintenance,” he said.
Becoming a future-ready manufacturer
The highlight of the event was a panel discussion organised by EM, on ‘Building Smarter, More Functional and Easy to Maintain Machines & Components’. The discussion was moderated by Shekhar Jitkar, Publisher & Chief Editor, EM, and the panelists included Dineshbhai Khambhayta, President, MTMA-Rajkot and Director, Gujarat Lathe Manufacturing; Shirish Divgi, Managing Director, Ferromatik Milacron India; Rajubhai Bhanderi, Director, New Dilip Industries; Jaybhai Mavani, Director, Turnmax Machine Tools and Srinath Koppa, Director – Industry Solutions, Siemens Industry Software, India.
The discussion was themed around maintaining margins in a globally competitive environment; improving productivity of NPD (new product development) process; using new technologies to produce cost-efficient modular machines with better flexibility, energy efficiency and easy maintainability as well as re-gaining competitive advantage by becoming a future-ready manufacturer. Taking this forward, Jitkar explained the importance of an effective new product development process in today’s competitive business environment and the need to identify and address the challenges in it. He asked the panel how to improve the productivity of NPD process so as to ensure a faster operation, better delivery and more constant product quality, and minimising lifecycle costs.
Answering this, Khambhayta averred that customisation has become the need-of-the-hour. “Adding new features or designing specialised machines is what fulfils the customer requirements. As such, machines with modification flexibility has become critical. Besides, the industry needs to cater to customisation and identify changes as and when required,” he shared. Here comes the need for manufacturers to educate customers on the fact that such changes can make machines faster, efficient, economic and sustainable. On similar lines, Divgi commented that product lifecycle and design cycles have shortened today. “It’s driven by two external factors—end users and competitors. In fact, the definition of product development has evolved. It has become a day-to-day activity. Thus, we need to anticipate changes in the market conditions and identify customers’ demands. Collaboration and customer embracement is important here.”
Configuring industry demands
While meeting mounting customer requirements and multiple configuration possibilities, one needs to take care of customisation with no extra cost. In this regard, Jitkar asked the panellists to share their strategies and experience in dealing with such changes and customisation. On this, Mavani averred that despite major expectations in the industry, small-scale companies are still not able to handle it due to resource crunch and lack of understanding for technology upgradation. “There is no or very little awareness on the latest technologies available and many of the manufacturers still use obsolete technologies and infrastructure. You will find, not many manufacturers in Rajkot today are practicing automation technologies or using advanced CNC machines,” he said. Bhanderi was also of the opinion that there is a strong need to address such issues in Rajkot industry and make the manufacturers understand the importance of using advanced technologies.
Addressing the fact that resource crunches have become pivotal today, and taking this forward, Koppa believes that such issues should not be considered as challenges, but as opportunities. He shared, “Getting the accurate resources and supply base is a major challenge. This can be better addressed by cluster formations. For instance, In Bengaluru, we have developed programmes and skill training centres for empowering skill development modules. With machines becoming complex, technology used for it has also become complex. What is vital here is to internalise the technology and address it to the available market. The skill set should be at par with technology.”
Speaking on the degree of technology exposure available at Rajkot, Divgi commented, “Technological adaptation is a two-way process. For achieving manufacturing excellence, requirements need to be channelised. A partnership or collaboration will help us achieve the same.” As per Khambhayta, collaboration opportunities come hand-in-hand with technology adoption. “To implement technology exposure, willingness to change is vital,” he focussed.
In case of Rajkot, SMEs are more in number and, therefore, customisation becomes critical to handle from the point of view of market requirements. When asked, Bahanderi points out that technological collaboration isn’t viable for the SMEs here because of the lack of awareness and undertsnading about the right technology adoption. Further, Mavani interestingly pointed out that the Rajkot industry is divided into two sectors—below poverty line and above poverty line, and that the degree of awareness and technology are poles apart at both the ends. “The relay of information and technology advancement are slower in the small scale companies. Thus, with rapidly evolving technology, it becomes difficult for such companies to be competitive.”
Adopting digital transformation
As the global manufacturing industry is at the cusp of a major technological transformation, the Indian industry has started to step into the shoes of virtual era and digitisation. Emphasising the transformation journey, Koppa spoke on advanced machine engineering for industrial machinery. He explained, “Currently, the industry needs to meet the customer expectations by considering the following parameters, i.e. complexity, globalisation, customisation and increased regulations. This can be done with digitisation and is one of the key steps for new product development. For example, if one has a five-grade or seven-grade process, with digitisation, it gets readily available in the system, and implementing modifications becomes easy. Therefore, the right products can be manufactured and sent for delivery.”
Furthermore, he emplaced that digitisation can be accomplished by a two-way procedure, by an engineering process management system and conceptualising products faster. “Global companies address challenges of advanced machine engineering by applying such methodologies,” he said.
Today, it is observed that automation, digitisation and digitalisation will need to grow at a phenomenal rate so as to boost the manufacturing sector and economy. Amidst such a transformational era, the Rajkot industry is all set to take a leap and raise the next technology bar. Though the industry has been conventional in its approach, and has been using conventional technologies and machines; to optimise manufacturing processes and to meet the growing customer requirements, the industry leaders believe that the Rajkot machine tool industry needs to come out of their comfort zone and join hands with machine builders to address resource crunches as well as anticipate and address changes in the market conditions and technology. This can be a good case study for manufacturers in the similar industry clusters in India.