India, as a nation, has skilled citizens with diversified expertise, availability of different and huge natural resources and abundant opportunities depending on the geographical locality, socio-economic profile and strong ease of doing business environment. The micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) sector has emerged as a highly vibrant, dynamic sector of the Indian economy over the past five decades, and it contributes enormously to the growth of the nation’s economy. Therefore, India has a huge market potential for Industry 4.0. The essential technologies of Industry 4.0 include the Internet of Things (IoT), Virtual Reality, cyber-physical systems, Machine Learning and collaborative robots. These Industry 4.0 technologies contribute enormously to the growth of the nation’s economy.
India has seen a proven track record of implementation of I4.0 in SMEs through various regional and national level initiatives by MSMEs and the Government of India. MSMEs have been spearheading the implementation of Industry 4.0 through digital MSME schemes where the existing infrastructures are converted into digital, cloud-based technologies. India has successfully launched the pilot project of Industry 4.0 by manufacturing smart digital railway coaches that host in-house cloud-based technologies, IoT and several sensors. The smart coaches are manufactured in the state-of-the-art manufacturing plant. This was implemented under the technology mission by the Ministry of Railways in collaboration with the Department of Science & Technology, Government of India, in association with the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur as academic partners. In addition, India has pioneered in the fourth industrial revolution through the Centre of Excellence in Industry 4.0 opened by the World Economic Forum in Maharashtra. This centre has placed India on the global map.
The concept of ‘ease of doing business’ by the Government of India has bagged the 63rd position among 190 nations in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business ranking. The country has pioneered innovation by scoring a 48th position in the innovation index, is on the threshold of major reforms, and is poised to become the third-largest economy in the world by 2030. MSMEs play an important role in the economic and social development of the country, thereby creating the highest employment growth as well as accounting for a major share of industrial production and exports.
The Government of India has been emerging in making India a self-reliant nation through the successful implementation of Aatmanirbhar Bharat that creates the localised products through ‘Vocal for Local’. This propels the country to make its position in the global ranking. As a result, the Indian economy is likely to emerge as one of the leading economies in the world, with an envisioned GDP of $5 trillion economy by 2024.
One of the major technologies that evolved in Industry 4.0 is the collaborative robots, aka cobots. Cobots have paramount importance in contributing majorly to Industry 4.0 and have made major breakthroughs by creating a silent, smart manufacturing environment in India.
Cobots for smart manufacturing
The challenges in the conventional manufacturing systems are precession, accuracy, connectivity of equipment and security of data. The inventory management and real-time monitoring & maintenance of equipment are also of major concerns. The advent of the fourth industrial revolution has provided tremendous opportunities for cobots in the smart manufacturing system. The manufacturing system has changed from a traditional system to a smart manufacturing system with the birth of essential technologies of Industry 4.0, such as IoT, artificial learning, Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality, drones, Machine Learning and edge computing. The cobots play a pivotal role by transforming the existing manufacturing system into a smart manufacturing system.
Cobots differ from traditional industrial robots as far as safety is concerned. The other factors are the short return of investments, shared workspace and payloads. Cobots reduce downtime by improving machine efficiency and sharing the workspace with the human workforce. It is safe to use, affordable and can be easily integrated with onboard computers and IoT. A cobot can perform difficult tasks by means of a flexible approach, be easily moved around due to its flexible 360-degrees of freedom and be easily deployed in the existing system without changing the layout of the shop floor. It can be applied to packaging & palletising, painting, coating, dipping, finishing, machine tending, material handling, visual tasks and assembly. Cobots are the boost engine for the ‘Make in India’ initiative and will reboot, rebuild, recreate and reinvent the existing manufacturing systems because of their flexibility in services that they can be applied to.
Case study I
New Engineering Works, Jamshedpur, Jharkhand, an SME established in 1996, is a pioneer in manufacturing hydraulic, pneumatic, engine and brake components for commercial vehicles, especially for automotive players such as Tata Motors, Ashok Leyland and Brakes India. The increase in demand for hydraulic and other components has made them shift to cobots on the shop floor and install six cobots in the production line. The company has witnessed an increase in their production by 40% and an increase in the workload 24x7.
Case study II
Craft and Teknik Industries, Pune, manufacturers of automotive components, who deployed cobots for automatic testing and CNC machine tending, found a 15-20% increase in production and are also aiming for a 30% increase in production.
Case study III
SMEW Textile Machinery, Ahmedabad, has been in the textile machine business manufacturing for more than six decades since 1958. In order to adapt to the latest technology challenges and the competitive market, SMEW has implemented cobots and witnessed a 300% increase in the production of machineries.
Cobots for silent factory: A case study
Silent factories have made a major breakthrough and set a benchmark in the manufacturing system. Indian automobile manufacturer, Bajaj Auto, has transformed the Indian manufacturing ecosystem through the implantation of the silent factory for its electric two-wheelers production. The company has created a silent factory with the application of cobots, majorly for the manufacturing system. The cobots share the workspace and perform automated tasks. The advent of cobots has transformed traditional manufacturing into smart manufacturing. Bajaj auto has pioneered the workforce by successfully employing 50% of women workforce in its assembly lines.
Intelligent, smart factory: A case study
Havells India, a pioneer and market leader in electrical manufacturing production, has its fully automated AC manufacturing plant in Rajasthan designed on JIT. This plant manufactures one AC unit in 23 seconds. The manufacturing plant has Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) and has an in-house WiFi & IoT-based environment. The plant has 70 robotic points across the plant with the successful implementation of the Manufacturing Execution System (MES). The manufacturing is based on an intelligent system, especially through Artificial Intelligence-based I4.0.
Reskilling & upskilling on I4.0
In order to meet the demands of skill requirement for Industry 4.0, various sectors’ skill councils have been training the youth on the Industry 4.0 skills. Additionally, several associations, like the National Productivity Council, PHD Chamber of Commerce & Industry, ASSOCHAM and Quality Council of India, have been organising various training programmes on Industry 4.0 to train the manpower considering the promising future of the technologies. Reskilling and upskilling in Industry 4.0 will create employment opportunities, as this is the need of the hour.
Industry 4.0 readiness tool for SMEs
The primary requirement of SMEs to transform to industry 4.0 is the preparedness or the readiness to implement the fourth industrial revolution technologies. In order to facilitate SMEs to make this manufacturing transformation, the Centre of Excellence on Industry 4.0 of National Productivity Council, Ministry of Commerce & Industry, Government of India, has developed a customised, digitalised tool to assess the present level of the digital readiness of SMEs. It is expressed as five maturity levels, described as Starter, Managed, Adaptive, Realizer, Top-Notch (SMART). The tool is smarter and has digitalised ways to assess the SME’s readiness to Industry 4.0, irrespective of the size, profile and manufacturing domain. The tool is categorised into three-point drivers such as manufacturing strategy, digitisation strategy & organisational strategy. The tool will provide additional inputs for the SMEs to identify the potential improvement areas as well.