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DIGITALISATION Digital revolution - Driving automation

Dec 13, 2019

CII recently hosted the Smart Manufacturing Conclave in Pune, India, under the theme ‘Digital by default’. The event witnessed the presence of prominent industrialists from across the country who came together to delve on the topic of digitalisation and its impact. Inspired from it, EM magazine reached out to the speakers of the event to get their concise opinion on the topic of digitalisation, its impact on the industry, on customer experience and the future that one should work towards. Here is what they have to say…

Data is everywhere and it’s converging to give us actionable insights - Srikant Bapat, Managing Director, Johnson Controls India

Digital transformation can be defined as the accelerator of business activities, processes, competencies and models to fully leverage the changes and opportunities of digital technologies and their impact in a strategic way. Organisations now, are making enormous strides and realising the benefits of new digital business models and processes. We see examples of this everywhere — in how people shop, work, learn, communicate and even how they elect leaders. Companies that do not embrace digital transformation will find it difficult to remain competitive.

Our company is also embracing digital transformation and bringing that to our customers. Our digital solutions portfolio is growing with offerings that will change the way building owners, managers and occupants interact with their built environments. A great example is the new Bee’Ah headquarters in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. It will be one of the first buildings in the world to have full integration with AI to support new seamless experiences for optimisation of efficiencies, performance and functionality.

Broad trends including urbanisation and increasing urgency for sustainable development will continue to shape customer demands. Energy conservation is one key driver, both from the sustainability angle as well as cost savings. Also, there has been an increased expectation for more personalised services and products. This means that there are more opportunities for companies to appeal to their customers by understanding their unique needs. Digital transformation is revolutionising the way we use data to create, design and manage everything around us. Now, it’s time to think about places and spaces differently, because data is everywhere and it’s converging to give us actionable insights, enhanced productivity and increased efficiency. It is about changing the way a business interacts with its customers and how they provide their customers with a consistent experience whenever and wherever they need it. Digital transformation is forcing companies to change their business models and adapt to the new market.

Delivering a great customer experience has become a top strategic objective to win new businesses and perhaps, more importantly, to retain customers. Hence, design thinking, understanding the different customer personas and mapping the customer journey are all important capabilities that companies need to have. Of course, establishing channels for customer feedback and systematic review and incorporation of the feedback as well as learning from best practices will always be critical.


Digital transformation is a journey and not just a one-time setup - Rajeev Mittal, Chief Information Officer, Endurance Technologies

New age technologies like IIoT, robotics, etc are the game changers for manufacturing organisations and are being considered as the latest industrial revolution. For any business, there are few vital parameters viz organisation growth (both top line and bottom line), taking competitive advantage, innovation and creating value to customers and all other stakeholders. To accomplish these, it is pivotal to have a close connect and visibility of each aspect of the business. In manufacturing organisations, keeping the shop-floor agile and highly productive with quality output is essential to support accomplishments of key business parameters. These technologies enable predictive capabilities which are extremely helpful for maintenance, forecasting, pre-failure predictions, taking proactive measures, etc. This helps save a lot of manual efforts, and data collected directly from machines using sensors, PLCs, etc are more accurate and in a structured manner, which gives more meaningful actionable insights to managers in the quickest way without human intervention.

Technological advancements in new machines used in manufacturing lines, extended capabilities, cloud (private, public or hybrid), continuously enhanced partner echo system for enablement, etc have accelerated the value of IIoT, which ultimately supports smart factories. However, manufacturers are facing challenges for aligning old and new machines, old and new (millennial) workforce alignment, skill enhancement of workforce, driving change management and investments to convert traditional factories to smart factories. I think the government also faces similar challenges in their areas of operations along with voluminous and widespread coverage.

Organisations can adopt certain methodology towards digital transformation because digital transformation is a journey and not just a one-time setup. A suggestive approach can be – identifying the digital Cross Functional Team (CFT), including representation from top management, production, maintenance, manufacturing engineering and IT people; identifying the digital strategy and defining the road map to digitalisation; starting with small area/line by identifying the right combination of tools/hardware and software with scalability; doing retro fitment for data acquisition using sensors in old machines; equipping with new machines which are IIoT enabled; implementing, analysing and establishing digital setup and doing an actual cost benefit analysis and extending it further for multiple lines or manufacturing sites and adopting continuous improvement/enhancement models to take it to an advanced level or for a wide coverage.


ML aids manufacturing by augmenting human capability and intellect - Dr Ambica Rajagopal, Head of Data Science and Data Management, Sterlite Technologies

We are amidst a massive change in the way we deal with various goods, services and applications in our lives. We unconsciously expect a level of intelligent responses, to the extent that we are impatient if we don’t receive them. For instance, we don’t like it if our shopping apps make unintuitive recommendations. This change in consciousness of customers makes it imperative for manufacturers to build a layer of intelligent interaction in their offerings. Telematics enabled service in automotive is a great example of this. This intuitive service model makes service prescient and rapid by predicting failures, identifying service locations real-time and ensuring availability of parts. Customers feel involved and cared about and therefore, bond emotionally with the company.

Robotics and Machine Learning (ML) are revolutionising manufacturing by taking efficiencies to a new level. ML works in two ways – the first one is by replicating human intelligence. Together with robotics, this has made manufacturing more repeatable and has improved quality. The second way ML aids manufacturing is by augmenting human capability & intellect. Organisations transforming in order to become data-driven in their decision making should focus on both, ‘data offence’ and ‘data defence’. Data offence activities focus on making organisations’ data complete, usable and useful in driving decisions. Enterprise data can be looked at from a handful of critical themes; for example, a product journey from the supplier to production to customers. Organisations can focus on completing data collection for a theme by connecting disparate systems like MES/ERP systems and investing in data collection mechanisms like IoT devices and sensors to bridge gaps. Data Lakes are a great way to make data usable and accessible to analysis.

However, these data collection focused tasks are easier pieces of the ‘data defence’ puzzle – the harder part is ensuring that data is driving business outcomes. Setting up an outcome focused data science and data engineering team and supporting their efforts with executive sponsorship are critical. Data offence activities focus on minimising enterprise risk arising from the widespread use of data. Data governance frameworks and their implementation through information security tools spread awareness of the responsibilities and risks of data stewardship within an organisation.


Smart digital technologies will enable organisations to grow - Aditi Sharma, Vice-President, Quality, Manufacturing, HSE, NPRO & CSE, Cummins India

Propelled by the digital wave and IIoT, there has been a paradigm shift in the way organisations design their business models to fulfil the changing needs of customers. Digital transformation is not only about choosing a smarter solution for businesses, but also about providing value added products and services, which is determined to fulfil the ever-evolving customer requirements. Companies need to ensure that the business delivers enhanced value and helps achieve sustainable competitive advantages, with a focus on customer experience. This will enable organisations to capture customers’ virtual mind space by being prognostic, which is a key driver in re-shaping business models in order to adapt to the volatile and uncertain environment that we are in.

Customer-centric vision, with a digital focus, is the cornerstone for any organisation to establish sustainable competitive advantages. We need to create an integrated strategy with a focused digital strategy based on capturing all stakeholder needs and expectations, especially to understand how customer expectations have evolved in the environment of digital transformation. Comprehensive and digitally strategic objectives, that are communicated with effective strategy deployment plans and monitor value-added goals, spur innovations, creativity and measures digital strategies, which would transform the future of businesses. ‘Smart’ digital technologies willnot only bring in product innovation and major changes in the way we design our processes, but at the same time create a new market space & enable organisations to grow in their core business.


Factories of the future will need to manage complexity explosion - Sudhir Gurtoo, Managing Director & CEO, Leadec India

Are organisations preparing for the upcoming big change? My response, averaged over feedback from many CEOs, is a blunt no. Most continue to wait in the shadows, and some have their heads buried deep down. I wonder when they lift their heads, much later, will they still have the time to react and attempt an over-night change to sustain organisational growth? In contrast, there exist companies who are dabbling with new technologies to reap the benefits they offer.

Remote equipment monitoring and off-line access, along with remote repair, is a technological change, that is being honed to perfection in few plants. High-level skills can, thus, be located centrally, in lesser numbers and be able to support multiple maintenance sites. Add to this in one’s trial AI and data analytics and one can reach a state where an equipment may never reach a break-down point. Much ahead of final failure, a predictive, sensor data tracking-based system will caution the plant manager. This model would also permit lower level skills to be placed inside each plant. Next, Machine Learning (ML) or data-analysis based maintenance takes a critical part in the upcoming phase. At yet another auto car plant in Europe, trials are being taken for easing the life of assembly operators by speeding up execution. Typically, line operators receive a printed sheet, telling them which specific parts need pickup from line-side and get assembled onto the next-in-line approaching car body. Holographic objects are used in this trial and thus, an operator wearing a band on his head can see a mid-air screen projection in place of a printed sheet or a PC screen and interact with this digital data. Factories of the future will need to manage complexity explosion at reduced cost but deliver at lightning speed. These holographic projections, right at the operator’s work-station, would help towards this goal.


Digital transformation is all about doing things in a different way from the past - Narendra Saini, Head – Product Management, Unlimit IoT

Emerging technologies such as IoT, robotics, ML/AI and data analytics are currently experiencing a profound impact on the manufacturing industry. However, the impact may vary from sector to sector as well as from geography to geography.

The transformation of factories or manufacturing organisations lies in the right planning. Change in management processes for a digital organisation meaning, the top management buying into the digital transformation journey in a planned manner is essential. Unfortunately, limited top management executives, as of today, have the right knowledge & courage to learn or access to the right intellect to plan and execute transformation initiatives. It is a must for the survival of a manufacturing enterprise, when & how are the questions to be answered by the respective management. To address this, the first thing would be to create/empower the current digital transformation program, led by a capable individual. The transformation is generally a multi-year program and, therefore, organisations need to define a vision – a target state for each functional area where the organisation plans to be in a three to four year time frame.

The next phase would be to understand the current gaps in each area and look at what different technologies can bridge the gap to reach the desired stage and finally evolve the ‘target state architecture’. Once the ‘target state architecture’ is defined – it’s time to define the prioritisation matrix of what project to execute with respect to the timeline perspective. It is essential to exercise it too – low hanging fruits may result in immediate cost reduction/benefits and this capital saving, in turn, can be brought back to the digital transformation initiatives. It is also important to note that the organisation may not have all the talent to implement such initiatives – they need to either reskill their current manpower or identify a reliable partner. A good mix of the two will be more advisable though. In the end, digital transformation is all about doing things in a different way from the past i.e. a cultural change in organisations. It would be important that organisations have the right leaders in place, starting from the top management to transform themselves digitally and become future ready.

Image Gallery

  • Srikant Bapat

    Managing Director

    Johnson Controls India

  • Rajeev Mittal

    Chief Information Officer

    Endurance Technologies

  • Dr Ambica Rajagopal

    Head of Data Science and Data Management

    Sterlite Technologies

  • Aditi Sharma

    Vice-President, Quality, Manufacturing, HSE, NPRO & CSE

    Cummins India

  • Sudhir Gurtoo

    Managing Director & CEO

    Leadec India

  • Narendra Saini

    Head – Product Management

    Unlimit IoT

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