Given the rate at which technologies are evolving today in the manufacturing sector, it is no secret that digitalisation will be an integral part of manufacturing companies if they wish to thrive and compete in the global market. With the growing demand for customised solutions, it is also becoming increasingly important to understand the customer requirements. Further, reaching the next stage of operational excellence will also be key for manufacturers so that they are able to cater to the demands in the global market. Hence, understanding the global trends and adopting digital technologies in an organisation is essential.
In this regard, manufacturers must pay special importance to ensure that they are implementing definite strategies towards adopting digitalisation in their organisation. This will involve preparing a support system, which will help them to optimise the proper use of digital transformation. Additionally, involving the manpower in this evolution process and keeping each and every person in the organisation informed either through verbal communication or having a proper system to update everyone is also equally significant. Going beyond the internal staff and employees and engaging with suppliers and customers in this process will further enhance and accelerate this process of change.
Utilising challenge-centric approach for adopting digitalisation
Though it is undeniable that digitalisation is the next step forward for achieving the desired level of operational excellence in the Indian manufacturing sector, there are also a plethora of challenges that manufacturers face today in adopting these technologies. These challenges range from missing infrastructure to not having access to a skilled manpower despite India having the advantage of a demographic dividend.
It is found that while the small and medium-scale industries segment acknowledges the change caused due to the evolving technologies, they are often clueless as to what is the next step or what are the specific changes that they need to adopt technologically in their operations so as to drive greater operational excellence and ensure more transparency within their system. This typically requires having a seamless flow of information between the different processes within the organisation, which adds to greater transparency and accountability in the system. This ultimately aids in driving a more quality-driven and analytically-rich decision process, based on the facts exposed through this transparent system. This is significant in implementing insightful strategies, based on the factual-based analytical process, which helps in bringing greater operational excellence in that organisation.
In the current scenario, many are falling prey to mindlessly adopting the latest technologies just because it is the latest in the market or in trend. They are failing to take a challengecentric approach which clearly defines their challenges and analyses which digital solutions will help them overcome these challenges. Manufacturers often end up making huge investments in digital technologies without this necessary internal analysis. This ultimately does not result in any profit or benefit, making matters worse and often gives a bad name and reputation to the technology bought. Therefore, the real challenge is having the right analysis and understanding what challenges the company is facing and what digital solutions will help them overcome these challenges. This will ensure benefit to the company and their production process.
It is also key to note that whenever there is a human intervention or human interface within this connected system, there is a potential risk that the process might face manipulation. Thus, adopting a system which allows for collaboration, but also eliminates the risk of these manual aspects where information can get out of the system and has the potential to be manipulated by the person to whom this information goes, is key.
Adopting a connected system using Digital Twin solutions
As per management consultants’ research and analysis report, one of the key reasons that only on a few manufacturers will be successful after adopting digitalisation is that in order to successfully adopt digitalisation, it cannot be a silo strategy but has to run, end-to-end. Driven by this need for a more connected system that connects the entire manufacturing process, solution providers have come up with a new framework.
According to this framework, it is insisted that in the design domain, the product should have a twin. Similarly, the process performance should also have a twin. This is the digital twin, which, for a manufacturing enterprise would be most useful as it integrates right from product design to production planning to production engineering to shopfloor to services. Such a twin would overcome the challenge and chances of failure.
Product Twin: Having a product twin means that engineers must have a digitised version of the machine, which they are going to design and manufacture. Typically, the CAD tool is used for this purpose. The mechanical component of a machine is represented by CAD and if it has any electrical components, it is represented by e-CAD. The software part of the machine is represented by a software. Before manufacturing the physical machine, these tools can be used to make a prototype of this machine and can be run using simulation. This is known as the product twin, which is used in India by some manufacturers.
Process Twin: Globally, manufacturers are also implementing and utilising the process twin. Making a process twin means that whatever machine is being manufactured, a digital twin of the step-by-step plant operations that this machine needs to go through to become the final product, has to be made. This includes the digital twin of the machine in which the machining of the final product will be done and it will also include the digital twin of the tools used, assembly lines, etc. Hence, before manufacturing the physical product, engineers can simulate the entire process.
Performance Twin: The next level after this is the performance twin. After the machine has been designed, manufactured and delivered to the customer, monitoring how it is performing at the customer’s end is important in order to provide accurate after-sales service and implement product improvement strategies in the future. This data can be gathered using sensors, which captures and sends the machine data across to the manufacturer, which can be accumulated into one system.Analysing this data is known as Predictive Maintenance, which aids in forecasting future machine problems and addressing it so that production can run smoothly, without stoppages. This is the utility of the performance twin.
Thus, digitalising the manufacturing process end-to-end using these Digital Twin solutions can help manufacturers in gaining efficiency and achieving operational excellence.
Challenges faced after adopting digitalisation
A common challenge that manufacturers in India are facing today relates to how to address the down-time of these digital technologies after adopting them in their manufacturing process. Previously, manufacturers used to own manual machines, which they knew how to fix incase it stopped working. However, after investing a huge amount on this new technology, they often find that when this machine faces down-time, they do not know how to fix it, unlike the manual machines and need a strong after-sales support from the solution providers.
Thus, manufacturers must take all these factors into account and only invest in solutions where a strong after-sales support is guaranteed by the solution provider. This can include sharing knowledge and training the technical personnel who is handling these solutions, working closely with eachother for Preventive Maintenance, etc.
Cost-effective solution for adopting digitalisation
Another challenge that is faced by manufacturers in India is the massive investment that is needed in order to adopt the digital technologies. The high cost of this technology is often not affordable and feasible for manufacturers. Keeping this challenge in mind, some solution providers are proposing a solution wherein they are willing to have a setup, which allows for shared ownership of these resources to the city’s several manufacturers. This solution calls for manufacturers to identify what is the area in which they need the support, such as design or machining, and then, they can make a shared investment in such resources, which will allow for a cost-effective solution for them.
Next step towards the digitalisation process
Thus, after considering the advantages and the challenges faced after adopting digitalisation within the manufacturing process, the next step to start the digital transformation process phase-by-phase would entail a detailed internal analysis from the company. This analysis will have to introspect and determine the constraints that the company is facing in terms of its manpower, technologies, finances, etc. It will also have to identify if the company is in a place to invest in these resources or it is still struggling to survive in the market. This will help them to introspect where they are currently and where they would like to be in the future and accordingly, seek the paths and solutions that will lead them to achieve this objective. Some companies are introducing the ‘Chief Digital Officer’ role who is given the mandate for successfully adopting digitalization.
During the internal analysis process, the companies may face some obstacles on the way such as not having enough aftersales support for the automation machines. These challenges need to be taken into account and an action plan must be worked out accordingly so as to overcome them. Digitalisation as a technology has the potential to transform a business but each company will have its unique path in adopting it.
Therefore, it is important to note that adopting digitalisation not only means adopting the latest technologies, but also preparing internally so as to support this transformation. This will include having access to a supportive infrastructure and changing the mindset of employees and training them to support these new technologies so that they can be utilised to their maximum potential. ☐