Every manufacturing organisation in India has time tested processes, product development philosophies, and success stories. Yet, as we explore the potential of global market, these best practices are being challenged and there is a need to leverage digitalisation in order to achieve the desired results in terms of the following objectives:
Reduce time-to-market: Due to faster-changing customer demands, manufacturers have to launch products faster, despite rising product complexity. Traditionally, the big competitor has beaten the small one, but now the fast one is beating the slow one.
Enhance flexibility: Customers want individualised products but at the prices they’d pay for mass-produced goods. As a consequence, production has to be more flexible than ever before—individualised mass production.
Improve quality: Customers today reward high quality by recommending products on the internet and they punish poor quality the same way. To ensure high product quality and to fulfil legal requirements, companies have to install closed-loop quality processes, and products have to be traceable.
Increase efficiency: Today, it is not only the product that needs to be sustainable and environmentally friendly but energy efficiency in manufacturing and production becomes a competitive advantage, too.
In short, harnessing the power of digital transformation enables an organisation to demonstrate a competitive advantage by doing things better, faster, and cheaper than their competition. Even though manufacturers are aware of these benefits, they face challenges while implementing it in their organisation.
Turning ambiguity into opportunity
Digitalisation does not centre on technology, but rather on capturing value through improved productivity and performance. To spread this understanding of digitalisation and also to transcend the innovation metrics so as to target the global market, Siemens PLM Software and EM have been organising a series of panel discussions across India. They joined hands with IPI (Indian Plastics Institute) and ITAMMA (Indian Textile Accessories & Machinery Manufacturers Association) once again to host the second one at Coimbatore.
The conference was kick-started by P T Muralidharan, Convenor, Export Cell, ITAMMA Coimbatore, who briefed on the latest developments within ITAMMA and emphasised on the impact of digitalisation in recent years and its disruption in textile machinery industry. Next, S Srinivasan, Head—Manufacturing, Roots Polycraft and Treasurer & Co-ordinator, IPI, highlighted the latest developments from IPI Coimbatore chapter in the plastics machinery industry. The chief guest of the conference was Ramesh Rajamani, Executive Director, Janatics India, who set the tone for the event. He opined, “Industry 4.0 is all about making everything intelligent and apt. This also conveys a picture of both hope and ambiguity. The hope is that definitely there is going to be some reason for this to happen.” Further highlighting on this trend, he noted that Industry 4.0 will globally impact four key areas: society, strategy, workforce and investment in technology. “In Indian context, the challenge will be the leap forward towards digitalisation in manufacturing. Here, we have to focus on the design part, which is going to be knowledge centric,” he added.
Moving on, the discussion was carried forward in the format of a panel discussion, which was on the topic ‘Leveraging digitalisation for building smarter machines & equipment’ with leading industry incumbents from Coimbatore: M Karunakaran, Head – Operations & Technical, Shanti Gears; Dr O A Balasubramaniam, CEO, Roots Polycraft; T S Sundaram, Joint Managing Director, Super Machine Works; T Senthil Kumar, Regional Manager – South & Business Manager – Automotive, Engel Machinery India; Ajith Mohan Parakkat, Head – Operations, Elgi Electric & Industries and Shivendra Bansotra, Technical Consultant, Siemens PLM Software. The panel discussion was moderated by Shekhar Jitkar, Chief Editor, EM.
Giving an overview of the panel discussions, Jitkar mentioned that how digitalisation helps in addressing the manufacturer’s existing challenges was discussed in part one that happened last year. He noted, “In the part two, the focus would be on the challenges faced by the companies while implementing digitalisation in their organisation.” When he asked about the readiness for digital transformation, Senthil Kumar said that the Indian industry is still at the basic level. “Even companies in Europe are not fully ready for the transformation. As such, the Indian companies have just started investing in digital technologies, since the global OEMs are pushing them to have digitalisation system so that they can monitor what is happening at the supplier and customer end,” he added.
On similar lines, Karunakaran observed that in one form or the other, the world is now moving towards digital whether it is in design or manufacturing. When he was asked about what was relevant for him while moving towards digitalisation, he noted, “We should consider investing in digital technologies for improving the efficiency of existing manufacturing processes and also for communicating clearly with the customers on business orders.”
With the help of digital technologies, it is possible to bring down the walls of largely isolated discrete supply chain into a completely integrated ecosystem that is fully transparent. So, when Sundaram was asked about how to start building such an ecosystem, he answered that based on the size of the industry and the scale of operation, one can decide whether to implement complete digitalisation at every point or only for some pockets of operation. “For a large scale industry, it is better to have complete digitalisation. For a medium scale industry, one can consider it for projects like controlling the inventory, making the manufacturing processes simpler and also for sales and after-sales service. Integrating the supply chain depends on the size of the industry, it cannot be generalised for all the industries,” he added.
Impact of digitalisation on value chain
According to a report from world economic forum, digital transformation is generating a fierce debate among policymakers, economists and industry leaders about its societal impact. As digitalisation disrupts society ever more profoundly, there is a growing concern about how it is going to affect issues such as jobs, wages, inequality, health, resource efficiency and security. In this context, when Parakkat was asked about strategies like change management for digital transformation, he emphasised that India should have a national policy on Industry 4.0 and IoT-related technologies. “Today, we are facing inflation along with recession. How are both of this happening at the same time? It is because only 15% of our economy is growing. The rest 85% is depending on the 15% for the growth. We are not having actual growth. This is the growth without the creation of new jobs. So, we have to digitalise our agricultural sector, which is the major part of our economy. We also have to skill the people in the unorganised sector and expand the digitalisation to the broader sector,” he opined.
According to Balasubramaniam, “We have to progress and prepare for digitalisation. It is necessary and there is no escape from it. For a country like India, the biggest challenge is cost. So, we have a long way to go. This is not a change but a revolution. When everything becomes global, our competitor will also be going up. In our company, we have already invested largely in our infrastructure. Hence, there is a need to pick & choose the technology that matches our requirement.” Emphasising further on the impact of digitalisation and the organisation’s go-to approach, Bansotra opined that every organisation should have its own business goals. He further added, “Companies have to identify and invest on the technologies that help them to achieve the business goal and the desired RoI. They should involve the technology partner while implementing digitalisation. In Siemens, we call this as a digitalisation blue print.”
Towards digital transformation journey
On a journey towards digital transformation, Jitkar asked the panelists to give a brief roadmap on implementing digitalisation. Sharing his thoughts, Senthil Kumar stressed on three objectives: smart machine, smart service and smart production (factory). “Without any of these, we cannot achieve digitalisation. So, based on the customer requirement, business size and industry level, we have to focus on achieving these objectives.” Further elaborating on this, Karunakaran underlined that the importance of realising RoI and the willingness among employees of the top and bottom level of an organisation are the major factors for the successful implementation of digitalisation. As per Sundaram, one has to list down the factors which impact his/her business and take a decision on the basis of short, medium and long term goals.
However, Parakkat observed that one has to block all the existing loopholes while drawing the roadmap for digital transformation along with prioritising data security in their agenda. Sharing his views, Balasubramaniam said that the business plan depends on the priority and requirement of the industry and customer expectations. On an elaborative note, Bansorta stressed the importance of having an open system to work with different protocols. He also recommended the significance of investing in technologies like Digital Twin to streamline the entire value chain from product design, production to service.
Along with the panel discussion, the conference also had a series of presentations from Siemens, highlighting the company’s entire portfolio of digital technologies. Bansotra presented on the topic of ‘Driving the Digital Enterprise’ stressing the importance of having a business plan while investing in digital technologies. Anil Ogle, Portfolio Manager for Simulation, Siemens PLM Software, demonstrated the need for optimising systems design and conducting performance simulation during his presentation on the topic ‘Simulating the digital twin’. Additionally, Anmol Kaul, Portfolio Manager for Costing, Siemens PLM Software presented on the topic of ‘Cost of quality’ to ensure on time delivery of a quality product and at an optional cost and Sahir Patel, Portfolio Manager for PLM, Siemens PLM Software, presented on the topic of ‘Product data management – Take control of your data’ to build smarter and energy efficient machines.
Summarising the panel discussion, Jitkar urged the panelists and the audience to take these discussions forward and turn them into reality. He also opined that in order to target the international market, one has to provide global solutions. For this, investment in digital technologies is the need-of-the-hour and investing in the right technology at the right time will enable an organisation to harness the power of digital transformation.