With the COVID-19 pandemic and the nuances attached to the manufacturing industry, manufacturing of all sizes in both discrete and process will now need to recognise and clasp the potentials of new developing production models and technology. In this context, Publish Industry India, in association with its event partner, Altair and technology partner, Siemens Industry Software, recently organised a virtual interactive session on ‘Manufacturing – Now, next and beyond’, where its speakers and panellists discussed the changing face of manufacturing, how India can be self-sufficient and the breakthrough changes expected in manufacturing operations in the coming years.
The webinar kicked-off with the keynote address by Dr Jairam Vardaraj, Managing Director, Elgi Equipments. Varadaj pointed out that there are plenty of transactional lessons that we have learnt in the presence of this crisis. “I would like to focus on two structural lessons – one is that this crisis has presented to the Indian manufacturing industry a dependence on the economy. When it comes to self-sufficiency, it is about building in the context of self-sufficiency in the current era that we are talking about – it’s about building world-class and not necessarily substandard products,” he said and continued, “The second structural lesson is the fundamental value proposition of each of our businesses. We need to be talking about the global opportunities and in most of our products, the global opportunity is exponentially higher than the Indian opportunity. In order for us to leverage it, we have to be very careful about how we build the central value proposition of the business.”
New possibilities to use technology
This was followed by a technology presentation by Sudhir Padaki, Director, Data Analytics, Altair. He spoke on the value of data analytics in the smart factory. “‘Next’ in the new normal will involve an evolution towards innovation & there will be stronger digitalisation efforts in manufacturing,” he told the audience. He further added, “This new normal has also created many possibilities to use technology, for example, letting one understand what social distancing violations are happening on the shop floor, which could lead to any issues in terms of human contact.”
Where strategies have to be
Where strategies have to be Up next, the guest speaker of the webinar, Gowtham Sivabalan, Senior Director, Manufacturing & Process Consulting, Frost & Sullivan, took over. Three aspects – the depth of disruption, length of disruption & shape of recovery are very vital for industries and economists to plan in terms of where their strategies have to be, he informed.
Sivabalan also raised the question about where technologies are going to help in the future. He implied, “I believe there are three elements that have changed – the first is that there will be a faster move from physical to virtual environments. The second is that there is a strong belief that companies will move from a centralised to a more decentralised mode of operations. The third is that we have to move beyond cost optimisation to be innovative.”
It was then time for another technology presentation by Nitin Malvadkar, Technical Consultant - Mainstream Engineering, Siemens Industry Software. He explained how Solid Edge can help increase product design efficiency.
“Another solution that we are excited about is Solid Edge Electrical Design,” he put forth and continued, “We have recently introduced a new solution called Wiring Design in which electrical designers can create their electrical designs from scratch. The same solution can be used for creating all the circuits.”
Going forward & thinking beyond COVID
It was then soon time for the panel discussion on ‘Manufacturing - Now, next & beyond’, which focused on how the manufacturing operations would be – now, next & beyond, in terms of the challenges anticipated, operations flexibility and the current best manufacturing practices in an organisation. The esteemed panellists were Arundhati T, Managing Director, Plazma Technologies; Hitendra N Mishra, Senior Vice President & Head, Eicher Engineering Components, VE Commercial Vehicles; Ashutosh Athalye, Senior Vice President - Technology & Business development, Sigma Electric Manufacturing Corporation and Chandrashekar Bharathi, Managing Director, Ace Micrcomatic, MIT & Member, National Manufacturing Council. The moderator of this discussion was Shekhar Jitkar, Chief Editor, Publish Industry India.
Jitkar shot his first question at Mishra, asking him to highlight the major changes and transformations that manufacturing operations were going through before the COVID-19 pandemic and if he thinks those changes got impacted because of this crisis. To this, Mishra responded, “We had a lot of things on-going before the COVID pandemic hit us. For instance, Industry 4.0 was the order of the day. Now, with COVID-19 here, I believe that everybody’s knowledge has been reset to zero mode. When it comes to how things have been impacted, various interventions where there is investment will see slow progress.”
Desire for more automation
Jitkar then went on to ask Bharathi that going forward and thinking beyond COVID, when businesses are back to normal, how does he think the scenario will be in terms of adoption of technologies, including the fact that people are tending to adopt digitalisation or new technologies to just compensate for the lesser manpower. Bharathi answered this question in two parts. “One is that we are certainly seeing an instant reaction from a lot of our customers, saying that they desire more automation,” he ivulged and continued, “Their desire is to de-risk their operations from the human side of things. In the course of that automation, digital technologies certainly play a key role.”
Coming to the second part, he averred, “When customers want digitalisation, what they really want is the ability to make more profits or reduce their shop floor operation losses. From the knowledge-base that we have, we have found a roughly 80-20 split in terms of the types of issues that really impact profitability & operational efficiency. 80% of them are fairly low-hanging in nature. There could be, in the other 20% or 15% of them being long-term in nature or in the process or parameter perspective. There could be a small per cent (less than 5%) which is labour-oriented. So, the large focus of digital outputs is going to be on that 80%.”
Need for real data analysis, data churning & predictive analysis
As the discussion moved forward, Jitkar then went on to ask Athalye that while they talk about the changes that have been happening in the manufacturing sector pre-COVID and now the possibility of the pace of technology adoption increasing, what kind of strategies and approach should the industry think of to respond to these changes, while at the same time, remain competitive and conserve the cash. Athalye cited that it’s a temporary period for the cash crunch, etc but obviously, the industry is realising that it has to overcome this. At the same time, there is a need for real data analysis, data churning & predictive analysis in terms of better forecasting. “If one can get these digital tools, then it will counter a buffer of what one is going to add into the supply chain to avoid disruption,” he said.
What happens beyond COVID?
While we currently see an increased adoption of digitalisation & new technologies, what happens beyond this phase? It’s quite clear that it’s time the industry truly thought of something ‘beyond’ COVID. What would be the key drivers for industry growth and what will the scenario be then?
Taking this up, Arundhati responded, “What we’re realising is that we have to change our customers’ mindset to look on the long-term basis. Even the ROI calculation needs to be looked at on a longer perspective. People who are going to be able to start now are never going to match up because there just aren’t any more people around them to accelerate the process of digitisation. So, we are looking at how we can get them self-sufficient by a very adaptive and agile system, so they can do multiple kinds of jobs as they come their way.”
Handling the crisis in the most effective manner
In the current COVID situation, while the industry is making digitalisation & new technologies a priority, it also emains a fact that currently whatever is happening in the crisis has really brought to the forefront the way people are being handled. Another very important aspect for a manufacturing person during these times is that anyone who comes to his/her premise has to feel safe – a thought process & infrastructure that has to be created post-COVID. The industry must see what it can learn from the past & present and implement it for the future to shape itself to make sure that it handles the present crisis in the most effective manner.