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TECHNOLOGICAL INNOVATIONS IN MANUFACTURING Targeting for a customer-centric supply chain with resiliency

Jun 4, 2021

COVID-19 exposed the vulnerabilities & risks lurking in an organisation’s supply chain for some. These weren’t the new-day supply chain problems, but long-standing vulnerabilities exposed due to the pandemic. For others, it opened new doors for innovation & growth, giving an advantage to the organisation in the post-pandemic world. Keeping this in mind, Publish Industry India, in association with Siemens Digital Industries Software, recently organised the virtual conference on ‘Manufacturing revival with technology innovations – Effective collaboration across manufacturing value chain’. The conference highlighted the role of digitalisation in bringing in effective collaboration, threw light on sustainable illusions and the significance of morale, manpower & machines. A post-event report…

What most of us consider normal, has already fundamentally shifted, which is a new normal now. Manufacturers who understand and act on this new normal will have ample opportunities for growth. While office employees and knowledge workers are able to shift to remote work, most factories are simply not designed to be managed remotely and lack the digital tools and infrastructure needed to support such activities. Although the current crisis has accelerated the adoption of digitalisation technologies, greater visibility and coordination across the industry value chain will enable better collaboration between various departments, ultimately driving decoupled, highly efficient & more resilient supply chains. In this context, Publish Industry India, in association with Siemens Digital Industries Software, recently organised the virtual conference on ‘Manufacturing revival with technology innovations – Effective collaboration across manufacturing value chain’ that deliberated on the action plan for manufacturing revival & technology innovations for the new normal.

The conference began with the first keynote address on ‘AI for manufacturing - Scalable intelligence for resilience & agility’ by Somil Gupta, Digital Business Development Expert, Intakt AI. Through his address, he explained that consumers’ buying habits are evolving & the business landscape is changing heavily, which are drivers for manufacturing agility & resilience. “As a result, new uncertainties coming today are because of the complexities that are inherent in the supply chain network & consumer behaviour,” he said.

AI & manufacturing capability reinforce each other

Talking about the model – maturity framework for digital manufacturing/I4.0 – Gupta went on, “This model works well because it’s focused on value, and it defines very concrete & measurable maturity steps one can take. These steps start from computerisation and then lead to the adaptability (here, one knows what’s going to happen and can do something about it). What we’ll see in the future is how we can use this maturity framework for developing the scalable intelligence for manufacturing.” He further added, “If we go to the maturity model, it’s easier to match the capability & intelligence. Plus, I have come to realise that AI & manufacturing capability actually reinforce each other – they are like two sides of the same coin. Also, if we really want to have the network production as a reality, we need to start working on the intelligence & AI components right now; capability & intelligence have to go together.”

Solid Edge & more

This was followed by a technology presentation, by Nitin Malvadkar, Country Technical Manager – Mainstream Engg, Siemens Industry Software, on ‘Digitalisation for SMBs’. He spoke about how Solid Edge & solutions from Siemens can actually help SMBs gain digitalisation. In the context of several industry trends, he asserted how various Siemens solutions can be used. One of the solutions he threw light on was Simcenter FloEFD & its capabilities. “Some capabilities of Simcenter FloEFD include aerodynamics and even condensation (something that is very useful for someone working on automotive lighting),” Malvadkar cited and continued, “With Solid Edge FloEFD, we also provide customers who are working in LEDs with an advanced LED module.”

He then highlighted the solution, Solid EDGE CAM Pro, which provides a wide range of functionalities, from milling to high-speed machining. One of the most important aspects of the CAM solution is the tight integration with the company’s CAD solutions. Their CAM remains associated to any changes that one makes inside the CAD model. Malvadkar also spoke about Teamcenter Share, which is all about collaboration. With Teamcenter Share, one can synchronise his/her files with cloud storage while one works. Another advantage is that one has complete security to share one’s projects with anyone he/she likes. Moreover, with this solution, one can actually review designs in Augmented Reality (AR) on phones & tablets. Some of the other solutions Malvadkar discussed were Solid Edge 2D Nesting and Solid Edge Electrical Design.

Not innovating but renewing

Next, the second keynote address took place which was on ‘Revolutionise the future of manufacturing through innovations’ by Rajashree Rao, Head of AI Innovation Hub & Partnerships & Ecosystem (APAC) for R2 Data Labs, Rolls Royce. She remarked that today, we are at a point where we’ll be moving from Industry 4.0 to Industry 5.0. “Industry 5.0 is all about mass customisation and cyber-physical cognitive systems – that is where we are evolving,” she elucidated. She brought up some of the key challenges that have been existing within the manufacturing world, from excessive global competition to the lack of skilled labour. The manufacturing sector needs to adopt the new innovative technologies to overcome all these challenges, she said.

Highlighting the subject of innovation, Rao revealed, “In innovation, you’re not innovating, you’re renewing. We need to envision something that can exist beyond your life span. One of the most important aspects I champion is ‘open innovation partnership model’. This is extremely important, because today, we don’t have the luxury of time to try to do everything from scratch. So, we have to leverage what already exists in the market, and then partner with someone who has already done the same & have the solution/technology & collaborate with them to co-innovate. This way, the business challenges can be addressed. Through this, the solution is also scalable to the industry at large.”

From just-in-time to just-in-case

Plus, we are no longer the just-in-time model, Rao put across. We are moving from just-in-time to just-in-case and we need to be futuristic, instead of planning for the long-term or short-term goal. She went on to talk about sustainable illusions and cited the example of solar cells, which everyone believes are made of sand. “However, they are not made of sand but quartz, which is melted along with coal,” she divulged and added, “When you do any kind of manufacturing, please go to the source and understand that you are creating a sustainable environment and finding alternatives.”

What digitally transformed industries do

Succeeding this, it was time for the second technology presentation, which was by Sahir Patel, Portfolio Development Leader, Siemens Industry Software, on ‘Next normal manufacturing’. He focused on some key industries from India, from industrial components to the mining industry, highlighting what the companies are doing in terms of digitalisation, to ensure that normal manufacturing continues in the current pandemic. He explained that traditionally, the challenge with manufacturing organisations in India is that they save information & data in folder structures, like sales documents, engineering documents, etc. “When we studied the SMEs segment in India, we realised that this is the number one roadblock for all SMEs to collaborate, especially during the COVID-19 period,” Patel observed and continued, “This can again cause data breach, data hack, data leak, etc. On the other hand, digitally transformed industries are able to find a document in a single click. The next step, too, is possible, where one can not only see the document/part/CAD model that one is searching for, but its complete family tree. Additionally, one can know what to do with it.”

With advanced tools, digitally transformed industries are not waiting for anyone; they are closely connected. Besides, the shop floor people have access to only the latest released drawings & 3D models and not anything that’s in the design phase. “The manufacturing organisations of India need access to manufacturing information/data from anywhere. In addition, the shop floor’s manufacturing people should be able to understand what they are accessing and be able to quickly learn & work on it. With our solutions, the users learn by themselves; we have two to three hours of training and then the users are ready to use the solution,” Patel enlightened.

Bridging the departments

However, some of the key challenges in maintaining digital continuity involve customers not being able to secure involvement of manufacturing teams or customer service early in the product development process or not able to adequately create, capture, share and reuse knowledge across functions. “For this, Siemens’ solutions are bridging them. Bridging the design department with the manufacturing engineering department, with the execution department and with the services department,” affirmed Patel and went on, “We first connect with them and share the right data with the right people. We bring all these teams together so that they work in a closed loop. There is some feedback mechanism in place so that whenever some changes / impacts take place, the dependents team becomes aware immediately and it proactively works on the design, manufacturing or process changes.”

Effective collaboration across manufacturing value chain

After the technology presentation, it was then time for the panel discussion, which was on ‘Effective collaboration across manufacturing value chain’. The discussion was moderated by Anvita Pillai, Sub-Editor & Correspondent, Publish Industry India and the revered panellists were Hitendra N Mishra, Senior Vice President & Head - EEC, Eicher Engineering Components, VE Commercial Vehicles; Amol Nagar, Director – Manufacturing Operations & Supply Chain, GE Aviation and Zurvan Marolia, Senior Vice President, Godrej & Boyce. The discussion threw light on the role of digitalisation in bringing in effective collaboration and also the action-plan for streamlining manufacturing operations & technology innovations

Morale, manpower & machines

The first question was put to Nagar, asking him the best action-plan for streamlining & reviving manufacturing operations and the supply chain. To this, he responded that the pandemic has taught us that there is a need for a global resilience. Sharing his thoughts on the same, Mishra emphasised on the fact that the three Ms are very important – morale, manpower & machines. “People have suddenly lost morale; the concept that your factories are safer than home has to be understood very strongly. As for manpower, getting the people is extremely important, where again morale plays an important role. When it comes to machines, we need to have all our machines up & running – in fact, we were able to get a lot of virtual support where complex machines were involved,” he explained and added, “Furthermore, know-how & COVID knowledge has to be extended to all your suppliers.”

Marolia was then asked what the approach should be to ensure an effective collaboration in the new normal. Marolia returned, “Effective collaboration across the value chain comes from each one’s core competencies. So, it counts on how one works within that and also how they are able to support one another. Through collaboration, we should keep working around the challenges in order to be able to move ahead. The entire thing is customer-centricity – the confidence we build with the supply chain also has to be something that the customer perceives.”

Train & communicate

Further sharing his views on the key areas to focus on while managing the current challenges, Mishra said we have to ensure that we are the stamp of a reliable country & the stamp of a reliable supplier. “And we have to ensure this stamp continues for long, irrespective of the situation,” he cited and added, “The most important thing to manage all the challenges is to train & communicate, which are key.”

Putting across his thoughts further while looking at the Indian manufacturing industry competing at the global stage, Marolia asserted, “’Appropriate automation’ is a term that I would like to use – appropriate automation to meet a certain need at a certain cost point is important, because the needs of automation & digitalisation are different at different levels. Plus, traceability is something that’s very important – anything we do can be traced back to where it has gone wrong, because there are going to be those kinds of failures and how we handle them makes a difference to the perception of us on the global reliability market. What’s more, we need to see how we ensure safety as we step up all these operations, where safety records play a very important role where global customers are concerned.”

Speaking in the context of his company’s workforce & exploring their full potential, Nagar went on to divulge that one thing that is helping them is the adoption of new technologies in the digital space and people’s ability to navigate through various tools. “Similarly, in our factory, people love playing with those tools because they can use those tools for decision-making,” he informed.

The significance of resiliency

Nagar also further threw light on how organisations can future-proof their supply chain & establish supply chain resiliency, where he put across that when we start looking into the supply chain efficiency at the end of the day, we need to be looking at how much cost-effective a product is being produced for the customers. “When you talk about efficiency, it makes your supply chain slightly brittle,” he explained and went on, “And if anything goes wrong when the supply chain is brittle, it can definitely break your supply chain in a big way. Resiliency is more about creating more buffers & alternate paths for you to accomplish. When a situation like the pandemic shows up, the resilience should be where you are surviving through the storm, adapting to it and see to how you can make it a competitive advantage to grow further, based on what you have learnt.”

Grow with the supply chain

The conference highlighted that the industry and companies must foremost look after its people and grow with its supply chain & partners. Moreover, communication & training can go a long way and it eventually all comes down to customer-centricity & resiliency.

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