Digitising the manufacturing processes is one of the priorities of the fourth industrial revolution, which would help in capturing the value of the Internet of Things. With this focus on the digital transformation journey, industry experts recently came together at the Smart Industry Conference, organised by the Ethernet POWERLINK Standardization Group and A&D India, in partnership with HMS India, Utthunga Technologies, Ascent Intellimation and B&R Industrial Automation at Pune. They shared their experiences & recommendations on various IIoT and Industry 4.0 topics. The conference also witnessed two panel discussions and an array of technical presentations and demos, which covered all aspects of smart manufacturing.
Adopting smart manufacturing
The event kick-started with a keynote address from Sandeep Dawkhar, General Manager – Robotics, Tooling & System Integration, Tal Manufacturing Solutions, who spoke on IIoT in Robotics. This was followed by the first panel discussion of the day, which was on ‘Smart Manufacturing—A path forward for success’. The panelists of this discussion included Santanoo Medhi, Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer, Premium Transmission; Arun Janarthanan, Principal Advisor, Smart Manufacturing, Markets & Markets; Arundhati Thomas, Managing Director, Plazma Technologies; PV Sivaram, Managing Director, B&R Industrial Automation & President, Automation Industry Association and Aniruddha Kadkol, Head—Manufacturing IT Systems, Mahindra & Mahindra. The seminar was moderated by Shekhar Jitkar, Publisher & Chief Editor, A&D India.
Jitkar identified that it is mandatory for Indian manufacturers to form a ‘smart’ chain, which involves building smart factories, so that they can be an integral part of Industry 4.0. Speaking on this, Medhi observed, “A manufacturer’s ability to survive in this evolving market depends on how actively they adopt smart manufacturing. There are about 80% of machines in Indian factories, which are not ‘smart’. The challenge in India is to turn these machines into ‘smart’ machines.” To ovcome this challenge, Medhi encouraged manufacturers to get rid of these old machines and invest in smart machinery.
Implementing robotic solutions
Recognising the problem of a lack of process-oriented system in India, Kadkol pointed out that in sections which require a fully automated process, perhaps Indian manufacturers should consider robotic solutions, which would do a better job in maintaining processes and systems and release human potential from drudgery. “This will allow manufacturers to use machines in a much better way, which will give manufacturers a long-term benefit in the future. Robots have evolved from being a handling tool to a tool which adds value to the process and must, thus, be utilised in aspects such as data processing, so that the benefits can be reaped. Productivity will increase when machines work hand-in-hand with humans, thus bringing in a value-added approach in the manufacturing sector,” he said.
Also elaborating on robotic solutions was Sivaram who shared that a robot is a mechanised servant and is part of the latest technology, which must be deployed in order to maintain a procedure, produce more at an affordable price and react to market needs quickly. “In order to achieve the end goal of producing goods cheaper and faster, we must adopt smart manufacturing,” he noted.
Structuring solutions from a challenge perspective
Addressing the concerns of manufacturers who wonder why they should adopt a smart factory when they are still worried about their next dispatch, quality issues or raw materials, Janarthanan advised, “Manufacturers need to analyse their challenges and adopt digital solutions to overcome these challenges. Thus, they must structure a roadmap of digital solutions from their challenge perspective. It is not about adopting the highest technologies mindlessly but it is about focusing on ‘why’ the enterprise needs the digital solution.” Also elaborating on robots, he noted that going ‘smart’ implies that the enterprise has its own intelligence, which includes automated systems and automating the work force.
Ensuring smooth adoption of digitalisation
Focusing on the way forward for IoT to be adopted on a mass scale, Arundhati suggested that manufacturing entities need to make top management the enabler of this technology. “The top management must focus on bringing the data down to systems, which employees otherwise access on paper. Further, workers must be explained that being part of this process will enhance their skillset to the next level and workers that handle smart machines and allow machine-to-machine interaction will be deemed as smart workers, which is a significant upgradation of their skillset. In this way, workers who are resisting the change can be roped in to the process,” she explained.
Agreeing to Arundhati’s views, Sivaram opined that whenever there is an increase in efficiency, there will be a resistance from the work force. This needs to be taken care by providing counseling to workers and engaging them in the digitalisation process. This is a necessary step that all manufacturing firms need to take so that they can achieve the next level of efficiency, which denotes having a ‘smart’ process. “Being smart means having a real-time system including digital tools which help us collect data. From this data, the information that is extracted is known as automation. For the successful transition towards Industry 4.0, we will require all the participants and will need to take the population along on this journey. The transition must happen gradually and must be a step-by-step process,” he pointed out.
Medhi further shared his insights on the strategies that companies can implement in order to ensure smooth adoption of digitalisation from the top to bottom level within organisations and also emphasised that it is key to take a non threatening, inclusive approach towards workers and discuss how digitalisation will benefit them as well.
Turning legacy machines into smart machines
Speaking on the need for turning old, legacy machines into smart machines and benchmarking older factories with newer factories, Kadkol explained, “This is a complex issue and our company takes a case-by-case approach to solve it. In the case of equipment, we take it in bits and pieces. However, in the case of an old plant, we analyse how can we make it better by looking at parameters such as the flexibility and the adaptability of workers in that plant, in terms of adopting new technologies. In the case of a new plant, we assess whether we can add in the newest technologies to reap better productivity and if this would make it easier for our vendors to stay connected with us.”
Taking the discussion forward, Janarthanan encouraged manufacturers to adopt digital systems not only to enhance quality and productivity but also to accomplish specific objectives. “It is about analysing what concern areas a manufacturer wants to address and adopting a flexible solution-based approach so as to give the required benefit to the supply chain,” he stated.
Moving ahead, opining on the strategies for an efficient skillset of the workforce, Arundhati shared, “Special training for the work force must be set up in enterprises that are utilising robotic solutions. The industry must also tie up with universities and expose students to digitalisation and encourage the spirit of entrepreneurship. A technology centre must also be set up where operators can focus on upgrading their skillset and have access to training programmes. Collaboration is key and companies must involve not only their top management but also their middle and lower management in this process of digitalisation for the smart revolution to take place in our country.”
Next step ahead...
The final topic of the discussion emphasised on the next step that manufacturers must take in order to accelerate the process of digitalisation in their organisation. In this context, Medhi urged manufacturers to get rid of the old, outdated machines and adopt smart machinery in their plant operations. Kadkol suggested adding intelligence as a visual layer within processes so as to achieve greater productivity and advised for a more inclusive approach towards workers, who are resisting the change to smart manufacturing within organisations. Agreeing to this, Sivaram further elaborated, “The maximum resistance in a company comes because of a fear mindset. Hence, companies must make their employees aware and feel safe with smart technologies.”
Janarthanan suggested that it is important to collaborate and use the right solutions, which will help overcome the company’s specific challenges. Arundhati recommended SMEs to have an action plan to take the leap towards digitalisation and advised them to start getting their work force ready for this stage. She further stated, “Today’s Indian work force is looking to get to the next level. With a rich base of IT professionals, we must help this young work force and give them the tools and the direction that they need to go ‘smart’ and successfully adopt digitalisation.”
This was followed by four technical presentations which covered various aspects of digitalisation. The first presentation covered ‘Edge architectures enabling IT/OT convergence’ by Krishan Bansal, Sales Head—New Delhi, B&R Industrial Automation. The next presentation was on remote solutions by Santosh Tatte, Country Manager, HMS India, followed by a presentation on ‘Connecting Brownfield Plants—Challenges & Value Proposition’ by Aditya Wagh, Senior Manager—Sales, Ascent Intellimation. Thereafter, the final presentation was made by Rushendra Babu Guntur, Director—Engineering Solutions, Utthunga Technologies, on IIoT implementation.
Highlighting on Smart Manufacturing, the first panel discussion of the day-long conference concluded that digitalisation cannot be a slow process and the industry needs to take a leap towards achieving it, so as to compete in the global marketplace.