Digital Transformation in Industry
Published by : Industrial Automation
Gangadhar Krishnamoorthy elaborates upon how Digital Transformation has brought the information technology revolution to factory floors.
Information today is widely recognised no matter which sector, manufacturing or services. This is because business leaders prefer the visualisation of their customers, operations and related supply chain in order to operate in the ever-changing business environment. The aim of any business is to cater to the customers and create new profit centres, which is why they provide services and products that tend to increase the customer stickiness. A majority of the businesses rely on various forms of technology to facilitate the sharing of information, the most common technology used for this purpose is the intranet, used amongst employees, or the internet, which is used to communicate and share information with the general public. The information circulated through the aforementioned technologies forms only a fraction of the plethora of information that is passed on from one end to the other in the business environment.
In a realistic business environment information is generated right from the form of data generated to the kind of machines used, its status, performance, health and usage. The capacity to extract this raw data and translate it to information and thereby achieve intelligence which can further meet the business goals is the apt description of the science of digital transformation. Its predecessors, the Human Machine Interface (HMI) and Supervisory Control (SCADA) were successful in providing relevant information but it was based on limited data. IIoT on the other hand uses internet, WiFi, cellular technology, cloud services and data analytics to create an overall M2M (machine to machine, machine to man, machine to mobile) information sharing.
Digital technologies are enhancing the lives of citizens around the world. Connected sensors monitor road traffic patterns which further improve the operations of transportation. Such technologies are used in hospital, healthcare systems, education delivery and Government services such as safety, fire and utilities. Manufacturing industries use smart sensors and actuators to increase production, reduce costs and increase employee safety. On the whole Digital adoption is results in:
1. Greater monitoring and measurements of humans, machines and things
2. A shift from human-to-human communications to Machine to Machine, something to everything and everything to everything communications.
3. Greater and faster information about business (status, function and environment).
‘Digital’ is said to have an impact on the manufacturing industry’s value chain, workforce, associated industries and environment due to various initiatives like Automation, Integrated enterprise and platforms and digitally enabled workforce.
Industrial producers need to evaluate the influence of price volatility throughout the value chain from raw materials to end products. A fully digitised supply chain that includes the use of machine to machine (M2M) and geospatial technologies would allow organisations to, track product and material shipments, in real time and reduce lead times and logistics costs. Logistics costs in India accrue up to 13% of the GDP, which is greater in comparison to the developed countries where it amounts to only 5% of the GDP. This is a result of Government policies, subsidising the least-efficient road sector with diesel subsidies and neglecting coastal cargo movement and the rail sector. Reduction of logistical costs will impact all commodities and manufactured goods, thereby reduce inflation and increase the competitiveness of manufacturing.
In the environment of uncertainties like Covid 19 and limited availability of labour and higher maintenance costs, producers should consider digital offerings to maintain competitiveness. Automation of the critical process will reduce the reliance on human capital and reduce an organisation’s employees’ exposure to occupational health, safety risks and other such costs. Technology will not only assist producers to reduce operational downtime but also incur the lower costs of pre-emptive maintenance as opposed to repairs and rectifications.
Smart sensors play an important role in predictive maintenance and asset management, which can significantly reduce costs, by improving equipment utilisation, cutting downtime and equipment failures and reducing the frequency of health and safety incidents and better product specificity from more precise monitoring of manufacturing processes. IT and OT convergence will enable better integration of systems for upstream, midstream and downstream to provide a more accurate, holistic, view of the industry’s supply chain. Implementing initiatives such as automation and IT/OT technology will reduce errors, downtime, improve product quality and allow producers to expand faster beyond their home market and reach customers quicker. Analytics will also assist accurate identification, rectification of inefficient process and learning from efficient processes.
Implementation of Cloud-based technologies will these systems to have a superior fault tolerance, flexibility and mobility and this can be done in the most cost-effective manner. The data that is collected and stored on the cloud will be of high value to manufacturing companies, providing them actionable insights proven through analytics.
‘Digital transformation’ of manufacturing industry, is a collective term embracing several contemporary automations, data exchange and manufacturing technologies. It had been defined as a collective term for technologies and concepts of value chain organisation which draws together Cyber-Physical Systems, the Internet of Things and the Internet of Services. The Digital initiative represents vision for the future of manufacturing. This initiative entails a detailed conceptual framework, an outright strategy with specific aims and objectives, and substantial funding from both private and public sources.
Digital technologies facilitates the vision and execution of a ‘Smart Factory’. The modern structure of the smart factories, and the cyber-physical systems monitor physical processes produce a virtual copy of the physical world and make decentralised decisions. Cyber- physical systems coordinate and pass on information with each other and with humans in real time, and via the Internet of Services, both intra-organisational and cross-organisational services are offered and utilised by participants of the value chain.
Characteristic for industrial production in a digitally enabled environment are the strong customisation of products under the conditions of highly flexible (mass-) production. The desired automation technology is enhanced by the introduction of methods of self- optimisation, self-configuration, self-diagnosis, cognition and intelligent support of workers in their increasingly complex work.
As a practical matter, though, this revolution will come about in an evolutionary fashion. Companies will implement it step-wise and phase-wise. The first step, then of course, is to gain an understanding of what it involves.
- Key standards are creating the pathway. The ability to connect manufacturing equipment/asset to a Web-based network and derive substantial value from these connections is more practical and compelling than other such technologies. The standards are advised to be built on standard Internet technology (HTTP, TCP/IP, XML and Ethernet) that are inherently network friendly. These systems must include open software architecture, open protocols and open data models.
- Better and quicker decisions are coming to the shop floor. The payoff for manufacturers who implement Industrial digital solutions lies in enhanced decision-making. When devices are connected, the data they generate can flow into software applications that create the information individuals can use to make choices that are timely and effective. By understanding these results, decision-makers can achieve strategic objectives or benchmark performance. Decisions will be based on knowledge and wisdom, not on speculation. Better decisions leads to fewer mistakes and less waste. In such a smart factory, the managers will be certain that every element of a manufacturing system is operating at an optimal level.
- People empowerment is essential. Perhaps the most positive and encouraging aspect of the being digital is the explicit acknowledgment that the individual human being will continue to play an active, engaging role in manufacturing. This role will grow in importance and influence.
- Cybersecurity is a major concern. “Cyber threats to the industrial digital environment are real, global and growing, security”. Threats include trade secrets and intellectual property thefts, hostile alterations to data, and disruptions or denial of process control. Industry should consider how to protect their data, their systems and networks at every step toward becoming part of the digital industry.
- A new generation of sensors are developed where the sensors detect and measure physical characteristics of an asset/machine or a process. The capability of low energy wireless data connectivity greatly simplifies the deployment of sensors on the shop floor. Installation of sensors to retrofit legacy equipment (older but usable machines and devices that have little or no electronic features) makes it possible to connect them to data collection systems and ultimately to the Industrial IoT.
- The common definition of a cyber-physical system describes it as a system in which embedded computers monitor and control physical processes through a feedback loop in a networked environment. Creating control loops on multiple levels (from the device level to the enterprise level) in a factory will be part of industrial digital implementation. Shop floor personnel on all levels will be “looped in” through multiple access points and data outlets on the network.
- Cloud Computing and Data Science play vital roles. Cloud computing simply means that an application (a software program developed for a specific purpose) is running on computer processors located remotely rather than on a user’s on-site computers. Users interact with the application on a cloud via a network, usually the Internet. These streams of data may be massive. Big Data and Data Science have become the terms for the ability to find significant trends or emerging patterns detectable by rapidly scanning many millions of data items in different formats from a multitude of diverse sources. The ability to gather and access the huge mass of data generated by the connected factory (and then make sense of this data) is what data analytics brings to the Industry.
Digital transformation is the emerging field that deals with the information technology, process automation technology and the communication technology. Digital transformation has brought the information technology revolution to factory floors around the world. Today, manufacturing aims to improve the efficiency, adaptability and sustainability of production systems and their integration within agile business models and processes in an increasingly globalised industry, requiring continuous change of processes, products and production volumes. Manufacturing is becoming highly automated and information driven or simply put, ‘smart’. Every day, advances in modern manufacturing technologies make factories smarter, reliable, safer and also more environmentally sustainable. Progressive businesses are strategically investing to transform their operations from cost centres into smart manufacturing profit centres.
The terms ‘Smart Manufacturing’, ‘Intelligent Factory’ and ‘Factory of the Future’ all describe a vision of what industrial production will look like in the future. In a Smart Factory, machinery and equipment has the ability to improve processes through optimisation and real time decision-making. The Smart Factory is much more intelligent, flexible and dynamic. Future production sites for a large variety of sophisticated products will offer flexible, short cycle time and variability-controlled manufacturing capability. These manufacturing approaches ensure energy-efficient, reliable and cost-effective production as well as production set-up/ramp-up with reduced cost and time through lean and simpler IT. Important developments in automation are foreseen from the increasing convergence of machine control and personal computer technology. Manufacturing processes is being organised differently, with entire production chains – from suppliers to logistics to the life cycle management of a product – closely connected across corporate boundaries
Gangadhar Krishnamoorthy, Advisory Services, Ernst & Young LLP has been consulting in the field of the Digital Manufacturing – IIoT & Industry 4.0 for the past five years. He started his career with SAIL, in 1990, as a process automation engineer with hands on experience with erection, commissioning and maintenance of automation systems, instrumentation systems and electrical equipment in steel industry. He joined IT service industry in 2007 and was leading the MES Practice for Metal and Mining sector. He is Bachelors in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from College of Engineering Trivandrum and Masters in Software Engineering, BITS, Pilani.