Smart Manufacturing @ Industry 4.0
Published on : Sunday 01-01-2023
How new technologies of the digital era are paving the way for Smart Manufacturing.
Manufacturing in India is poised for a quantum leap. This progress is enabled by a coming together of many factors. Most significant of these factors are the rapid changes in the enablers of progress – digital access to marketing, digital transformation of organisations, and the new methods of manufacturing as a part of Industry 4.0
Smart manufacturing makes use of smart networked machines, smart networked processes, and smart networked people. The three smart elements – people, process and projects are all enabled by smart technology. There is yet a sense that in spite of being at the threshold, Indian manufacturing has not yet realised its potential. Smart manufacturing is not a concept getting relevant in conjunction with Industry 4.0; even more, it begins with use of basic automation and control from Industry 3.0. Do you feel that India has finally caught up in deployment of automatic machines and processes at all levels of Industry? Which verticals are ahead and which are lagging?
“The answer to this question is both yes and no. The thought that India is falling behind the developing nations in adopting and implementing advanced automation, smart manufacturing and Industry 4.0 is not entirely accurate. While we still have a long way to go for fully adopting industry 4.0 practices, we have nonetheless started making headway into integrating and implementing smart manufacturing, especially in the area of automation, robotics, and proceeding towards digitalisation of product design and manufacturing processes,” says Atul Marwaha, Executive Vice President, DesignTech Systems Pvt Ltd. “Some traditional industries, such as heavy engineering and large existing conventional manufacturing setups are still lagging behind, but I believe that's where Industry 3.0 is still catching up pretty well and Industry 4.0 is something that is just around the corner,” he adds.
“I believe India is now embracing new technologies,” says Dick Slansky, Senior Analyst, PLM & Engineering Design Tools, ARC Advisory Group, Boston, citing the World Intellectual Property Organisation's (WIPO) Global Innovation Index (GII) Report of 2022, which indicates India has made dramatic progress in climbing up the ladder of innovation, with its rank improving from 81st in 2015 to 40 in 2022. It ranks first among the lower-middle income countries as well as in central and southern Asia. “Innovation initiatives in India cover a wide range like space technology, smart cities, healthcare and telecommunications. India's recent progress in vaccine development and COWIN application for Covid-19 vaccination are due to concerted efforts by all stakeholders,” says Slansky.
Ninad Deshpande, CEO and Co-Founder, Sceptertech Digital, points out how there are two facets of the Indian manufacturing market, which contrast each other. “One group of machine builders (OEMs) and factories (end users) not only deploy fully automated machines and lines but also focus on digitalising them and becoming ready for Industry 4.0. Another group of machine builders (OEMs) and factories (end users) are still adopting automation and are merely on the path of Industry 3.0. Thus, there is still a long way to go for India to fully catch up with the globe as far as the deployment of fully automatic machines and processes is concerned,” he elaborates.
“If we talk about automation in manufacturing specifically, the manufacturing industry in India has been thriving towards bringing automation in various areas since long. Of course, they have been selective and opted only for those options that make sense and bring real value,” feels Utpal Chakraborty is Chief Digital Officer at Allied Digital Services Ltd. “Because whenever we talk about any automation or deploying automatic machines, the cost vs. value is something obvious that needs to be answered. Also, factors like demand and market size also cannot be ignored while considering such options,” he cautions.
Manufacturing has operated for a long time in silos of the verticals. Smart Manufacturing actually tries to change this idea towards networking and collaboration. What are the big stumbling blocks in M2M communication and also sharing of data between departments?
“Silo operation in manufacturing is a huge challenge. While we have embraced automation, on digitalisation we are still lagging and the reason for this is lack of machine to machine and machine to human connectivity. In the plants we have a lot of old legacy machines that do not provide options of exporting data but at the same time where the machines have capabilities to give data, we are not good enough in getting regular data and analysing it,” says Amit Saluja, Senior Director and Centre Head, NASSCOM CoE, Gandhinagar. According to him, having M2M connectivity is the basic infrastructure that every plant should have, even for legacy systems there are options available to retrofit sensors that can give some level of essential data. “What we need is focus to have this digital infrastructure in place and the right partner who can analyse the current machine setup and connectivity to give an optimum solution,” he adds.
“Open standards are the key enablers for the success of wireless communication technologies like RFID, Bluetooth or GSM based cellular communication, and, in general, for any kind of M2M communication. Without globally recognised interoperable standards, the expansion of RFID and M2M solutions to the IoT cannot reach a global scale. The need for quicker setting of interoperable standards has been recognised as a key factor for M2M communication and for IoT applications deployment,” says Sunil David, Advisor to IoT and AI Startups. “When it comes to data, manufacturers do realise that data is the lifeblood of their factory and their overall operations. They have to consider data as the strategic asset of their organisation and hence they must find effective ways to apply and manage data which most often reside in silos and are not shared across other business functions,” he explains.
Rajesh Rathi, Managing Director, Control Infotech Group, has a cautious approach when it comes to wholesale adoption of connected plants. “Awareness of low cost data and cloud space and resources such as M2M SIM cards are still lacking not only on the use side but also on the supplier sides. While there are several platforms offering visualisation solutions, the physical infrastructure and standards are still evolving,” he states.
“The whole concept of Industry 4.0 is around connected devices, connected factories and bringing intelligence and optimisation on top of that. To achieve sharing of information between two or more separate devices or vertices at large brings some number of challenges,” observes Utpal Chakraborty. “From a technical standpoint, requirement of an infrastructure wherein the data and information exchange can happen, transformation of different varieties of data takes place, correlation of such information is possible and some meaningful inference can be drawn. The other things include data security, it could also be data privacy, it could also be subject to regulatory and compliance boundaries,” he further elaborates.
In Smart Manufacturing, two topics find frequent mention. The first is OEE – which can be measured by through-put or capacity utilisation. The second topic is Quality. Is the emphasis same for different types of manufacturing?
“When you talk of maximum productivity of a manufacturing plant, you predominantly talk about OEE or overall equipment effectiveness. Minimum machine downtime and optimum machine utilisation will definitely result in greater productivity. That will always continue to remain in the main focus. From any manufacturing standpoint, the idea that the equipment should be used to its fullest potential and in an efficient manner while also having the highest possible throughput is always the main driver. However, despite this, the Indian industry is live to the overall quality as well. Quality will ultimately have an effect on the success of the product. Hence quality of the output is equally important,” says Atul Marwaha., who believes OEE cannot be achieved at the expense of quality. Manufacturers have to give requisite weightage to both.
“ In the context of today’s manufacturing environment where the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and Manufacturing 4.0 have mandated that factories must be intelligent and connected, the definition of a Smart Factory would also include established manufacturing methods, such as OEE improvement, quality cost reduction, inventory reduction, speed-to-market time reduction, operating cost reduction, and energy efficiency. Each of these areas represents candidates for process improvement that the technology and methodology of a smart factory can directly address and more,” says Dick Slansky. For him, both OEE and Quality Management systems are equally essential to successful manufacturing operations. The key to good implementation of these systems for a smart connected factory is based on comprehensive and integrated and dynamic data architecture.
Ninad Deshpande believes quality is independent of smart manufacturing concepts. Quality is the primary priority for any business. The only thing that changes is the level of precision. With humans, the allowed tolerance for rejections was higher between multiple products and jobs manufactured. With Industry 3.0, automation, and robotics, the level of precision achieved was higher and the tolerance for rejection was much lower. With digitalisation, the precision is even higher, inspection mechanisms are advanced with advanced vision solutions integrated into the mainstream systems, and thus, the tolerance for rejection is even lower. Thus, quality was always a vital parameter, and it is nothing new, irrespective of any industry. “Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) is no doubt an essential parameter with smart manufacturing, as data is readily available for making such calculations. Irrespective of the industry or the type of manufacturing, OEE plays a vital role. Having all the data from machines and lines available for such calculations is vital,” he explains.
Many manufacturing industries have a machine shop at the core for generating structures and products. There are new technologies for metal cutting like lasers, water jets, etc. How does this affect the traditional machine tools industry? Secondly, would additive manufacturing make a mainstream impact or stay restricted to rapid prototyping?
“This is a very industry and manufacturing product specific decision. Both traditional machines and high end metal cutting will exist and will depend upon the part to be manufactured, its complexity, precision level need, volume and time to produce. In the precision industry we see mixed use of these machines and depending upon the customer order, manufacturers decide what to use for machining and cutting operations. With increasing production volumes and complexity, the use of high-end new technologies will increase but traditional machines are still not going from plants anytime soon. SMEs still will depend on these considering they cannot scale so fast,” says Amit Saluja. He also says additive manufacturing is catching up, especially for tooling, which is complex. But considering the initial investment cost is high for metal part production, applications are limited. While as of now its usage is a lot more for rapid prototyping but seeing the transformation that’s happening in manufacturing, the adoption of additive manufacturing will increase in the near term.
“It’s not necessary that Industry 4.0 has to be applied to the last of the manufacturing machines or the plants. By the time plant owners’ finish applying it to the assets easily available for the I4.0 upgrades, such older machines may be depreciated enough for replacements with their smarter versions,” says Rajesh Rathi. For him, the transformation can be well calibrated to the cash flow of the enterprise. I4.0 gains and savings can be applied progressively for such investments.
“Additive manufacturing is an evolving field, and it's progressing very rapidly. It has already progressed beyond rapid prototyping and has already paved its way into mainstream. I am sure as the technology matures, and the cost factor comes down, there will be huge adoption in many areas,” says Utpal Chakraborty.
According to Sunil David, one key market dynamic is the transformation of the automotive industry from ICE (internal combustion engines) to electric drive trains and hence traditional machine tool manufacturers realise that they have no choice but to adapt to the changing market dynamics and be prepared for the future. “Despite all the technological disruptions that are impacting the machine tool industry, there is a definite window of opportunity too. The potential negative impact due to 3D printing/additive manufacturing may be limited in the near future. The cutting tool manufacturers may get good opportunities in the development of prototypes. The cutting tool manufacturers are now offering customised solutions instead of offering standard products to show differentiation. With the growing use of new materials and difficult-to-cut materials, the cutting tool manufacturers are clearly finding new opportunities to introduce newer and special tools. The application and use of 3D printing in the machine tool industry is yet to be fully explored, but there are likely to be a lot of opportunities and challenges going forward,” explains Sunil.
Industry 4.0 brings with it the concept of small batch size manufacturing to cater for a wide range of product spectrum. Traditional machine tools are geared for large volume high speed production and not so well suited for short production runs. What will change?
“While small batch size manufacturing is expected to pick up, that does not necessarily mean that large volume production will not prevail in that proportion,” says Atul Marwaha. He believes large volume production will still retain a larger portion of the pie in the new and changing landscape of the manufacturing industry. Small and batch size manufacturing will widen the purview of product offering, but large volume manufacturing will still continue to cater to the standard market requirements, e.g., consumer appliances, earth moving machinery, automobiles. These industry verticals will continue catering to the larger, standard market demand that will continue to propel the large volume manufacturing industry as well. “Saying this, Industry 4.0 gives you capabilities to run small batch size manufacturing, and quickly monitor and cater to various setups during a single shift or day of production. It thus improves the flexibility of any organisation to take up different batch sizes, which was not practical before. But it may be incorrect to say that the traditional machine tools are only geared for large volumes, and high speed production. In order for them to upgrade we are already seeing a large amount of retrofitting done on traditional machine tools to make them connected to Industry 4.0 technologies,” elaborates Atul.
Dick Slansky is of the view that in the last few years, we have seen the introduction of much more flexible machine tools in respect to adapting to short run production. The next generation of smart machine tools will be enabled with AI to make them much more adaptable in changing the size and duration of a production run. “Companies will be able to focus on more customisable products to meet specific customer demands. AI will also significantly improve the maintenance of machine tools with algorithms that can provide much more accurate predictive maintenance, and even do self-healing based preventative maintenance,” he observes.
“Mass customisation or individualisation is already being witnessed in the packaging and F&B industries. With customers requiring personalisation in many areas, they are also willing to pay a premium for these products. Most of the machines and lines in a factory need to be modified to cater to these individualisation needs, as these manufacturing lines were built decades ago for mass production or batch production,” says Ninad Deshpande. For him, there is no alternative but to modify the existing setup and incur some capital costs either with mechanics or software modifications which in turn will help them to reduce their operational and product changeover costs. “Ideally, irrespective of the area of implementation and becoming increasingly digitised, all machine builders (OEMs) and factories must understand that nothing comes free of cost. There will be costs, and there will be benefits,” he adds.
Are the concepts of Smart Manufacturing predominant in private industry? Do they equally apply for public sector manufacturers? Do large companies actually nudge their vendors to imbibe these concepts and technologies?
“Absolutely not, smart manufacturing concepts are relevant to any plant, private or public, large or medium or small,” says Amit Saluja. To him, this is just about enabling machines and humans to talk to each other using data as the language and then have built-in intelligence to make the right decisions at the right time. This is something which will help every plant, irrespective of the size and how it is managed. We have enough examples of effective use of smart manufacturing solutions in public sector manufacturing plants. There is a good level of awareness that exists today on the benefits of Industry 4.0. The challenges are always how to go about it. While many large companies have dedicated digital teams and structure in place, still many are discussing how to build a roadmap and the RoI calculations for every solution. “I have seen many large companies talking about digitising processes to their vendors and it is working. These vendors were thinking about it, but when the demand comes from their customers, they take it a lot more seriously,” Amit clarifies.
In Rajesh Rathi’s opinion the benefits of I4.0 make a lot more sense for large manufacturing environments. Since data collection is a cumbersome process in large plants, there is a big lag between the realisation of the loopholes and applying corrections to them. Since in India many such enterprises are owned and operated by the government, adoption of I4.0 by the PSUs is vital to our economy. “It's heartening to note that while increasingly private companies are asking their plant and machinery suppliers to supply I4.0 aligned capital goods but also PSUs are being more alert and moving their supply chains to adopt it at grassroot levels in India. Non profit organisations like ISA and publications like IED can accelerate this process by creating special communication lines to such PSUs. It is our moral obligation,” says Rajesh.
The summing up is best done by Sunil David, who firmly believes Digital Transformation and adoption of Smart Manufacturing is inevitable in today’s business environment whether it is the Indian Public or Private sectors. Covid-19 has definitely accelerated the pace of adoption technology and its usage. The time is ripe now for India's Government undertakings – Maharatnas, Navratnas and Miniratnas – especially the Manufacturing Public Sector Enterprises, to make the switch and become a Digital Enterprises. It is heartening to note that various PSUs are taking a ‘Digital First’ approach to relook at their business models and streamline their processes and workflows internally. Digital transformation is not only helping the manufacturing PSUs for operational excellence in their units and factories, but also mitigating the risk of spreading Covid-19 infection through hybrid work models and remote access solutions. For example, National Fertilizers Ltd, one of India’s largest manufacturers of fertilizers have been able commission, monitor and maintain their plants remotely using digital technologies like IoT powered by reliable connectivity technologies. In India there are more than 4000 Central and State PSUs with many of them in the manufacturing sector. While it is still early days yet as far as adoption of Smart Manufacturing is concerned, the awareness amongst the manufacturing PSUs is very much there about the need for them to build use cases, start Proof of Concepts and scale their Industry 4.0 projects for their survival and growth.
“A lot more effort is needed however to nudge their vendors which are predominantly MSMEs to imbibe these technologies. However with a big push from the government on manufacturing by creating a right policy framework and through schemes like PLI, close collaboration between Industry and Academia, leveraging the innovation from the Startup ecosystem and we see technology getting increasingly democratised we are bound to see Industry 4.0 adoption pick up steam in the near future,” concludes Sunil David.