Manufacturers do realise that data is the lifeblood of their factory
Published on : Wednesday 04-01-2023
Sunil David, Advisor to IoT and AI Startups.
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?
India is still at a nascent stage when it comes to adopting Smart Manufacturing technologies and we still have a long way to go before we see adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies becoming mainstream. As per a NASSCOM-Capgemini report released early in 2022, the key industries where adoption is higher and where more investments have been made in Industry 4.0 technologies is in the Automotive, Electronics and Textile industry as far as discrete manufacturing is concerned. Automotive and Electronics Component manufacturers specifically have stepped up investments over the last 12 to 24 months. From retrofitting the legacy machines on their process lines with sensorised IoT devices, to entirely autonomous process lines remotely monitored via a digital thread – the Discrete segment is capitalising on M2M data and leveraging the insights to manage end-to-end manufacturing operations. The Textile and Electrical Equipment industry are behind when it comes to adoption and have to press the accelerator sooner rather than later. As far as the Process industry is concerned, the adoption is higher amongst Pharma and Chemical industries. The Food Processing and Cement industry are at early stages of Industry 4.0 deployment, with greater focus on migrating to Cloud, and have definite plans to speed up automation.
However the MSMEs in India which are the backbone of India’s economy and key supplier of components to the larger manufacturers are lagging behind. India’s 90% manufacturing companies are MSMEs that account for 33% of manufacturing Gross Value Add and 45-50% of India’s exports. They currently lag in technology adoption due to various reasons – limited awareness, cost, and inability to scale, access to finance, skilling and leadership challenges.
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?
Some of the key issues constraining the growth of M2M communication are as follows:
i. 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
ii. Lack of convergence of the clear definition of common reference models, reference architecture for the Networks and Internet of the future and integration of legacy systems and networks is a challenge that has to be addressed. Many shop floors have multiple generations of machines of different models and from different manufacturers and many of the old generation machines need retrofitting with sensors
iii. Different standards, connectivity patterns and stages of adoption maturity increase the security risks with availability of multiple touch-points for hacking and industrial networks getting attacked. To complicate matters, competing standards, vendor lock-in, proprietary devices and private networks make it extremely hard for devices to share a common security protocol. Common standards by definition would mean better security and thus better controls in place to prevent Cyber threats from causing damage to the industrial environment
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. The challenges to data sharing are primarily related to trust and technical concerns. From a trust standpoint, a manufacturer may fear unintentionally giving away valuable or extremely sensitive data about their business or losing negotiation power or a competitive advantage. Manufacturers may also want to maintain better visibility into how shared data is used and analysed within the organisation. Technical concerns include the potential risk of data breaches and losses, accessibility and interoperability issues, different digital maturity levels among participants using the same solution, and the costs of migrating to different technologies or the fear of being locked into a particular technology or a vendor.
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?
No, the emphasis is not the same for different types of manufacturing.
Manufacturing Metrics or Key Performance Indicators are all about capturing key data around some of the most critical attributes of manufacturing: variables like total production volume, quality, and operational efficiency. They are used to provide actionable insights into almost every aspect of manufacturing, including supply chain management, warehouse inventory management, demand forecasting and production planning, and finally distribution to their customers.
The KPIs or Metrics need to be recorded and made available to support time-sensitive workflows across the enterprise. They also need to reflect the unique working realities of the industry in question. Metrics for Discrete manufacturers deal with a distinct set of challenges compared to Process manufacturers. The basic difference between Discrete and Process manufacturing has important implications for how metrics are recorded and used. One of the largest differences between the discrete and process manufacturing industries is the presence of variability in materials from raw materials to finished goods. In the discrete manufacturing industry, parts are largely uniform, without much variability, whereas in process manufacturing, inputs are ‘ingredients’ rather than parts. Whether they are grown on a farm or synthesised at a chemical plant, ingredients from a process manufacturer vary in characteristics such as size, density, colour, active percent, fat content, etc., and many other features.
The top KPIs for Discrete manufacturers are improving OEE, increase in labour efficiency, increase in quality, increase in supply chain resiliency, decrease in reported safety incidents, waste and inventory levels.
Process manufacturing demands a completely different approach to KPIs, everywhere from the warehouse to the production line itself. Process manufacturing includes industries ranging from chemicals to food and beverage to pharmaceuticals. All of these industries may employ different production processes, but they all face the same requirement to capture the basic structure of ingredient-based production processes in their metrics. Process manufacturers have their own set of KPIs to measure performance and ensure the business is achieving its goals, e.g., some of them are incoming material quality, remaining shelf life of incoming material, metrics on material characteristics, process yield, equipment utilisation, man hours per throughput, etc.
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?
After having achieved really strong growth in the recent past, India’s machine tool industry is confronted with multiple challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic and the other external global challenges which have had a negative impact on various sectors including the automotive industry, one of the key contributors to India’s GDP growth. In addition, changing market dynamics and technological advances are having a ripple effect on the machine tool industry, forcing Indian manufacturers to adapt to the new environment. 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. At present the use of 3D printing technology in machine tools is limited to prototyping or for small series production. Many industries, particularly automotive, aerospace and defence industries go for 3D printing considering some advantages like lead time reduction, cost reduction and improvement in functionality. Hence in the days to come these technologies will be adapted to an optimum level in the machine tool industry.
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?
We may see the advent of Cellular manufacturing in the not so distant future.
In Cellular manufacturing, production work stations and equipment are arranged in a particular sequence that ensures a smooth flow of materials and components throughout the production process with minimal transport or delay. Implementation of this lean method often indicates the first major shift in production activity, and could be the key enabler of increased production velocity and flexibility, as well as the reduction of capital expenditure requirements.
Instead of processing multiple parts before sending them on to the next machine or process step (as is the case in batch-and-queue, or large-lot production), Cellular manufacturing aims to move products through the manufacturing process one-piece at a time, at a rate that is determined by customers' needs. Cellular manufacturing can also provide manufacturers with the flexibility to vary product type or features on the assembly line in response to specific customer demands. This approach seeks to minimise and thus lower the time it takes for a single product to flow through the entire production process. To make the cellular design work, a manufacturer must often replace large, high volume production machines with small, flexible, ‘right-sized’ machines to fit well in the cell. This transformation often shifts factory worker responsibilities from watching a single machine, to managing multiple machines in a single production cell.
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?
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.
(The views expressed in interviews are personal, not necessarily of the organisations represented)
Sunil David has 28 years of experience in the IT and Telecom industry of which close to 20 years was with AT&T, one of the top Communication Service Providers of the World and a Global Fortune 100 Firm. Until recently, Sunil was the Regional Director (IoT) India and ASEAN for AT&T India where he was responsible for building the IoT strategy, Sales, Business Development and also worked on building a robust IoT partner ecosystem; and was also actively involved in a number of marketing initiatives to help enhance the AT&T brand in the IoT space.
In his new phase of life, Sunil is Advising and Consulting AI and IoT Startups that are aspiring for the next level of growth.
Sunil has been a recipient of a number of Awards and Recognitions including 6 awards in 2021 and 3 this year from various Industry bodies and media conglomerates in recognition for his work in Digital Technology advocacy, Digital Skilling initiatives, contributing inputs towards IoT policy creation for India and for contribution to National Institute of Electronics and Info Tech, an Autonomous Scientific Society of MeITY, Ministry of Electronics and IT, Govt of India for contributing inputs on the syllabus and specific courses in the Emerging tech space (IoT, Cloud, AI ) that needs to be incorporated into the Curriculum of State and Central Govt Universities. NASSCOM Foundation and IBM India have also planted tree saplings in Sunil’s name for his contribution to the Tech Industry.
In August 2021, Sunil was awarded as ‘India’s Fastest Growing Digital Evangelist’ for FY 20-21 by a large media conglomerate Asia One Magazine at the 14th Asia Africa Business and Social Forum. The same month he was also conferred with the ‘CXO Excellence Award 2021’ by CXOTV part of TechPlus Media Group and joining the league of League of Outstanding Technology Leaders of India. This award was given on the basis of peer recommendations from the Industry.