Industry 4.0 virtually eliminates downtime through predictive maintenance
Published on : Wednesday 08-03-2023
Sekaran Letchumanan, Vice President – Operations, Flex India.
A majority of the manufacturers globally are still struggling with digital transformation. What are the common barriers they face?
Digital transformation is transforming all aspects of manufacturing – this is not just limited to processes and productivity but also the workforce. Leading manufacturers are now realising significant value from data and analytics, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and machine Learning (ML). However, a majority of them find it difficult to move past the initial stages, trying to capture the full potential of their transformation efforts or deliver a satisfactory return on investment.
One of the primary challenges when it comes to digital transformation in manufacturing is resistance to adapting to change. Many employees can be reluctant to accept change as they are uncertain about new technologies and methods. To overcome this, manufacturers should ensure that they are well-informed about the new technologies and its benefits. The industry should focus on investing heavily in emerging technologies to reap its benefits for the business.
Another challenge that the industry often faces is the lack of training for its existing employees to use the newly introduced technologies. Reskilling and upskilling them will benefit the organisations greatly. The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) and Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) to help bridge the skills gap in the industry is a move towards the right direction in upskilling the industry.
How does the adoption of Industry 4.0 help in better management of supply chains?
The gap between suppliers, manufacturers and final consumers is shrinking thanks to emerging technologies including Augmented Reality, Big Data, Virtual Reality, Automation, Cybersecurity, and Cloud. Supply Chains have been favorably influenced by Industry 4.0 revolution, the rise of digitised operations and the use of data and analytics.
Industry 4.0 includes a global network of machines in smart factories that can exchange information and controls with each other. By integrating the Internet of Things (IoT) into the manufacturing ecosystem and enabling a cyber-physical system of operations, it increases the efficiency of the supply chain.
Flex's innovative manufacturing initiatives are advancing Industry 4.0 by improving the manufacturing system's productivity, quality, and sustainability. Prototypes and concept models can also be created outside of the design phase in order to visualise a product. Using 3D printing during production allows for easy product customisation and lowers the cost of production. Lead times are shortened and the requirement for a large inventory is diminished by the manufacture of parts as needed.All of this works together to create a supply chain that is easier to use and costs less money.
For instance, Industry 4.0 enabled companies to maintain business continuity by aiding Smart Automation, Machine-to-Machine communications, the Internet of Things (IoT), Real-Time Analytics and Cloud Computing during the pandemic.
Predictive maintenance is seen as one of the biggest beneficiaries of emerging technologies. What is the experience at Flex?
Predictive maintenance is a technique that examines operational data from machines to provide insights to spot abnormalities in an operation and potential equipment flaws in order to avert any unanticipated failures. There are several advantages to it, and one of them is cost savings. Manufacturers have the chance to schedule maintenance in accordance with the size of their output thanks to predictive maintenance.
Downtime is one of manufacturing’s most pressing challenges, negatively impacting revenue. Industry 4.0 virtually eliminates downtime through predictive maintenance. The advanced technologies of Industry 4.0 automate the collection and analysis of machine data, enabling predictive maintenance that anticipates and corrects potential issues and failures before they occur. Doing away with downtime means new levels of quality and efficiency that boost revenue, increase sustainability and innovation for manufacturers. This will also give manufacturers an added edge due to the ability to be more agile in the face of market changes.
For example, in milling machines, spindles may fail, leading to expensive repairs. With predictive maintenance, ultrasonic sensors gather data on each spindle, which is then examined for any pattern that would indicate a fragile spindle. From there, an alert flags the issue for scheduled maintenance.
Smart manufacturing is the goal of the Industry 4.0 ecosystem. How has Flex negotiated this journey?
Flex’s cutting-edge manufacturing processes are driving headways in Industry 4.0 with higher productivity, quality, and sustainability in the system. It incorporates advanced simulation and modelling techniques across factories, accelerating time-to-market, improving yields and reducing cost and waste. We are able to plan and optimise factory and line set up, equipment flow, and employee experience before the product goes into production.
Flex increases quality and efficiency by applying deep expertise in automation and robotics across its factories. AI and advanced analytics alert teams before machines need maintenance, which reduces downtime and increases throughput on factory lines. Designs are optimised via additive manufacturing for better functionality, product customisation and parts and cost management. Making parts on demand helps reduce lead times and minimise excess inventory.
Flex has been able to design and optimise factory and line setup, equipment flow, and staff experience by integrating advanced simulation and modelling techniques throughout our operations, speeding up time-to-market, increasing yields, and lowering cost and waste.
Industry 4.0 is the way forward for manufacturing enterprises looking to future-proof their businesses. Using Industry 4.0 technologies will propel the transformation of factories, value chains, and business models for compelling financial and operational returns. Smart manufacturing initiatives are constantly evolving, as most technological evolutions tend to do. Deliberation around Industry 5.0 revolution is getting louder.
Globally, two Flex manufacturing facilities have made it to the Global Lighthouse Network. What are the conditions that have to be met in this transition?
The Global Lighthouse Network is a World Economic Forum project in collaboration with McKinsey and Company. It is a community of manufacturers that are world leaders in the adoption and integration of cutting-edge fourth Industrial revolution technologies such as Automation, Robotics, Simulation, and Digitisation to maximise efficiency and competitiveness at scale, transform business models and drive economic growth, while augmenting the workforce, and protecting the environment.
The factories in Althofen, Austria and Sorocaba in Brazil have been admitted into this prestigious group by demonstrating leadership through manufacturing excellence, the deployment of Industry 4.0 technologies, and an unwavering focus on employee well-being and sustainability.
In order to become a lighthouse, an organisation must demonstrate how it has deployed 4IR (Fourth Industrial Revolution) technologies in business models, operating models, services and along the end-to-end value chain to increase agility and operational efficiencies. Importantly, there is a primary focus on sustainability in operations with a strong circular economy ecosystem.
The digital twin is said to be at the heart of the smart factory, in order to eliminate waste and enable a circular economy. How difficult is this transformation? What are the enabling factors?
A Digital Twin can be understood as a computer program that uses real-world data to create simulations that can predict how a product or process will perform.The hindrance in such transformation is the high initial setup cost for a Digital Twin as the technology components required to implement a basic digital twin use case like IIoT, connectivity (4G, 5G, 6G), Cloud Computing, AI & ML and sensitisation of asset/entity, but Digital Twin is a necessary foundation over which future ‘as-a-service’ business model will be built.
One must remember that adopting this technology has several advantages such as reduced operational expenditure (OPEX), improved productivity due to automation, and even discovering errors that are otherwise difficult to find; but challenges such as real-time data, reliable connectivity, availability of quality and infrastructure, upskilling and reskilling needs to be addressed to leverage the full potential of the technology.
Globally, Flex has adopted the Digital Twin model and has advanced simulation capabilities. It uses virtual and augmented reality alongside 3D modeling to create a digital version of a proposed process, with physical entities within the process. It allows us to test the efficiency and functionality of a process before it is put in place.
How do you see the manufacturing industry in India making the best of available technologies to emerge as globally competitive?
India is now considered as one of the lucrative places for manufacturing and is a significant market for Flex not only because of the size of the market but also due customer demand. Given the favourable ecosystem for manufacturing promoted by the Government of India, we see strong potential here.
There are significant growth opportunities and a domestic market for consumer electronics, the industrial sector, power sector, renewable energy sector, automotive sector, telecom, and digital infrastructure. The spurt in manufacturing in these sectors augurs well for the growth of advanced manufacturing technologies including automation in the country.
India currently has the right building blocks for a robust global component ecosystem; adding design capabilities and plug and play facilities will be a big boost for the global companies to come in and set up, diversify and expand their businesses in India. Besides this, bringing in initiatives to build skilled labour will be another critical important factor for the future of manufacturing in India.