Smart manufacturing and digitalisation are important for factories to deploy
Published on : Tuesday 14-03-2023
Sunil Mehta, General Manager, Smart Manufacturing Solutions (e-F@ctory) Strategic Planning, Factory Automation Systems, Mitsubishi Electric India Private Limited.
Which are the three new technologies which would be interesting for factories to acquire and adopt? Why would it be attractive?
There are different new technologies that need to be adopted by factories to be competitive in their product offerings. For smart manufacturing industries, the basic requirement is automation and automation needs to be adopted at various levels from small equipment to various processes. Once basic automation is available, then adoption of the latest technologies will be possible in the factories.
Few of the latest technologies that need to be adopted are Machine Learning for predictive maintenance, AI – Artificial Intelligence and AR – Augmented Reality. These technologies will facilitate all the stakeholders to utilise the available resources like machines, operators and energy in better manner to produce the components.
Machine learning for predictive maintenance is gaining importance where operators and production members can predict machine breakdowns in advance and can plan the productions as well as necessary spare service parts for smooth operations. We at Mitsubishi Electric are bringing AI technology in our latest factory automation products and since this technology will be embedded in our new products, it will be easy to adopt on the shopfloor in the factories.
Edge computing devices are also available as latest technologies and support connections with differently developed controllers, which is now possible. Also, Edge computing devices can handle Data Analysis and reduce data traffic on the cloud or server. 5G technologies are already being adopted by various service providers and 5G will be useful in factories to have a self-managed network.
It will be attractive to make investment in these technologies to improve OEE, Quality and Productivity in a visible manner. With advancement of these technologies and availability of various small or big companies to deploy these types of latest technologies results in the cost reduction as well. With availability of good technology partners, system integrators, implementation of these technologies will be possible at an affordable price.
Are there any factories where this IIoT movement will take longer to reach? What can be the reasons for this? What needs to be done to accelerate their journey?
Even though IIoT is talked about at various forums, it is taking longer to be fully adopted by the factories. Smart manufacturing and digitalisation are important for factories to deploy; however, there are few hurdles to implement it. There are legacy machines without any controllers or very old controllers. To get these machines on the industrial network becomes difficult or sometimes impossible.
Another important hurdle is discipline in the industrial operations and involvement of all stakeholders in implementation of IIoT solutions. It is very important to involve operators, production supervisors, maintenance staff, IT engineers and form a cross functional team for implementing IIoT solutions in the factories. While the automotive industry is in the process of implementing IIoT at various levels, the movement and adoption in other industries is slow. Looking at the long-term benefits from IIoT, it is required to accelerate this journey. There is a big opportunity for the MSMEs and SMEs as far as IIoT is concerned, however, it is taking longer time and larger processes for its adoption and implementation. It is important to understand the importance of IIoT, mainly for the higher authorities to set the direction for digitalisation in association with the right partners.
There are two work areas – bringing raw materials into the factory, and movement of work-in-progress inside the factory – where there is much scope for automation. Which technologies are relevant in this area for different types of factories?
Even though the automation process is involved in both the work areas – bringing raw materials into the factory and movement of work-in-progress (WIP) inside the factory, there is a larger scope for automation in the WIP process.
Automation can be implemented on various machines where components are produced, usage of AGVs, usage of barcode readers, vision systems, RFIDs for tracking, vibration monitoring, material movement from one section to another, material feeding, etc. Bringing raw material from vendors and supply chains is important for smooth production and managing inventory. This primarily focuses on logistic providers where a certain level of automation will be possible. For the warehouse management, Mitsubishi Electric proposed software solutions and for the inside of the factory, we have necessary Factory Automation products like PLC, HMI, VFD, AC Servo Systems, Energy meters, Low-cost automation products like GOCs, Robotic products, switchgear products, energy meters, etc. Mitsubishi Electric India also has plans to manufacture various Factory Automation products in India and our factory construction is in progress near Pune.
Inspection and quality is a very important topic. It is no longer just good enough to execute these functions rigorously, now it is a necessity to show off that it is being done. In other words, customers might wish to view that inspection and quality check are being executed. Please comment.
Inspection and quality are important topics to look into while we are focusing on the “Make In India” initiative and our manufacturing sector is showing upward trends. Today, quality is expected to be an integral part of the production process. End customers are focusing on the fresh and finished goods; they need to confirm the quality of the parts that are being used in the manufacturing. Recalls or fitting of wrong and incorrect parts will badly affect the reputation of any brand and that needs to be avoided at all levels. Automotive industries, pharmaceutical industries, F&B industries, white goods manufacture all focus on one concern, which is about the quality of the products they deliver in the market and inspection is taken into account more seriously than before. Digitalisation allows proper maintenance of digital records of machine data, parameters of the components that go into production at every step. Vision systems are helpful tools for inspection where manufacturing is at high speed. Traceability using RFID and automation products is being deployed for engine assembly lines for automotive two-wheeler and four-wheeler plants. For the pharmaceutical industries, traceability is also an important aspect of consideration.
Robots are going to be of great presence in the factory. But importantly, which functions are going to get robotised? For instance, would cleaning the shopfloor be an application to use a mobile robot?
In my view, cleaning the shopfloor can be one of the applications to use mobile robots, it may not be looked upon as an industrial application. Robots can be deployed in hazardous areas and the processes where repetitive operations are involved. For automotive industries involving painting and welding processes, robots are widely used in India. We are also now observing increased trends in Pharmaceutical, Plastic, F&B industries, where robots are becoming more popular for fast and repetitive operations and tasks to save time and increase the efficiency in the manufacturing processes.
Robotic Process Automation – RPA is an exciting productivity tool. How many factories use this? Why don't others use it?
Even though RPA is an exciting productivity tool, very few factories use this. Adoption of Robotics in India is not up to the mark as compared to other countries. It may be linked to higher costs involved in the Robotic products and expectations of the end user. Another important point is we don’t have many system integrators who can study the application in detail and then apply robotic processes to the production systems. This requires mechanical system knowledge, foundation for the robotics, grippers and other accessories that need to be integrated. Our manufacturing industries, mainly, MSMEs and SMEs are still not adopting Robotic Process Automation and we have a long way to go for such adoption.
e-Factory: A digitalised tool for Manufacturing Industry
Mitsubishi Electric Corporation – Japan, introduced e-F@ctory concept in the year 2003. Our e-F@ctory is an integral concept to build a reliable and flexible manufacturing system offering high speed information transmission over robust and high-speed industrial CC-Link IE Network. e-F@ctory is already being implemented at worldwide customers in various fields such as automobiles, pharmaceuticals, solar battery, secondary battery, precision equipment, semiconductors, food, metal processing, etc. At Mitsubishi Electric India, we have developed e-F@ctory Alliance Partners to offer various digitalised solutions for different industry verticals with vast domain knowledge and integration expertise.
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