Build Smarter Machines Through Digitalization

To remain successful in today’s global industrial equipment and machinery market, companies must leverage digitalization and build machines that are smarter, more flexible and easier to maintain. In order to meet these challenges, manufacturers have to be willing to embrace disruptive technologies and take the next step forward by adopting new product development (NPD) processes.  New technologies will allow companies to compete in the global market by enhancing their product lifecycle management (PLM) platform, which is key to flourish in today’s complex business environment.  Based on this theme, Siemens PLM Software and EM (Efficient Manufacturing magazine) hosted a conference in Bangalore recently.

Here, I will encapsulate the key takeaways from the presentations and panel discussion.  The objective was to understand how to meet diverse customer needs, improve machine availability, while ensuring improved throughput for the customers. Some of the other challenges faced by this sector include development of configurable, modular systems to meet varying customer demands, building cost-efficient equipment/machines with improved designs and energy efficiency, and reduced lifecycle cost. In the machine tool industry, 58 percent of the machines are still being imported; and these statistics apply for the plastic and textile industries too. Globally, IIoT was introduced to achieve operational efficiency; the concept was to drive a fully automated factory (without staff) using cyber-physical systems. However, the adoption rate in industries in India is not going at full throttle, unlike in developed economies; with machines having lifecycle of 30-40 years, selling the IIoT concept is a huge challenge.

IIoT/Industrie 4.0 in the India Growth Story

Early adopters of IIoT in India are seeing quantifiable benefits. Companies like Bharat Forge are piloting Industrie 4.0 as a major initiative. Despite early and niggling worries on IIoT adoption, more than 50 percent customer enquiries in India are coming for IIoT-enabled machines and many standalone machines have become smart. At recent industry exhibitions, such as the IMTEX and the IMTMA, almost all the machinery manufacturers spoke about IIoT-enabled machines. But acceptance levels wary – for example, when a process is put in place workers in Europe comply 100 percent; whereas, Indian workers will ask many “whys” before moving forward. While there is a lot of communication to top and middle management, there seems to be no structured communication to workers on adoption of new technologies. New product developments are happening due to stringent/varying customization comments from customers. Due to lack of indigenous manufacturing capacity of machines more and more secondary (secondhand) machines at a lower cost have entered the Indian market in the last three decades. Japan has shown the way to how clusters are built for tier 1-2 components and also have worked in collaboration with competitors. Though India also has some small clusters, collaborative working is still not fully in place; however, there are pockets of excellence in several industries. While talking about the digital twin, Mr. Cathiavad of Siemens spoke about the three categories: product, process, and performance.

Skill development in the manufacturing industry is still a challenge, and another challenge is spreading awareness internally and externally.  To address this issue, Siemens is creating industry-academia partnership programs in Gujarat.  The panel discussion highlighted the three-step approach for the machine building industry: acquire knowledge, build the skills and focus on design capability.

Events such as this one are beneficial to the attending machine manufacturers to formulate a strategic plan that enables collaboration across roles to facilitate smarter machine building; optimize systems design; reduce physical prototypes; and reduce development time and costs. Rajah Cathiavad, Senior Manager Marketing APAC, Siemens delivered the welcome address; G. Ganapathiraman, Country Manager, ARC Advisory delivered the keynote address on evolving technology trends impacting the manufacturing sector; and the panel discussion, moderated by Shekhar Jitkar, Publisher & Chief Editor, EM elicited thought provoking responses.