Well connected

Well connected

Dr. Andreas wolf, joint mD, bosch india, has discerned the intricacies of industry 4.0, smart manufacturing and connected factories.

by jayashree kini mendes

Bosch is everywhere. you may not know or see it, but its technology opens London’s Tower Bridge and closes packets of crisps and biscuits in factories from India to Mexico. Analysts call it a auto-parts maker: it is the world’s largest, making everything from fuel-injection pumps to windscreen wipers. Consumers know it for white goods and power tools synonymous with ‘Made in Germany’ solidity.

Dr. Andreas Wolf, joint MD, Bosch Ltd, prefers to call the company as a supplier of technology and services or the ‘Internet of Things’ company. Going by its history, the 130-year-old giant is on the right trajectory to be better known for its technology prowess. It also reflects on a world where value comes increasingly from software, services and data, not things. When software and hardware meet, as they do in the field of autonomous cars or the IoT’s world of internet-connected objects, manufacturers risk becoming mere commodity suppliers. Bosch’s answer is to position itself as a trusted custodian of data. Orwell’s 1984 is kindergarten compared to the IoT-world.

In India, Bosch has 31,000 employees, which is small considering that globally the company has 400,000 people in 60 countries. But few know that India is the biggest hub, outside of Germany, where 18,000 work on areas related to R&D alone. With 10 legal entities, 17 manufacturing locations and 1,500 suppliers (we call them business partners, says Dr. Wolf), the conglomerate expects to grow at a CAGR of 6-8% in one of the fastest growing economies in the world. That’s how important India is to Bosch.

Here, There and Everywhere
One can throw any question to Dr. Wolf, but ultimately he veers the conversation to Industry 4.0, connected factory, and smart manufacturing. That is the crux and essence of what Bosch does globally, and in India too.
What offers Bosch an additional advantage is Dr. Wolf’s long-time association with International Production Network (IPN) which, as a member, allows him to collaborate with colleagues freely globally. As a part of the Bosch IPN, several processes are standardised including the layout and this has a huge advantage. The company uses a standard called the Bosch Production System–PGL (Planning Guideline).

“We have several plants globally, from automotive to packaging to electronics to power tools and security systems. It’s important that we transfer the knowhow gained from one plant to other locations. That way collaboration of the plants happen on a global level,” he says. For instance, Bosch India’s Chakan plant is a member of the IPN for the Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) and the Electronic Stability Programme (ESP). Each single machine for the ABS line is connected, not only with each other, but also with other ABS lines in the IPN. These lines are managed by a Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES). The MES has an Andon system; some benefits of this system includes quicker reaction to deviation in the manufacturing process, continuous improvement and finally, online benchmarking with the rest of the global manufacturing plants. Through this, Bosch’s Chakan plant has achieved a quality level close to zero defects. Not only that, it has also recorded high customer satisfaction apart from seeing significant increase in productivity. In the near future, the plant will look to implement Industry 4.0 solutions for preventive maintenance, energy management and even for the training of shop floor associates along with the possibility of linking factory systems to business applications.

That is the quintessence of Dr. Wolf’s strategy. His goal is to ensure that all the 17 plants in India achieve operational excellence, work deftly on the Bosch Production System (BPS), and engage in Industry 4.0 and smart manufacturing. His level of engrossment in building up the BPS started back in 2001 when the company realised that they needed a system that would be nonpareil to any other. “We didn’t want to imitate any existing systems. Importantly, we sought to understand the science behind production, instead of merely automating or increasing head-count. We wanted a system that we could constantly improve on,” he adds.

So every process in the value stream (from purchasing to in-house production to delivery) is improvable. Bosch India uses a bunch of methods to improve performance on a daily basis. Dr. Wolf says, “Identifying waste in the value stream such as excess inventory and knowing how to reduce or eliminate it is what the Bosch Production System does best.”

Driving Change
In terms of the automotive industry, Bosch is working towards making the driving experience a smarter one and the company is achieving this through empowering Industry 4.0 as the path to a connected shop floor. It has linked systems inside and outside the vehicle to intelligent mobility solutions, technology products and services.
Explaining how this is possible, Dr. Wolf says, “One of the basic principles of BPS is production levelling. With fluctuating demands and at the same time limited capacity and limited flexibility, levelling helps to reconcile these conditions. In addition, it helps to avoid the so-called bullwhip effect to the supplier, decrease inventories and helps achieve a higher flexibility with better delivery performance.”

Implementing production levelling also includes the implementation of a Kanban pull system. “The entire system works like an orchestra. So we produce in shifts, de-couple, and ensure that goods reach the customers through a FIFO (first-in-first-out) method. It means we need to have a good plan and a strong execution for the principle of 5S to work well. Total Productive Maintenance and Preventive Maintenance are also part of these principles. So decoupling is very important and the idea is to use it for daily improvement of the performance,” he adds.

Though BPS has worked well for Bosch, Dr. Wolf continues to propagate Industry 4.0 and connected factories. Ask him the reason and he says, “BPS is the roof. Industry 4.0 or smart manufacturing or connected factories are a part of the digitalisation process. It’s beneficial as it helps in acquiring information online and in real time. We can pick up information directly from the machine because the machine delivers all the information. It helps us to add into the ‘improvability’ of BPS.”

The other target that Bosch has set is improving the OEE (overall equipment efficiency) of the machines. The target is to go to up to 85-90% and this comes to them in real time. What matters here is the cycle time of the machine, which involves keeping in mind the fluctuations in the process. The primary goal for all system design is to reduce downtime—and the most effective way to do it is by designing reliable systems. Mean time to recovery (MTTR) and mean time between failures (MTBF) are two useful metrics in evaluating the reliability of a system. Downtime reduction often requires looking at a system holistically, not one or two parts of the whole. Once MTTR is measured accurately, it can be improved. Technology plays a critical role in reducing downtime. New monitoring technologies give teams real time, 24×7 visibility into the performance of systems. Performance can be viewed on-site or remotely using smartphones. This allows an operator or engineer to assess the functionality and performance levels of their systems or machines and plan for service or repairs well before they fail.
Dr. Wolf dreams of the day when he can eliminate the small inconveniences of failures of electrical conductors or for that matter sensors. There is a constant search to improve their designs and include it in the preventive maintenance system. “It is these data that help in bringing to fruition Industry 4.0. I look forward to the day when the shop floor personnel are trained to ensure that there is no downtime and in cases when there are, repairs are done instantly. This means maintaining ready spare parts of the kind needed during breakdowns,” he says wistfully.

The Backbone of Manufacturing
There is a general theory among manufacturing companies that maintaining a comprehensive spare part inventory is counterintuitive when trying to effectively control operating cost. Companies expect plant managers to identify ways to reduce cost while maintaining the performance and efficiency of plant operations. Although Dr. Wolf shares this theory, he goes one step further and believes that adoption of software for data management could resolve anticipated and unanticipated issues in the plant. Citing the example of diesel nozzle injectors, Dr. Wolf says that injector is a component of the high pressure injection system for diesel engines. The high pressure needs to be very precise when injecting fuel into the cylinder that acts as a combustion process and to clean the exhaust gases. “It’s the reason we produce injectors at a pressure of 1600 bar! Applying a pressure of 1,600 bar requires us to produce the nozzle of the highest quality, since the nozzle needle must fit into the nozzle body within a clearance of 3 and 4.5 microns. If we have to define the right nozzle for the right needle it means that our accurate machining and grinding process allows us to produce exactly this tolerance. What is astonishing for an onlooker is that the nozzle requires grinding of only a few microns, which seems a superhuman task,” he says, elucidating the preciseness of the manufacturing system.

Some examples of unique machinery that the company has installed are high-precision machining producing tolerances of up to 1 micron, hydroerosive rounding and a high precision assembly and testing of hydraulic components in a clean room, etc. Many of these processes are core technology that is not available in the market. That is why some of these machines have been produced in-house by the special machinery division.

Bosch India produces a variety of products and entire divisions are highly active in India. This means to say that right from sourcing to manufacturing to R&D, India plays a vital role across processes. With a DC drive control unit in Ahmedabad, packaging unit in Goa, gasoline systems in Tamil Nadu, and automotive electronics in Bangalore, there are several types of processes followed at the manufacturing units, based on requirements. Some of the goods are for local consumption, while others find their way into exports even. The constant movement of goods requires a strong back-end systems support from the 1,500 business partners. “Business partners globally are very unlike those we have in India. We need to constantly ensure that they too meet standards of excellence because we need them to be competitive in terms of quality, productivity and develop excellence in their mindset. On our part, we organise several activities with them on BPS alone. Though it is not possible to bring up to mark all the 1,500, we do try to maintain an optimum level for training for as many as we can,” he adds.

Bosch has 14 quality principles for the value Q-stream which include process parameters, total productive maintenance, correct labelling, managing dropped paths, ensuring correct product at the assembly, among other things. Dr. Wolf says the training has been imparted across the shop floor of Bosch’s manufacturing plants and now will be rolled out to business partners as well. If all goes well, Dr. Wolf also has plans to implement Industry 4.0 for the business partners and although this appears challenging, “I think this will help us to improve the performance of the value chain and competitiveness”, he adds.

Considering that most of the business partners are SMEs, how does the conglomerate plan to raise them up to Industry 4.0 levels? Says Dr. Wolf: I will tell you what the problem is. Industry 4.0 requires huge investments, but that is not money, but in terms of mindset. To understand what the concept is requires asking the right questions, which must come from within. It is the reason we set up Industry 4.0 Academy. We are starting this for the leaders before moving down. He adds, “We need to adopt local solutions for the Indian market as it would give us an edge in terms of affordability, decision-making, offer value for money and ensure robustness of products. For instance, the Bosch Siemens Household Appliances has machines that are made differently for India. Adopting localisation will bring down the premium tag of the products.”
With the deadline of 2020 approaching to make all vehicles BS VI friendly, Bosch has come up with a versatile and low cost Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI) system for 2-Wheelers. Dr. Wolf says the fuel injection system will revolutionise the two wheeler technology. A distinguishing feature of this system lies in the fact that it could be adapted from lower capacity commuter bikes to high end performance bikes.

A Lot Gained
With different kinds of businesses ranging from high volume to MTO (made to order) to ETO (engineered to order), Bosch does not believe in simply automating at the shop floor. “The connected shop floor is a vision. I am sure this is the future of manufacturing. The idea is to use data in real time to control and improve the process. The objective is not to replace people with artificial intelligence. You cannot take people out only because you have technology,” says Dr. Wolf with finality.
Meanwhile, Dr. Wolf continues what he does best. Build up an even better excellent organisation, while attempting to build on mindset, culture and confidence among the manufacturing units.

Categories: Cover Story, Features