A meeting of minds


The smart manufacturing summit concentrated more on the goals of knowledge sharing

By Jayashree Mendes

The best Manufacturers used to be the firms that made the best widgets. No longer. As the Internet of things spreads to the factory floor, products are being packed with ever more sensors and connected to the Internet.

But how exactly does packing in more technology help one make better products? As a magazine whose focal point is manufacturing, there is always a keenness to understand what paves the way to a new age of production. During our interactions with industry people, we often hear how the use of advances in manufacturing is helping them increase productivity, improve quality and reduce costs. In all this, there is always an attempt to redefine themselves and is emblematic of the leap that manufacturers are making.

It was not only our curiosity to understand more but also a need to help the rest of the industry trying to fathom what it is that big corporations are doing right, and with this thought, we set out to organise Smart Manufacturing Summit on July 22 at Hotel Westin Gurgaon. With our partners firmly behind us, and our line-up of speakers and panellists, not to forget an eager audience, the event could not have had a better start and day.

where the smart is

After S Saikumar, deputy MD, ITP Publishing India, set the tone for the day, he introduced Jagdish Ramaswamy, president, corporate business excellence, Aditya Birla Group (ABG), to address the audience. Speaking about how sustainability and digitalisation is changing businesses, he said that 21st companies cannot function merely by ensuring people’s happiness. With transparency taking centre stage, there is a right of way that customers demand in terms of knowing their vendor’s processes in terms of product and delivery. “There are two changes happening at ABG. There is continuous demand from customers for value-added products and the kind of services we can create around out products, and we need to look more closely at the prices of our products as a small event can trigger global price fluctuations,” he added.

The rampant disruption in today’s businesses is compelling companies to become agile and the inability to predict revenues for as close to next quarter is making companies sit up and rethink their practices. Moreover, next-generation manufacturing will need to look closely at energy efficiency, quick replenishment and making assets smarter (not necessarily driven by cost) and this is also driving forecasting to the far end. “Manufacturers will need to quickly consider integrating technology at their shop floor and factor in the green principle as customers make these the deciding factors to do business with you in the future,” he ended.

The address was followed by the first of four panel discussions. The first panel, Smart Products, Smart Makers, Smart Users – The IT revolution in the industry was moderated by Ravind Mithe, partner, KPMG. The panellists he planned to interrogate were V Venkatanarayan, VP & site head, Dr Reddy’s Laboratories; B Anil Baliga, executive VP, bus & application, VECV; Pranav Parashar, GM, naval projects, Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems India; Christopher Fernandes, MD, Pennant Engineering; and Sudhir Sharma, head defence light & tracked vehicles, Ashok Leyland.

Mithe urged the audience to speak on how technology has changed manufacturing and why managing assets is crucial for an organisation. Taking the cue, Fernandes said that Indian manufacturing is far behind the West and that we need to take giant strides in terms of learning to gather information from data pools. “We rely on poor data analysis and that makes it hard for us to move ahead. In our case, we find that there is no way we can test the way valves are going to be used on the field,” he ended.

Speaking on the problems faced by the pharmaceutical industry, Venkatanarayan said, “Our industry in India has been more generic and less innovative. Most often, the patents to make molecules are also owned by other firms and one has to wait 17 years for the end of the patent life before others can begin making it. Certain cultural influences in India have compelled regulators in Western countries to come down heavily on us and we have taken much effort to convince them of our compliance to maintaining data to the last minute of every batch production.”

Mithe turned towards Baliga asking him about the brown field expansion the company had recently undertaken and what smart manufacturing meant to his company. Recalling the time when they started off with a collaboration with Mitsubishi, he said that they learnt much from the Japanese company and no amount of smart manufacturing has countered that learning. “We have been Lean from Day One. Mitsubishi taught us that. Later, we entered into a tie-up with Volvo and today, such is the case that when visitors come to our plant, they think it’s lunch hour. Everything is automated at the engine plant and works like clockwork,” he added. He rued that India had not yet reached the machine tools level achieved by Western and Japanese companies and that component makers often fail to timely meet OEM demands. Such instances cause Just-in-Time to go awry and compel OEMs to maintain excess inventory.

Agreeing with this, Sharma, hailing from a defence background, explained how challenging it was in terms of time and cost to bring about any change. The change he was referring to was the time before the company decided to make off-road vehicles, a space that was taken up by Scania and Mercedes-Benz. “We preferred to assemble trucks and look at qualitative improvement. Then we entered the defence space and here are some challenges. The trucks have to reach the Army before winter sets in and we have to manufacture faster so that we can deliver on time,” he said, adding, “If you don’t keep up with the times, the enemy will compel you to change.”

The defence forces is prone to multifarious threats at sea and the systems they deploy have to be smart. Electronic counter measures are needed to counter the attacks and “if you’re not smart, you are dead”. Adding to that, Parashar said that most defence manufacturing in India is the prerogative of PSUs, it is only recently that Indian companies have jumped into the fray.

In his corporate presentation, Gautam Dutta, senior director, marketing, Siemens Industry Software (India), spoke about discrete manufacturing and the processes involved. Since technology is a mere enabler, companies need to quickly grasp the challenges and take action. He stressed that globalisation means making a product ready for the globe, while being able to make it anywhere. Agility on the part of the company can act as a recompense for old technology, while lightweighting in the automotive sector will soon involve new materials and new ways to put them together.

The senior manager, product marketing, factory automation & industrial division of Mitsubishi Electric India, Anil Bhise, spoke about how the entire process of making things ought to link all processes together so as to be more efficient. e-Factory bridges the gap and helps manage the operations at the point of implementation to support management processes and decision making, while enabling smooth business execution. Another point he elucidated is how collaboration between OEMs, customers, system integrators, component makers, and data analytics will create an ideal setting for smart manufacturing.
Rijoy Sengupta, regional manager, North, VDMA India Services, offered an insight into the numerous activities that VDMA conducts in India while marrying German and Indian companies. Speaking on the benefits that Industry 4.0 offers and how India would do well to implement them faster, he said that higher quality, greater flexibility, higher productivity, continuous benchmarking and improvements and attractive jobs are only some of the perks.

The second panel, CXO Panel: Bridging shop floor to top floor, was moderated by Manish Kulkarni, director, strategy & business development, BDB India. The panellists were Vijay Sethi, VP, CIO & head, CSR, Hero MotoCorp; Neelam Kumar Valecha, site president, Reliance Industries; Vimal Manchanda, VP, business solution & automation, MothersonSumi Infotech & Designs; and Sunil Mehta, sr. GM, tech. service dept. MEI; chairman, CLPA India, Mitsubishi Electric India.

Highlighting the aspect of safety, Valecha said that considering the environment they work in and the products they make, safety takes utmost priority. “We cannot get innovative on the shop floor, though we capture ideas from there. We implement IOW (integrated operating window) under which a particular equipment or plant or the process steps has to be done the way it ought to be, otherwise there can be repercussions. In terms of data analysis, we have processes that conduct real time analysis and what allows us to to that seamlessly is our decision to install machines that have cost us up to Rs 150-200 crore and are required to run for 4-5 years with little turnaround time (TAT).”

Sethi, who has experience in running the country’s largest two-wheeler manufacturing company, said that at every phase when the new kinds of automation came in, manufacturers would loyally adopt them in the hope that it would offer better quality. What they forgot was that automation alone is not enough. “When you talk of smart manufacturing, you are basically making things interoperable. Instead of automating one machine, you are automating things where one can pick up data directly from one machine and these machines need to talk to each other and react to situations. One needs to take action when there is a problem immediately before the next faulty product is out,” he added.

For this to happen, companies must not be averse to changing old controllers that are part of legacy systems. Speaking from experience, Mehta said, “End users need to think about changing or modernising them as problems arise when the integrator is called in to integrate the equipment and finds that he is unable to do so. Also, people involved with other divisions of manufacturing companies need to be more aware of machine tools and systems and that will help them to develop skill-sets accordingly.”

Few companies know what they want and act accordingly. Most may continuously look at Kaizen and process improvement, but sometimes each division in a company is working in different directions. Manchanda expounded on this point when he spoke about how one division might automate and bring in data and another division might do the same. “But is all that data residing on the same platform? Most often, not even 20% of the data in a vertical organisation is available for analysis,” he added.

The post-lunch session was a presentation by IIT (Delhi) on the advantages of design development of automated 5-axis CNC ball and magneto-rheological finishing (MRF) polishing that puts you in control of your polishing processes and your bottom line. An MRF machine on the shop floor allows one to polish an optical surface to pristine form, figure, and finish, regardless of symmetry, geometry, or slope variation.

The third panel discussion, Learn from the learned (Effective supply chain management), was moderated by Rajeev Nagpal, GM, business planning, Steel Authority of India. His panel comprised Sunil Shrivastava, GFH & chief purchasing officer, UNO MINDA; Mohnish Verma, supply chain, Coca Cola; and Avinash Mathur, director, supply chain, Whirlpool India. Nagpal began by asking the panellists about how advancements in manufacturing has affected supply chain and the novel ways that companies were managing them. To that, Shrivastava replied, “Changing customer demands has had a cascading effect on the supply chain. With more than 1,000 suppliers, 27 products, and 300 variants we have aggressively had to work on maintaining quality. What worked to our advantage is our tie-up with Japanese companies and the practices they taught us. Now all we have to do is replenish.”

With most MNCs importing relevant parts from their parent companies abroad, the supply chain can get pretty redundant. Mathur elucidated this well when he said, “Various suppliers ask for different lead times and that puts pressure on the supply chain. Often we find that the finishes we receive from Korea or Japan is unsuitable to the demand culture in India. We work on vendor managed inventory and we need to graduate from using Excel sheets to manage the supply chain.”

But even more erratic is managing an FMCG supply chain that comes with a shelf-life. Verma knows this well when he spoke about the difficulties of tracking and how his company has adopted an integrated IT management system to track that is SAP based and made it in line with Coca Cola requirement to call it Coke One.

The Summit also saw a highly enlightening oration by BS Pani, proprietor, Span Resources Management Services, who delved deeply into ‘smart’. Challenging the concept, he spoke on how important it is for companies to understand and engage local people when setting up new companies instead of scouting outside for talent. “We need to recognise the strength of our own people and stand up to competition instead of fearing it. Of course, companies need to deploy technology, but that shouldn’t make people expendable.”

The last panel discussion, Managing people for success, was moderated by Jayashree Mendes, editor, Manufacturing Today. The panellists were Anadi Sinha, president, corporate HR, UNO MiNDA; Mahender Singh, plant head, Hella India Automotive; and Pankaj Sharma, head HR, MAHLE Filter Systems (India).

Explaining how people need to be cajoled into continuing in the manufacturing sector, Sinha said that while there is no shortage of manpower, it is difficult to retain people as they seek greener pastures that could come in the form of white collar jobs. To this Sharma said that the manufacturing sector faces stiff competition from other verticals, which means training and reskilling people that can hamper progress and can be a bane to the human resources team. Singh cited that as plant head, he is often required to reskill and deskill people and the latter then look for opportunities in corporate environments.

The Summit ended with a Vote of thanks by Saikumar, and just in time allowing the audience to hit the road before the onslaught of the Gurgaon peak hour traffic.


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