Connected shopfloors

Event Report

At Manufacturing Today Think Turf series in Pune, plant managers discussed various ways to go smart.

“What is the sort of innovation you are in search of that would drive your profit margins and production?” asked Tirthankar Mitra, director, operations sales, Cisco Systems at the Manufacturing Today Think Turf Series titled, ‘making the shopfloor smart for manufacturers’. Presented by Cisco with BDB as the knowledge partners the event discussed issues that are at the heart of day-to-day
shopfloor operations.
Talking to a panel of 15 members from top manufacturing companies, Mitra presented the various opportunities a connected factory could present. The manufacturing industry has to deal with several problems like shopfloor environment, predictive maintenance, energy management, real-time supply chain, etc. All of you sitting here have important equipment to run your plant and convergence is what you need to have a collaborative shopfloor. Cisco is one such collaborative ecosystem and our software has features which are industrialised to suit a rugged environment.” He further mentioned that wireless is the way to go as it not only helps in connecting with customers better but also delivers superior
experience to them.
With the stage set, the panel was thrown open for discussion. Participants of the panel included SN Dileep, head, manufacturing, Apollo Tyres; Rajan Shringarpure, MD and director, operations, Vishay Components India; RV Sridhar, CEO, Essar Steel India; Narayana Reddy, senior plant director, Whirlpool India; Tomio Isogai, MD, Sharp India; Pankaj Upadhyay, VP, manufacturing, Eicher Trucks and buses, VE Commercial Vehicles; M Vishwanath, general manager, procurement and supply chain, Tata Bluescope; Balkrishna Patil, general manager, CME, powertrain, Mahindra & Mahindra; Rahul Kale, manager, operations, Virgo Valves and Controls (Emerson Process Management); Somenath Mukherjee, president PPI, India, Bilcare Research; Shrikant Bairagi, MD, Tremec; Surendra Chandorkar, technical advisor, Kirloskar Brothers; GR Gangadhar, director, control and instrumentation group, Forbes Marshall; Shishir Valunjkar, VP, operations (machine division), Bharat Forge and Sangamnath Digge, plant head – CVBU, Tata Motors.
Moderating the discussion was Manish Kulkarni, executive director, BDB India. He started the round-table by posing a basic question, which formed the crux of the important discussion, ‘What are the key elements required to be a part of a smart shopfloor’? Shringarpure averred that it was people. “People are the key to make processes smarter. Knowledge has to be re emphasised as it has no expiry date. Only revalidation will ensure a sound knowledge base. Sridhar mentioned innovation. “The Pune Essar plant is one-of-its-kind in our group and is a completely zero discharge plant. This was achieved because of our innovations. It is a small example of what smart can be.”
Flexibility of workforce was what Upadhyay rooted for. He said, “Manufacturing agility is my dream and it is unfortunate that we still struggle to create flexibility. Some sort of facilitation should be developed so that the operator doesn’t waste time in making or seeing the standards of operating procedures. There should be a screen in front of him, giving him instructions as to what is to be done. That would make a shopfloor smart.”
Gangadhar stressed on single point of data entry, which is currently followed at Forbes Marshall. “Once this is done it has to be used in all aspects of manufacturing. For example, we manufacture control valves, which is a fairly complex product. Various specifications have to be entered at various points and hence there might be a possibility of an error somewhere. At this point, by going paperless and taking small systems rather than multiple data points helps us go smart and produce an error free product that we had envisaged. There has to be a balance between automation and people.”
Vinay Dua, business development manager, industry solutions, IoT, Cisco Systems India, brought out a very nice case in point when he mentioned that at Harley Davidson where each and every bike is customised there is huge amount of flexibility required. “They use visual scanner screens. Cisco systems fitted here not only provide data instructions to operators but also through videos give out instructions to workers so that errors can be minimised and eliminated. This also helps in training and skill building.”
Valunjkar of Bharat Forge mentioned that he wanted to introduce M2M technology at his factory. “In order to do this we need people from Cisco who understand the manufacturing process. This knowledge is what the shopfloor personnel relate to and not IoT. We need analytical support. A grinding machine at our factory generates thousands of data but the analysis part of it is missing. Now, it is necessary to embed the analysis into this. This will call for smart manufacturing.”
Patil of Mahindra stated that they have 11 power plants around India and smart manufacturing has been on their agenda for quite some time. “We want to go smart where our power plants are concerned because in real time we are not generating much of data in a digital format. Though we are generating data it is important to work only on the ones that is required at that particular time. This is where IoT would help us.”
Mukherjee was the only one who was representing the pharmaceutical market. “We are forever bogged down by regulatory pressures. Our people are not humanised robots. We have given them the freedom to question our basic assumptions. We have equipped them with hand held machines but have empowered them to make decisions. This for me spells smart manufacturing.”
Upadhyay too spoke on the same lines of empowering people. He said, “Unless and until the operators/managers know whether or not what they are doing is a value added activity there will be no zeal or interest to work. They will not be proactive and initiate ideas on their own. Therefore, for a factory to be smart my managers have to be smart enough to see clearly the profit and loss activities on the shopfloor.”

The panellists also gave their opinion on why training and skill development was necessary to aid a smart workforce. Chandorkar stated that at Kirloskar Brothers they had studied various training models and found that they were the best in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. “Based on these models of vocational training we are launching our own institute to generate a pool of trained workforce. At KBL we have adopted the dual training model. We also sent people to Toyota to understand the Toyota Production System. Fundamentals of the production system are the same. Companies should take the philosophy and adapt it according to their requirements. According to me, changing this mindset was the biggest problem. We aim to make a digitised foundry at KBL and this involves a lot of training and imparting knowledge.”
Kulkarni then asked the panellists to compare their Indian plants with their global counterparts. Giving his opinion, Reddy of Whirpool mentioned that at his company technology absorption is not a difficult task. “The speed of adoption is very high in India and therefore understanding and learning new technology is not a herculean task. In other parts of Europe or the US the speed of execution is quite slow. Flexibility, intelligence and adoption of technology of Indians is quite commendable compared to the rest.”
Presenting a foreigners perspective, Isogai stated, “We cannot depend on people for variations and therefore, machines have to be smarter. Efficiency, productivity, quality or speed is what every company should decide on. The philosophy at Sharp without going smart is ‘zero defect and zero loss. We need to understand first the reasons and the objectives of why we want to be smart. Is it for productivity increase, enhancing efficiency or improving quality? Once we have answers to these, relevant technology can be applied on the shopfloor.”
Bairagi averred that SMEs form the backbone of industrial enterprises and hence CISCO should make sure this kind of technology reaches them too. He asked them how they proposed to reach out to the SMEs. In his reply, Mitra avowed, “When we approach any customer we first understand their business plan and then give them a solution. For example, we have rolled out solutions for SME’s in the wireless area. A cloud centric wireless option provides a broad base platform and hence the investment is not huge for an SME.”
Dileep stressed the need for the usage of apps on a shopfloor. “This is the age of smart phones and if we extend this onto the shopfloor we need not be physically present there to oversee things. Currently, we are looking at apps that will provide us with real time data.”
On a concluding note, Vishwanath thanked the ITP team for bringing together “the playback singers of the manufacturing industry.” He opined that smart manufacturing is a must as it would help attract young talent into the manufacturing industry. Summing up the round-table perfectly, Kulkarni asserted, “The outcome of this discussion was quite positive and the comments from our esteemed panellists helped us derive the key elements of a smart factory. They are: smart workforce, innovations that help reduce costs, implementation of proven systems such as Toyota systems, Poka Yoke, JIT etc., manufacturing agility, flexibility, predictive maintenance, connectivity and data integration, automation of test rigs, connected machines – M2M, supply chain integration and intelligent machines.”


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