Automation has caught the fancy of Indian manufacturing companies. But how they are working at it is what lies within.
by Team MT
As manufacturing companies face increased competition – and get by with lower headcount – they are constantly looking for every means possible to boost the efficiency of their manufacturing automation processes and decrease costs. Most companies define efficiency in their own way but there are some common interests. The focus on equipment performance is one, with “overall equipment efficiency” (OEE) coming up in more and more discussions. The use of data to measure and report on performance is another. Collecting the data is one thing. Knowing what to collect is another. Knowing how to analyse and present actionable data for shop floor management and operators comprises yet another essential skillset.
In the last two decades, technology has massively evolved, thereby transforming the nature of industrial and manufacturing operations. Indeed, industries are no longer entirely dependent on a human workforce for simple or complex tasks. With digitalisation and IoT, industrial automation has become a competitive advantage in today’s industrial landscape.
Dr Ashok Kumar, ED, Pudumjee Pulp and Paper Mills, says, “Streamlining manufacturing must sync with technology. This ensures that deliveries are smooth and there are no glitches in the supply chain. A good production plan involving all cross-functions can reduce stress and improve delivery.”
With capacity utilisation and the types and number of production errors still important, other kinds of data are also making their mark.
However, whether they are doing it right or any other way, automation continues to be at the heart of manufacturing. There is no other way. Quadrant Knowledge Solutions recent study “Market Outlook: Robotics Process Automation (RPA), 2018-2023, Worldwide” analyses market dynamics, technology trends, short-term and long-term opportunities, and vendor ecosystem of the global market. This research provides strategic information for technology vendors to better understand the market supporting their growth strategies and for users to evaluate different vendors capabilities, competitive differentiation, and its market position.
According to the Quadrant’s research findings, Softomotive is positioned amongst the technology leaders in the 2018 SPARK Matrix analysis of the global RPA market. Softomotive is amongst the early providers of automation solution and offers WinAutomation, the desktop version, and ProcessRobot, an enterprise-class RPA platform with capabilities including centralised robot management and control, advanced analytics, ROI dashboard, scalability, enhanced security, and artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) through integration with best-in-class cognitive services, including Microsoft, Google, and IBM Watson and ABBYY FlexiCapture.
According to Vishal Sharma, Industry Research Manager at Quadrant Knowledge Solutions, “Softomotive is able to attract customers from both mid-market to large enterprise organizations by offering an advanced technology value proposition, quick ROI, competitive pricing strategy, and competitive differentiation strategy for different market segments.”
More and more manufacturers are showing interest in affordable, lightweight, flexible and collaborative robots – known as ‘cobots’.
With capacity utilisation and the types and number of production errors still important, other kinds of data are also making their mark. One key OEE metric is the number of sellable products coming off the finishing end. This can be hard to measure while the line is running but consistently analysing this metric in a structured way invariably leads to increased performance.
KA Unni Nayar, VP (works), JK Tyres & Industries, says, “Most global manufacturing is high on variety and low on volume. There’s a third category that is unique to India, which is high on variety and high on volumes. Leapfrogging to high volumes and variety requires technology push and this should be taken as the key lever.”
Suresh Iyer, CIO of Blue Star, says, “It is not just one technology that is causing disruption. It is an amalgamation of numerous technologies and their interactions with each other is what we need to look at. We have five factories and have started using many technologies as part of the production process and operational process. Technology helps connect to R&D, sales and marketing, etc. It is now also collaborating with each other. It is doing the talking for us. So whether it is safety, quality there are technologies available to make do everything. Through the data I am able to give instructions to the shop floor person on what should be done next.”
More and more manufacturers are showing interest in affordable, lightweight, flexible and collaborative robots – known as ‘cobots’. Sensors detect human presence and reduce the cobot’s operating speed as the human gets closer. By limiting speed, payload and force, the cobot stops almost instantly when it encounters an obstacle and the energy of any collision is kept below ISO-defined maximum levels. Proximity and other sensors stop the robot when a human enters its workspace. Either the robot or the human operator moves, but not both at the same time.
The manufacturing sector is undergoing a tectonic change. The emergence of new technologies has meant that to succeed companies need employees who can help them take advantage of them.
Unlike earlier when production was carried out on assembly lines using an army of workers, large industrial machinery, and raw materials, manufacturing today requires far more sophisticated tools to generate profits. Consider that McKinsey reported less than a year ago that by 2030 nearly 800 million jobs globally will be automated; while most of those affected will be in the developed world, nearly nine percent of India’s workforce will also be affected. What is striking is that McKinsey went on to say that this will transform society just as it had been in the1900s when factories replaced farms as the dominant means of production.
Over the past few decades, automation has transformed factory floors. A recent study by McKinsey has shown that the tasks performed by workers 64% of the time can be automated using technology available today. To put this in dollar terms it means that $2.7 trillion out of a total of $5.1 trillion paid to workers globally can be saved by automation. Clearly, automation has a huge scope to not only save companies money but to also allow workers to work in more productive areas. From an economic point of view it makes tremendous sense for companies to automate their manufacturing process because not only will doing so save expenses in the long run, it will also improve the lives of workers and lead to fewer accidents in the workplace. Companies need to hire managers and consultants who can allow companies to effectively transition from a worker-led manufacturing process to an automated one.