Of men & machines

Cover Story

The jury of Manufacturing Today Awards 2015 on how technology will change the face of the industry.



While THINGS HAVE Not been hunky-dory for the manufacturing industry, one thing is certain: the evolution in consumer behaviour is shaking up the entire supply chain — manufacturers, distributors and retailers.
In this light, Manufacturing Today’s much celebrated and anticipated awards held annually are a toast to the industry’s hard work, success and excellence. And in keeping with the talked-about topic of sustainability, this year we have a new theme, Excellence in Smart and Sustainable Manufacturing.

WE ALSO TAKE this opportunity to introduce you to members of the grand jury comprising top industry persons in their field. The jury, most of them well-versed with the manufacturing sector, highlight the sense of commitment the industry feels towards the vendors they work with and one of the steps is establishing strong buyer/seller relationships. We ask them their views on three points: Internet of Things; social media use in manufacturing; and seeking new partners for smart investments in technology. Here’s what most of them had to say.
Rajesh Nath, MD, VDMA India, says, “We should plan for growth but also be aware of the side effects of such growth. Today, increasing labour costs in China has caused countries like Bangladesh to grab opportunities on the basis of cost competitiveness. So for us, the challenge will be to grow without diluting our strengths. We should make sustainability and environmental protection an essential part of the solution.”
India needs to effectively implement global technologies. And for this it is necessary that she brings together global and local players — global players bring in excellent technologies, while local players know their customers best. There’s also a need to rope in data analysis companies, says SC Bhargava, senior VP, electrical & automation, L&T EBG. “Building smart manufacturing systems are going to require interaction with both technology and data analysis companies. It will make sense for manufacturing companies to partner with data companies.”
With so much technology around, it’s always a smart move to keep abreast of emerging technologies and attempt to incorporate these after understanding its applicability in terms of productivity, quality and cost. Companies need to take a call whether the company can incorporate these technologies with the help of its own in-house competencies (internal R&D and knowledge resources), or have a partnership with other companies who have developed the technology. Satish Bhat, MD, Ador Welding, says, “It would help companies to make a thorough enterprise risk analysis of the entire manufacturing process and the company’s activities, both in holistic terms as well as in terms of the bottom-of-the-scale in the activities and processes and formulate corrective and preventive action (CAPA) for the same. It is also right that companies form strategies keeping in mind global trends of GDP growth, environment, the political scenario, socio-economic changes, and demographic aspects that will help them reduce price escalations and disruptions in industry, if any.”

ONE OF THE things that has got the entire manufacturing industry agog is the Internet of Things (IoT). It is the foundation of emerging technologies, connecting physical devices, people, and businesses to one another through the Internet. Industry 4.0 is the manifestation of how the networked economy pertains to the manufacturing industry specifically. Sandeep Tilak, VP, finance & corporate strategy, Bharat Bijlee, says, “Applying IoT in business will vary depending on the automation. So that companies can benefit, IoT has the potential to be a game changer through its ability to provide differentiated services, faster response times, more flexible manufacturing processes, etc.”
Most of the jury members believe that use IoT expansively will likely increase dependence on technology support and can threaten to lock manufacturing entities to the technology. In fact, it would be better for manufacturing companies to have long term partners. However, the choice of technology with an eye on dependence (read restricted technology) and flexibility to adopt and leverage technology evolution will have to be considered. A Shivkumar, chief executive, Ewac Alloys, says, “IoT connectivity promotes a new class of operating assets, often embedded with sensors and actuators that are ‘self-aware’ and capable of communicating with other machines without human intervention. IoT will benefit manufacturing companies by collecting data from these sensors and communicating that data to factory floor workers, plant managers, software systems and many aspects of the supply chain.”
Considering that technologies keeping changing so often, companies are finding it tough to keep up with trends. Advanced technologies and smart products are offering opportunities for productivity improvement, simplification of processes and better control across the value chain. But the problems come due to low product life cycle and constantly changing technologies. Satish Jamdar, MD, Bluestar says that that with increasing complexity and innovative integration expected ahead, investment in future technologies must be multi-pronged, and it should offer sufficient flexibility to make corrections if need be. Therefore partnerships and collaborations with handpicked players, who bring fresh diverse capabilities, will become the order of the day.
Milind Kulkarni, MD, Seco Warwick Allied, is of the view that the few steps that can save companies is primarily improving of the operational efficiencies in terms of multitasking workforce, rationalising resources, inventory control, cost control, new vendor development. Introspection of the way business is done and wherever required re-model to gear up when market improves.

THE GOVERNMENT AIMS to crank up the share of manufacturing in India’s GDP and to help India transform into a global hub for manufacturing. The Indian manufacturing industry presents a $8 billion opportunity for the information and technology sector by 2017. This is only possible when the government’s push for manufacturing is backed by increasing adoption of IT.
N Sivasubramanian, MD, ThyssenKrupp, says that manufacturing is no longer about hardware alone. Factories which deploy the right blend of hardware and software are smart. Large data sets from sensors installed in machines are analysed to predict failures and prescribe solutions. Many multinational companies in India are investing in advanced manufacturing.”
Robindranath Som, consultant, Nickunj Eximp Entp, says that disruptions have been drivers for many companies to seek out new opportunities, and look beyond the comfort zone. Such companies have grown way beyond normal trends. There are many examples of such companies who have achieved growth larger than the segment they have served.
In all this, comes social media. A powerful medium to reach to the consumers very quickly and obtain feedback, manufacturers need to make use of this medium effectively as most importantly it is cost effective. KC Mani, MD, BDB Consulting, says that with more gadgets and more people connected, social media will be an added tool to track and monitor customer demands, need gaps and current trends.
There are pros and cons to the utility of social media in manufacturing. Though it can be an useful platform through which customers can forward their requirements, register complaints, the flip side of the coin is uncontrolled access through the social media can generate a lot of unsavoury chaff. Pradeep Bhargava, MD, Cummins Generator Technologies India, “Social media is most certainly valid for B2C organisations. For B2B players, social media can help in creating brand equity, attracting talent, and create awareness in society. With respect to customer trends and demand generation, social media will have a limited role.”
For manufacturing companies, investment in technology is all about preparing a roadmap for future products and services. It is a critical and strategic programme that will decide where the organisation is going. There are sufficient examples of product leaders who could not sustain their leadership position because they faltered in this area. The way forward is to try and get the best out of men – and machines!


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