Considering the political and economic climate in India currently, there is no better time to transform our manufacturing units into factories of the future. The time to act has come… and the time is now!
India’s manufacturing sector is on a tremendous growth path, and is expected to be one of the top three in the world by 2020. Currently, the country contributes approximately 2.2 per cent of the world’s total manufacturing output, which is at par with developed countries like the UK and Japan.
With the demand for electronic hardware expected to rise rapidly to 400 billion (by 2020), India has the potential to become an electronics manufacturing hub. Through the ‘Make in India’ initiative, the government is targeting to achieve net zero imports of electronics by 2020, by creating a level playing field and providing an enabling environment to domestic players.
The key goals include helping job creation, skill enhancement and securing global recognition to the Indian manufacturing ecosystem, facilitated by state-of-the-art infrastructure.
Take a company like Mumbai-based Omron Automation, which supplies to the automotive sector, with one of the main drivers of manufacturing in the company being the concept of ‘Total Traceability’ a futuristic technology set to bring in significant advancements in the factory automation domain, as more and more Indian companies adopt similar innovative technological initiatives. With such promising activities in the country, there is a lot of expectation from the ICT consumption perspective, especially in this sector.
Embracing disruptive technologies will also enhance the current manufacturing ecosystem, adding to the positive impact created by policy-level changes. Big data, analytics, cloud computing, machine-to-machine communication, automation and the Internet of Things (IoT) hold promise for longevity – ensuring that a company can stay in the race, and adopt far-sighted modernisation measures, rather than applying quick fixes or following short-term trends.
More importantly, such innovative measures makes way for a nimble and flexible organisational architecture, which allows the company to integrate new capabilities as it grows. All these components come together to create what is today commonly known as the ‘Factory of the Future’, which is in essence a digital enterprise – — complete with facets such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) on the cloud, delivered on mobile devices for convenience of users
ERP to the rescue
Chief Information Officers (CIOs) of manufacturing enterprises have realised that the ultimate key to modernisation and increased efficiency is through the implementation of ERP software systems. According to a recentn IDC report, ERP is a critical enterprise application in the IT portfolio of manufacturing enterprises for day-to-day operations, with an ever ever-increasing demand on performance and functionality with cost pressures.
Additionally, apart from streamlining the operations resulting in the desired outcomes from the factories, ERP helps to track the ongoing processes in a more efficient manner. It is important for manufacturers to keep in mind that the chosen ERP system should help get visibility across the company’s global supply chain and provide system-wide transparency for all key stakeholders through a purpose-built, comprehensive solution designed to support multiple manufacturing strategies. What’s interesting in the present day context is that the ‘Make in India’ initiative is providing a big boost to the manufacturing sector, with 24.1 per cent contributions to the total cloud ERP market in India.
Cloud: Pivotal to
While implementing ERP, cloud-based deployment is an attractive option that should definitely be on the check-list for CXO-level decision makers. This is in order for manufacturers to remain competitive and contextual in the new manufacturing paradigm. Cloud deployment ushers in clear benefits, from speeding implementation to eliminating the need to invest in servers and ongoing IT maintenance. The agility that the cloud offers, plus the “always-modern” advantage, makes cloud deployment a no-brainer for many front-of-the-pack manufacturers.
The good news is that the early resistance to cloud solutions for critical applications is steadily eroding. According to a recent global IDC survey, 52 per cent of surveyed manufacturers are currently seeing major impact from cloud technologies. Another 40 per cent anticipate seeing major impact in the next five years, bringing the total to 92 per cent by 2020.
In the present business environment, the manufacturing industry practices the range of information technologies for various processes, encompassing the robotic lines of an automobile manufacturing plant, to the business accounting software used by a small spare parts shop. The multi-faceted processes of product design, engineering and manufacturing have evolved to become much more inter-dependent, interdisciplinary, entangled and complex design and development processes.
From the manual manufacturing processes of yesterday, the industry today has made a shift towards digital manufacturing. Digital manufacturing solutions help create 3D simulations of plant design and functioning to help define the most efficient, safe, non-iterative, and non-interfering or hindrance-free manufacturing processes. Assembly line automation, human ergonomic simulations, robotic simulations, plant layout redesigns, etc., can now be defined and analysed virtually in a 3D environment.
The product lifecycle management (PLM) concept helps companies integrate, configure and manage their design data, processes and work flows — right from the initial stages of the product development cycle, i.e., the concept stage, to design, simulation and validation, right through to manufacturing and releasing the product in the market. It helps companies with the setting up of effective data management systems, efficient workflow and process configurations, and overall system validation. PLM also automates the work flows that help exert a strong grip on the product development process and thereby brings more control and discipline and streamlines the overall development cycle.
IT has many potential areas of applications in the manufacturing environment, across diverse functions and processes. Training, lifecycle management, knowledge management, and analytics are some areas where existing manufacturing data can be used to optimise products and processes.
Back in India, the globalisation of the economy has opened up a new space of opportunity for the domestic manufacturing sector. The success of manufacturing industries progressively depends on innovations, research and development. Technology development is critical to a country’s efforts in improving productivity, efficiency and competitiveness of its industrial sector.
The manufacturing industry worldwide is operating under great pressure to increase productivity, improve quality and reduce costs. To catch up with the rising expectations of customers and other stakeholders in the ecosystem, manufacturing companies have initiated a stream of tactical and advanced measures with the objective of becoming competitive and, at the same time, cost-sensitive.
Use of mobile technology in manufacturing is one such recent adoption that is enabling manufacturers to match their competence improvements and resource mobilisation with critical improvement in business processes. A large part of this makeover depends on the mindset of manufacturers - to transform from thinking about this change as an ‘expensive’ one to considering its long-term benefits.
Being a late adopter of technology solutions can cause serious disadvantages, directly leading to loss of market share and profitability. Smart manufacturers are better equipped to tackle various issues like low productivity, (primarily because of lack of automation), talent and skill shortage, inefficient supply chains and lower levels of supplier competence.
Considering the political and economic climate in India currently, there is no better time to transform our manufacturing units into factories of the future! The time to act has come… and the time is now!
Plug & Play: How IT saves everything
There are a number of potential areas where information technology can be used in manufacturing processes:
• Physical inventory control;
• Movement of material;
• Incoming inspection status of material;
• Pass/fail data of equipment for online testing (e.g., in-circuit testing);
• Machine parameters like soldering machines;
• Machine status or maintenance records;
• Energy used per machine;
• Operator efficiency;
• Pre-shipment quality reports;
• Build version record of equipment;
• Simulation and integrated product and process design;
• Advanced manufacturing planning and control using ERP;
• Integration of machine data directly into ERP;
• Improved process control;
Automation will create more opportunities
The history of automation in the manufacturing industry can be traced back to the early use of basic pneumatic and hydraulic systems. Great advances have been made in the automation of the various activities formerly carried out manually. This is especially so in the intensive labour manufacturing industry, with most of these functions being almost fully automatic now, using the latest technology. This has resulted in improved efficiency, along with a higher quality product — coupled with the attendant savings in labour and costs.
Automation is not just a valuable tool, it is a weapon for any manufacturing or production plant, as it deals with issues like rising costs and shrinking profit margins. PC-based automation will further help to integrate and monitor multiple manufacturing locations with equal efficiency.