To increase competitiveness and meet customers’ demand of new products, traditional companies are forced to transform rapidly and embrace new technology driven business models. Helping auto makers in this transformation is digital manufacturing, which is helping them to turn ideas and concepts to reality faster, economically and more efficiently, says Rakesh Rao.
Earlier this year, Ather Energy, founded by two engineering graduates - Tarun Mehta and Swapnil Jain - of IIT-Madras in 2013, had launched the Ather 340 and Ather 450 e-scooters. It is no mean achievement to develop an e-scooter from scratch in less than 5 years and launch it in a high-competitive Indian market. Couple of decades back this would have been highly unthinkable. But, automation and digitalization have phenomenally fastened the speed to develop, test, and mass produce new products. Welcome to the world of digital manufacturing.
According to Siemens PLM Software, digital manufacturing is the use of an integrated, computer-based system comprised of simulation, 3D visualization, analytics and collaboration tools to create product and manufacturing process definitions simultaneously. Digital manufacturing evolved from manufacturing initiatives such as design for manufacturability (DFM), computer-integrated manufacturing (CIM), flexible manufacturing and lean manufacturing that highlight the need for collaborative product and process design.
Digital manufacturing eliminates paper processes that can be fraught with errors and repeated information. “As core advantage, we see the digitalisation of the manufacturing process. This leads to the elimination of the paper based practice across the stages like planning, execution and aftermarket analytics/reports, brings in traceability, and the manufacturing related information will always be associated with the product/variants. This will contribute to increase in quality, reusability/speed, knowledge is stored as templates and can be reused,” says Berthold Puchta, Industry Leader – Transportation, QuEST Global.
According to him, some of solutions under the digital manufacturing umbrella, such as robots are shaping up the demand of automation solutions in the automotive industry well. He adds, “In fact, automotive manufacturing segment is one of the most promising segments showing impressive results in the adoption of robotics solutions. One of the main reasons is, probably, it has a huge scope of customisation. Robotic solutions can automate a variety of manufacturing processes which are either time consuming, monotonous/repetitive or hazardous in nature (so as to achieve varied ambitious objectives such as faster manufacturing cycle times, better quality, etc).”
The automotive segment is also showing up good adoption rates for IIoT and drives solutions such as total traceability. “It provides manufacturers the ability to trace & verify the history, location, or application of an item by means of documented recorded identification. Considering the fact that one defective product can bring humongous loss and setbacks to the credibility of a brand, the solution holds a lot of importance to ensure zero-defects manufacturing system. This attains more significance for the automotive industry where assembling of multiple complex components needs constant checking at every step and product-recalls are witnessed quite often,” opines Sameer Gandhi.
So are OEMs & tier 1 suppliers encouraging tier 2 & 3 suppliers to adopt automation in manufacturing? He answers, “At tier 2 level, digital manufacturing will be useful to address the range of products including its variant specific requests. The investment on introducing DM at tier 3 may not fetch the expected RoI. Here tier 3 may limit their scope to digitising their records.”
Sameer Gandhi adds, “Looking at the whole picture and the way the dynamics are changing, it is kind of becoming imperative for them (tier 2 & 3) to give a serious thought towards adopting and embracing the right elements of digital manufacturing if they wish to stay relevant in the industry in the long run. Cost is something which is a big deterrent and challenge. However, with the gradual evolution of the varied technologies under the direct manufacturing umbrella, the costs are going down which is acting as an impetus for making it more affordable amongst the tier 2 & 3 suppliers as well.”
Technologies such as artificial intelligence, robots and IoT are transforming industries around the globe as well as in India. “The automotive sector is adapting to Industry 4.0 by leveraging technologies that help them adjust manufacturing specifications for reducing time to market, enhancing flexibility, improving efficiency & and quality. Irrespective of geographic proximity to key automotive manufacturing hubs, end users and OEMs - both global and local, have started reaping the benefits of Industry 4.0 to manage various production processes in shops and assembly lines,” he says.
He says, “As a partner to major automotive manufacturers and suppliers around the world, Siemens brings in the comprehensive process expertise required to provide customized automation solutions. And support them throughout the entire implementation process – beginning right from the analysis phase, during creation of individual concepts, software tools, programming and hardware configurations, and during actual implementation.”
“Cloud computing and analytics are empowering the makers to utilise the data to create immense value at the shop floors. A lot of data is gathered from the shop floor using IIoT via smart sensors, vision, RFID, etc. The new advanced generation of PLCs can move this data very rapidly into the MES/ERP/cloud layer and thus give the shop floor managers a pool of valuable information to be worked upon which helps them to initiate real time measures such as predictive maintenance by identifying potential issues as well as implementing productivity solutions,” explains Sameer Gandhi.
Auto makers in India are still figuring out the right strategy to incorporate cloud technology in their manufacturing processes. “Currently, there are no automotive OEMs that are on cloud in DM space. Few of the major OEMs are trying to obtain the confidence by performing small PoCs (Proof of Concepts),” points out Berthold Puchta.
The density for cars in India is currently just 15 for 1,000 people and is expected to grow to 50 per 1000 people by 2022. This is very low compared with countries like Germany (580 cars per 1000 people) or China (140 cars per 1000 people) and therefore offers a huge potential for growth. This is giving a fillip to international and Indian manufacturers who are focusing their efforts to develop innovative products, technologies and the required supply chains.
Convergence of digital technologies, analytics and collaboration has enabled the procurement and logistics functions to be significant game changers in converting data into actionable insights in automotive industry. The way forward is to integrate emerging technologies to create factories of the future which will be intelligent and efficient. “Digital manufacturing, traceability, quality inspection, robotics, data gathering and analytics are some of the key notable trends which will gain more traction in the automotive manufacturing sphere soon,” says Gandhi.
Courtesy: Siemens PLM Software
The survey largely showed continued levels of enthusiasm and prioritisation related to capturing benefits from digital manufacturing, with notable acceleration in China and India and regression in Japan. In fact, 94 per cent of survey respondents from India gave digital manufacturing as a top priority.
In many cases, as per the survey, companies are piloting multiple digital solutions simultaneously. While the global average is eight solutions, Indian manufacturers report piloting more than ten digital manufacturing technologies at any given time. In Japan, companies are, on average, piloting only about four.
Despite high enthusiasm about digital manufacturing, many companies are experiencing ‘pilot purgatory’ in which they have significant activity underway, but are not yet seeing meaningful bottom-line benefits from this.
Even when companies report significant numbers of pilots, most cite significantly less progress in terms of broader rollout. In fact, the gap between piloting and rollout is significantly larger than the gap between perceived relevance and piloting, suggesting that scaling is a bigger hurdle than getting the ball rolling.
Courtesy: McKinsey & Company