The timing of CII's (Confederation of Indian Industry) 7th Annual Manufacturing Conference held in Bangalore on 14th and 15th November was apt. The theme was matching the PM's call for 'Make in India' – "Rejuvenating Indian Manufacturing". It was a platform for large enterprises to share their initiatives and best practices, software and other vendors to talk about their offerings and eventually all participants and primarily the SME sector to take away good practices to help them stay ahead of competition and grow. Educational institutes were also part of it to give a glimpse of what the real world is for aspiring graduates. Policy makers were present to share new industrial policies and how it is making the job of running businesses easier.
Dr Stefen Berns, MD Bosch India, gave the key note address. He spoke about challenges faced by businesses starting from infrastructure to skilled workforce, restrictive regulations and complicated tax systems eventually leading to a poor score for India on ease of doing business. Interestingly, he also spoke about a 'Connected Industry' in action or what is also called Internet of Things (IoT). A practical example from Bosch was the calibration of test beds where the huge volume of data generated can be mined to get valuable insights on which operators need training and which sub-systems need to be re-calibrated. India can be at the forefront of Industry 4.0, the next generation of manufacturing systems, owing to the IT capabilities inherent in it.
Panel discussions on upcoming areas 3D printing or additive manufacturing, modern measurement technologies and industry-academia partnerships offered what is happening in the market today and how enterprises can leverage them. The sessions on low cost automation and digital manufacturing tools were a mix of tools and services available in the market from vendors and real life case studies from organizations which have benefited from using them.
Automation covers a broad spectrum from simple low cost automation for specific tasks to advanced automation using multi purpose programmable robots. Sundram Fasteners and Rane gave examples of low cost automation where small retrofits to existing systems result in significant reduction in cycle time, energy efficiency, safety for employees, productivity etc., ABB had interesting statistics on usage of robotics in India. India has the lowest density of robot usage in manufacturing - 1 per 10,000 workers compared to 28 in China and 273 in Germany. 80% of the usage of robots is from the automobile industry and 70% of the usage is for welding. Less than 2 thousand robots were sold in India in 2013, with a y-o-y growth of 30%. IDC sees this is a growth opportunity in the medium term, with "factory automation" as the highest ranking area of investment in the annual survey conducted among 120 IT executives in India.
Digitization tools are growing from the traditional ERP to more advanced digital simulation of manufacturing systems helping organizations achieve 'first time right'. Autodesk show cased its products which can be used from factory layout design for optimized material movement to cloud based 'Dreamcatcher' for designing products from the design intent to functional objectives automatically translating into design options by the tool. Cloud type of deployments help quick deployment with no upfront investments on computing infrastructure required on premise. Caterpillar and Timken shared best practices followed for zero defects through proactive fool proofing of manufacturing systems, processes and digital tools.
IDC 's opinion has been that adoption of the 3rd Platform (cloud, mobility, social, Big Data/analytics) and related digital technologies like IoT is imperative for enterprises to stay competitive in today's ecosystem. IDC Manufacturing Insights' 'factory of the future' envisages basic concepts such as shift from capacity to capability, empowered people, rise of contemporary metrics such as perfect order fulfillment, demand driven production and IT becoming essential for decision making and day-to-day operations. The proceedings of the CII conference corroborate these points. Manufacturing enterprises and SMEs especially would need directions and hand holding for them to embrace digitization not just for productivity but to make the organizations agile and competitive and for them to play a key role in the 'Make in India' journey.