Business Today

The AAA+ Future of Manufacturing

Digitisation of manufacturing is a reality that some have adjusted to quickly while others face challenges.
Team BT | Print Edition: December 2, 2018
The AAA+ Future of Manufacturing
The panelists: Pavan Kumar Kolahal, IoT Business Consultant, Ericsson India; Roy John, GM (Operations), ITC Ltd; Vijay Sharma, Head-Sales, Jindal Stainless; and Mukul Saxena, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Havells India. The discussion was moderated by Deepak Malkani, Leader, PwC (extreme right) and Prosenjit Datta, Editor, Business Today (not in photo). (Photographs by Shekhar Ghosh)

The fourth industrial revolution or Industry 4.0 is transforming the world of manufacturing. As digitisation becomes the norm in manufacturing, industries across the globe are adopting technologies that are disrupting traditional manufacturing. The technologies being adopted include artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, 3D printing, industrial internet of things, digitisation, big data analytics and cloud computing.

To discuss the impact of these cutting edge technologies and the possible future of manufacturing, Business Today organised a Roundtable Discussion in collaboration with global audit and consulting firm PwC. The theme of the discussion was: The AAA+ Future of Manufacturing: Automated, AI-Powered and Additive.

The panelists included Mukul Saxena, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer (CTO), Havells India; Vijay Sharma, Head-Sales for Jindal Stainless; Roy John, GM (Operations), ITC Ltd; and Pavan Kumar Kolahal, IoT Business Consultant, Ericsson India. The discussion was moderated by Deepak Malkani, Leader, PwC, and Prosenjit Datta, Editor, Business Today. Excerpts:

Prosenjit Datta: We are in a time when cloud computing, digitisation, big data analytics, robotics, industrial IoT, AI and 3D printing are changing manufacturing. But there are others that will play an even bigger role in the future. How have these technologies affected your industries?

Pavan Kumar Kolahal: Our main customers are mobile operators. We have a big production facility in India and have five of these globally. So we are manufacturing a lot of the products that we ship. Second, is how we achieved efficiency in doing that. We noticed that despite being a high tech company, much of the work was manual. All maintenance of tools was happening manually. People were going and noting readings and putting it down. Record keeping was manual. We partnered with Intel on the device side and hooked up this whole thing with narrow band IoT (NBIoT). It is very low bandwidth and very high penetration. Compared to normal LTE or 4G connectivity, NBIoT has seven times extra penetration.

Datta: Vijay, could you talk a bit about logistics in steel.

Vijay Sharma: I need to clarify the difference between steel and stainless steel. Stainless steel by volume is about 2.5-3 per cent of total steel, but is 15 per cent by value. Stainless steel is growing at a CAGR of 6 per cent for the last three decades, practically double of steel.

Roy John, GM (Operations), ITC Ltd

In India, it is growing 9 per cent so it is a healthy situation. I represent Jindal Stainless and we export 20 per cent of our production. Half of that goes to Europe. In the last 10 years, the cost of processing has come down 50 times and bandwidth 40 times. The foremost trend is big data followed by AI. We manufacture robots, wherein robots are making, testing and inspecting. So, that is one vision of AI. Of course, robots, cobots and nano technology could be the future.

Datta: Roy, can you tell us about technologies you are using which made the most impact?

Roy John: I have run programmes on data science, automation and renewable energy for ITC as a whole. We have over 200 factories. Making paperboards and personal care or foods is totally different and some of our factories are 100 years old.

Deepak Malkani, Leader, PwC

So there is variety in technology adoption and the kind of people you have. Implementing this is a challenge and I think what is important is that there isn't a one-fix solution. If our manufacturing has to be competitive globally, we have to adopt these technologies. Coming to AAA, we have done many projects in automation - we got in cobots; we have robots for palletisation. In terms of AI power, the largest impact is whether it is giving the right information at the right time to the right person.

Deepak Malkani: At PwC, we have a deep practice around digitisation across sectors where we help shape the strategy, prioritise, invest, design and execute digitisation programmes. But if I look at manufacturing, we have a fair amount of focus. Based on the analysis, we saw a strong co-relation with penetration of automation to the salience of manufacturing as a percentage of the economy.

Mukul Saxena, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Havells India

So, manufacturing centric economies like China and Korea have high penetration of automation. So that's a direction I would say is a hygiene (point).

Datta: We could spend a little time on this because Mukul represents a company that has got a completely different philosophy from other panelists. Havells has grown very fast through acquisitions. But the interesting thing is that, if I am not wrong, it only bought the first factory which was brown field. After that it only bought brands and prefers not to acquire manufacturing facilities. And it has given away manufacturing facilities every time it acquired.

Sharma: Definitely there is a challenge but even in case of green field, technology moves so fast that there is need to upgrade. So we started this initiative wherein we have end to end visibility of the total operations. This is relatively easy being in a green field operation. We are trying to upgrade our brown field equipment so that it reaches a level where the equipment talk to each other.

Mukul Saxena: I would like to pick up a constraint from green field v/s brown field. While it is a big plus if you jump in to green field but there is always a price you have to pay for those things.

Vijay Sharma, Head-Sales, Jindal Stainless

If you think of it for a company like ours, which is still into fast moving electrical goods, the customer is cost conscious. They don't care what manufacturing processes you use. So, how do I recover these things from other aspects? How do I ensure that whatever I am delivering exceeds expectations?

Datta: I want to throw this open. When you say that you are adding value in your industries, are the customers focusing on more reliable product at the same price or lesser price, or has it allowed you to charge a premium?

Kolahal: Actually if we talk about retail, traditionally when you apply these technologies, they are actually improving sales. In my experience with a jet engine component manufacturer in Germany, they were producing this blade disk column. They looked into the whole thing but said specifically that they were looking at improving accuracy of producing these disks. So we hooked up that machine with 5G technology with a latency of 1 millisecond. I am talking global because in India we still have to start that journey.

Datta: I will add one more bit to it. Some of these (technologies) are extremely reliable abroad if you a have a WiFi, but what do you do in India? How reliable are your sensors?

Roy: If you look at it, there are two aspects -technology and people. I am setting up a new factory and I can make sure the technologies are appropriate for industry, all machines talk and everything is on the same platform. In terms of people I can make sure that the base level of recruitment, let's say an ITI who can actually absorb all these technologies. On the other hand, in legacy factories, we sometimes have people who can barely read and write. In the north, people would not understand English and most displays were in English. So we made manual handwritten correspondence to each screen and got somebody to write it out in Hindi so that people could understand.

Datta: When there is older labour in factories, you can upskill them. What about behavioural change? Behaviour is the hardest thing to change, not the skill level.

Malkani: There are challenges we see in adoption of new technology. I mean you can get the best technology in the world but finally it's the person on the shop floor (who has to use it). We did not talk so much about the human aspect of it. There are concepts like human centered design now.

Roy: My experience is that in legacy factories with older people, if you go and tell them that this is what needs to be done, they will go and do it. The younger generation is a little bit more difficult, since they have a mind of their own. They will do only what they feel is right. So my personal experience working in factories has been that if you are able to make them understand what you are trying to do, the older generation have a much better ability to take things forward.

Kolahal: I will comment first on the value which you are talking. Ultimately, whatever we are doing, is going to finally have an effect on the customer. But I strongly feel that business is about humans, so we are talking about what the customer will pay, and why he will pay. Our biggest competitor is imports. But yes, skill development is a journey. Look at local languages. I don't know Tamil but I have a workforce who knows only Tamil, so that is a challenge.

Saxena: We talk about a multi-lingual workforce being a challenge. But Prosenjit, one thing you are referring to is embracing the change. I think you are right because in some ways, a lot of it has to do with the behaviour aspect of the individual and there is always a class of people who will not change, hey just refuse to do it.

Datta: It's also a case of the empire shrinking. He was controlling the 20 people earlier; he now only has three because it's being done by a machine.

Malkani: There is this quote by Mukesh Ambani that data is the new oil. In the next 5-10 years, the biggest new vocation will be data sciences, everything will have a whole set of data sciences. Do you see it already happening and how you are planning for that?

Roy: We see huge potential. So the question is how many data scientists you have, and would you be able to keep them fully engaged. Every employee can have basic knowledge of the application of data science and its impact, but he will not be in a position to do the work of a data scientist.

Saxena: If you ask me, data science is a commonly abused term. Today, a person who claims to be a data scientist assembles data analysis. But these are not data scientists, these are people who know how to use a specific package and there are a lot of companies that are training and turning out people claiming to be data scientists. Finding a real data scientist is a challenge because today someone using your platform also has his own data analytics.

Kolahal: One start-up with whom we are working is working with L&T and has wired up all the lape machines. If the lape machine is idle, it is a loss of productivity. It has to be top down approach - you just can't spread sensors on the shop floor and say I have data and am going to confront you. There was a movie called Moneyball; it was about identifying baseball players purely using data and not just the reputation of the players.

Datta: Coming to Moneyball, there is also a counter clash because when the data scientists started, they realised that engineers, who were white males, were building biases into the algorithms, which then automatically choose accordingly.

Saxena: There is always a dark side of technology. They say there may be robots that are able to not only decode language, but also invent their own language. If that happens, machines could talk to each other in a language which humans cannot understand. So there is a dark side of every technology.

Sharma: We have just created a common data analytics cell. What we have done is we have attached them with a CXO. The veracity of the data can be checked and we can try to reduce the black side so that the collisions are not in the domain side but towards the enterprise side. Actually, it's quiet effective now.

Rajeev Dubey: My question was about while technologies being adopted that are changing manufacturing. One area is distributed manufacturing through 3D, which means you won't need mass factories for shoes when you can make it according to your foot. (Rajeev Dubey is Editor,, and Managing Editor, Business, TV Today Network.)

Sharma: We need to differentiate between subtractive manufacturing and additive manufacturing because there are certain cases which are right for technology like 3D. Whether is a mass customisation or prototyping, 3D is going to assist traditional manufacturing.

Malkani: Additive manufacturing is truly a transformative paradigm as it gets manufacturing much closer to the consumer. Apart from established use cases on 3D printing, I think there is huge application for innovation. I mean the most basic thing we have seen is where we have 3D printed cappuccino cups with design on top at CCD.

However, I think as we progress from plastic to other materials, it can really transform many industries and get manufacturing closer to customers. And on top of that is 3D printed food which can get children engaged in toy types of things which are nutritious. There are start-ups talking about these things. That is really a transformative change but it will have to be combined with advances in material science today. Maybe plastic, concrete and other things can be 3D printed.

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