According to a leading analyst firm, by the end of next year, 30 percent of our interactions with technology will be through conversations with smart machines. The manufacturing sector has already taken a lead in this direction by deploying high levels of automation and enabling data exchange across the board. Factories have been turned into smart factories and shop floors have become safer, productive and innovative, and this is just the beginning as there is still a long road to tread as we move forward on this innovation superhighway. Industry 4.0 as it is popularly referred to relies on several key technologies including autonomous robotics, simulation, horizontal and vertical system integration, the Industrial IoT (Internet of Things) and cybersecurity.
These technologies are transforming manufacturing like never before and are poised to bring in efficiencies, productivity enhancements, safety and sustainability. Such technologies are also generating unique use cases in India as well, meeting the unique challenges that we have seen so far.
Industrial IoT (IIoT) is set to transform the Indian manufacturing landscape as well. Manufacturers here are already using IoT for tracking assets, increasing equipment efficiency, preventive maintenance, supply chain management and more. Proof of concept projects are also running in various areas as manufacturers try out the best possible combination of technologies, processes, human intervention and outcomes.
A large manufacturer in Maharashtra is using IIoT to streamline its supply chain. Its factories have a huge vendor footprint spanning multiple cities across the country and abroad. Cargo coming in has to be synched with production schedules and delivery commitments to customers. Hence, the whole process has to be orchestrated with precision. Every bit of cargo is tracked till it reaches the warehouse from where the production teams’ takeover. The shop floor is also IoT enabled with devices tracking the position of each employee and machines sharing data such as temperature, speed of various components, production efficiency, movement of carousel etc.
Another manufacturer is using IIoT to manage equipment health. Each equipment shares data on its current state, state of inputs and essentials such as oil and variables influencing its performance at an optimal level. This data is monitored from a central hub from where help, in the form of maintenance staff, can be dispatched at short notice if required. Since this entity operates in a precision environment, manufacturing a critical component for a defense hardware manufacturer, the data is also shared with the client as part of an agreed compliance process.
In other cases, IIoT is helping ensure safer working environment for employees, cleaner production environment, preventing industrial espionage and more.
Why is it important?
The Indian government has made “Make in India” initiative a priority. The goal is to strengthen India’s manufacturing prowess while providing a nurturing environment for Indian and international manufacturers to manufacture here. For Make in India to succeed, Indian manufacturers need to manufacture more efficiently, cost effectively and deploy all-round innovation to stay competitive. Industrial IoT will help do that. By streamlining supply chains and processes, reducing operational costs, improving safety and environmental conditions in the workplace, manufacturers can afford to focus more on improving competitiveness and on business strategies while IIoT strengthens their ability meet quality norms and other criteria.
The significance of IIoT should also been seen in the context of the competition Indian manufacturers are facing from entities located in other parts of the world such as South-East Asia. Embracing IIoT will give Indian manufacturers a clear competitive advantage. Also, with norms around pollution and clean manufacturing tightening due to countries voluntarily adopting international protocols, the onus will shift to manufacturers to prove that they comply and are following green and sustainable manufacturing processes and norms. IIoT can also help here as it can give manufacturers clear and precise data to facilitate intervention-oriented decision making to improve production and reduce practices that could cause strain on the environment.
IIoT can, not just transform our manufacturing sector but also serve as a strong platform for adopting clean, safe and environment friendly manufacturing processes. It is now up to the sector participants to embrace IIoT and work towards integrating it with their supply chains, processes and manufacturing methods. All said and done, IIoT will be a strong ally for Indian manufacturers to succeed on a global stage.