Digital technologies are transforming our world. We are seeing feverish adoption of mobile internet, cloud technology, digital payments, and digital identity—technologies that will define and develop a robust digital footprint. While some of the large businesses in India have been quick to transition into this digital world, majority of the small and medium enterprises (SME) in the manufacturing sector are yet to put these digital technologies to work.
German technology powerhouse Siemens wants to change this scenario. It is pitching its first digital factory situated on the outskirts of Mumbai as an example of manufacturing excellence through the adoption of niche digital technologies. The factory has implemented end-to-end digitalisation across its value chain. The machines will rely on the Internet of Things (IoT) technology, where sensors are fitted on machines and the resulting data is used to improve and track their performance. “The digitalised factory is proof of how adopting digitalisation will help Indian industry, especially small and medium enterprises,” says Ashish Bhat, executive vice-president and head of digital factory, Siemens India.
For over 40 years, the low-voltage switchgear factory at Kalwa, Thane has been manufacturing industrial control products. The factory has kept pace with changes in customer demands while maintaining high levels of quality and reliability. With the advent of digitalisation, the factory has transformed into a globally-benchmarked showcase digital factory for Siemens—the third globally after one each in Germany and China—capable of producing over 180 variants at the rate of one product every nine seconds.
Karlheinz Kaul, CEO – Control Products, Digital Factory, Siemens AG, says, “The SIRIUS range of switchgear products that will be manufactured here requires a high degree of precision and quality at global standards that can be achieved only through digitalisation. The technical and engineering effort required to transform this 40-year-old manufacturing facility is a true showcase for Indian enterprises who wish to follow the path towards digitalisation.”
The Kalwa plant can now manufacture over 5 million devices annually, with just around 350 people. Products at the facility communicate with machines and all processes are optimised for IT control, resulting in a minimal failure rate.
Siemens officials insist that the production methods deployed at the plant are expected to be the standard for small and medium-sized manufacturing units in India. According to Bhat, the need for localising global products and adapting them to the local conditions has been the priority at Siemens in India. “Digitalisation will help us engage with our customers and industry suppliers across the complete value chain. A key element in this evolution is an improved technological prowess and a world-class product manufacturing plant.”
A digital roadmap
Bhat stresses that SMEs can utilise digitalisation to address growing demands such as mastering increasing product and process complexity, reducing time to market, adapting to changing market requirements, deliver individualised products and secure continuous product improvement.
The low-voltage switchgear factory has achieved end-to-end digitalisation across its value chain through Product Lifecycle Management software such as NX and Teamcenter, Totally Integrated Automation (TIA) Portal and manufacturing execution system. These solutions enable design of products, tools and equipment, master data management, automation, process simulation and product traceability. Apart from the above, the business process has also been digitalised into a paperless system from order entry to finished product packaging. The machines interface with each other seamlessly resulting in an ultra efficient production line which produces 1 product every nine seconds. In addition to planning and setting up the factory, huge emphasis has also been given to the skilling of the employees in this era of digitalisation. Relevant and practical training modules have been implemented over the last two years.
In sync with Digital India
Siemens officials emphasise that the upgraded factory is the most advanced switchgear manufacturing facility in India and is in sync with the government’s ‘Make in India’ and ‘Digital India’ initiatives. “It is a unique story which Siemens is showcasing to India. Here, all the data is transformed in a digital format. This is a completely digital workshop that starts at the level of product R&D all the way through manufacturing simulation and then building the manufacturing facility from the optimised and simulated product and plant data. This is what makes it unique.”
Bhat remarks that as the world is moving towards industry 4.0, India will also have to move with it if Make in India has to succeed. “This will mean that we have to adopt and adapt new technologies in our manufacturing right through our supply chains. The production methods deployed at our plant are expected to be a standard for small and medium-sized manufacturing units in India, achieving a visionary model for the future of manufacturing: end-to-end digitalisation where the real and virtual worlds merge in digital factory.”
The digital factory has become the “golden standard for Industry 4.0”, a reference to the “fourth industrial revolution” comprising cloud computing, the industrial internet of things and factory automation. Needless to say, Indian manufacturers have the unique opportunity to blend the availability of advanced manufacturing technologies with lower cost labour to create extra-ordinary competitive advantage. Automation, digitisation and digitalisation will need to be adopted to trigger the growth of SME’s which truly form the backbone of any manufacturing supply chain.