Artificial intelligence and analytics, connected machines, digital manufacturing simulation, robots and automation, virtual and augmented reality: Tech Mahindra’s Factory of the Future Lab in Bengaluru is a web of futuristic technology solutions, much on the same lines as GE’s Brilliant Factory in Pune. Smart manufacturing or Industry 4.0 is the new nomenclature doing the rounds and Tech Mahindra is gunning to master it, even as the world expects robotics to have five times the capability in year 2020.
According to a study by IDC, there is an opportunity of $4.5 trillion for economic value-add across the manufacturing value chain—$1.1 trillion in the factory itself. And Tech Mahindra has built the Factory of the Future Lab to address this opportunity by enabling digitisation of factories. Says Aloke Palsikar, global head of manufacturing at Tech Mahindra, “We want to enable our clients to be ready for Industry 4.0, with as less a disruption as possible.”
The seeds were sown when a top management team from Tech Mahindra visited the Singularity University in US a couple of years ago, when it dawned on them what the future had in store. The management realised that as a system integration (SI) player, one can’t have a monochromatic view of technology and decided to launch the Factory that would enable its customers to benefit from myriad solutions under one roof. There was an urgent need for the shop floor to be connected to the enterprise system. The Lab was set up in double quick time.
GE had already shown the way in this regard with its multi-modal manufacturing facility at Chakan in Pune, that is based on GE’s ‘Brilliant Factory’ concept. The multimodal factory has the capability to produce multiple, diverse products for varied businesses that creates a digital connect across three major areas of the value chain—product engineering, manufacturing and supply chain operations. The facility integrates machine data and reduces downtime.
Tech Mahindra, too, is working on similar lines. Its Lab is working on high-end tech solutions, keen on forging a deep confluence of cyber and physical systems. The immediate challenge is to make the robots work seamlessly, making them connect with the station. Predictive mechanism is another piece of work at play here. “The infrastructure and the assets in the lab are already being monetised to create customer-centric solutions,” says
The cost of robotic operations is down to about $6 per hour these days. A scaled down model of a manufacturing system includes integration of sensors and a vision based robotic system that demonstrates the concept of the Industrial Internet of Things. Tech Mahindra is currently executing automation integration on the shop floors of multiple brownfield projects to upgrade the plants for digitisation.
“Labs like ours can change the face of our industry. It is important that the shop floor becomes very transparent to the customer,” Palsikar says. The augmented reality (AR) system at the Lab provides assistance with visualisation of complex assembly and repair suggestions. This is a boon for plant maintenance, helping the service engineer complete the task at hand in quick time. Further, the firm’s track and trace solution allows the user to track every tightening and riveting tool on the shop floor because each tool is smart and connected. Since the location of each tool is known, the solution automatically deploys the right programme to the tool. The other aspect is the use of artificial intelligence and analytics. Predictive maintenance and quality tool is employed for the engine machining line to predict quality issues and failure patterns.
Tech Mahindra had revenues of $4.2 billion in FY16, with manufacturing being the second largest vertical, contributing almost 20% of its total global revenues. The company is betting on the Lab to give it the cutting edge that it badly needs.