Today around 70% of the owners are on the Livelink platform but the remaining 30% still pose a challenge.
By Srinath Srinivasan
JCB India, the leading manufacturer and supplier of heavy construction machines, recently unveiled plans to invest Rs 650 crore in setting up a new plant in Vadodara, Gujarat. This will be aimed at increasing production to supply for global markets, making it a major exporter of heavy earth moving machinery. Along with this, it launched Livelink, a digital offering which will introduce a first of its kind OEM support for JCB’s clients in India – a control room that will monitor the health of machines sold with the help of sensors and telemetry, help customers track their machines real time and use geo-fencing to prevent theft and illegal use of the machines.
“We, as the OEM, are linked to machines 24×7 via the Livelink platform. Along with us, the owner of the machine and the machine operator are also on the platform,” says Subir Chowdhury, MD and CEO, JCB India. The Livelink platform currently monitors 1,30,000 machines. “In addition, the owners can use a mobile app to check all aspects of the machines – the battery, engine temperature, water level, etc,” says Chowdhury. If a machine is stolen, because of the tracking features available, the litigation process to find these also become simpler.
JCB uses an Industry 4.0 ready manufacturing facility to make these machines. “We don’t just train the operators, we train the technical staff and give them access to assemble these machines only if they ace the requirements,” says Chowdhury. There are also provisions on the automated assembly line to lock out personnel if they are not found ready.
Chowdhury says that gender diversity in the plant is also strong with nearly 30% of the shop floor employees being women. The work on this facility is headed towards what aerospace industry is into at the moment. “From Livelink we are moving to phase two – the intelly,” claims Chowdhury. This will enable operators to digitally operate and optimise the machines they work with without touching the levers and buttons.
Chowdhury feels by 2021, the company will be able come up with predictive technologies because of the growing number of sensors that go into the machines. The data gathered could be fed into machine learning models that could help with predicting various incidents related to a machine in its lifetime and in turn help improve the products and manufacturing processes. “Already Livelink provides cost reduction and machine utilisation. Any other feature we add will be on the incremental side,” he says. Currently, none of the digital efforts are open to developers.
In expanding the platform there are some barriers to cross. For instance, the infrastructure across the country to develop and deploy these machines is not even. In some places the telecom network coverage is very poor. Then there is the cultural problem of making the customer accept digital in a heavy engineering segment. Today around 70% of the owners are on the Livelink platform but the remaining 30% still pose a challenge.
“We have to work out new ways to create awareness. We have to first connect them to our dealerships and then to the platforms,” says Chowdhury. In Europe, some of JCB’s competitors are already trying out autonomous earth moving equipments. It’s just a matter of time before JCB finds itself in the ring with them in advanced cognitive technology.