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Industry 4.0: Making engineering exciting and manufacturing smarter

 With ‘smart’ being the latest buzzword in India, it only becomes natural for sectors within to try and take up smart concepts to increase output. One sector that, as per engineers, could derive maximum benefit from smart technology to create greatest degree of societal impact, is Indian manufacturing.

Also, with technology experts predicting the onset of the next industrial revolution, viz Industry 4.0, Indian manufacturing should take significantly lesser time to lap up Industry 4.0. With smart manufacturing and industry 4.0 scenario in India being factors, Rahul R of EFY spoke to Gaur Dattatreya, Vice-President and Head of Business Unit at Robert Bosch Engineering and Business Solutions (RBEI), over a candid interview.

Q.What is smart manufacturing? Do you think that the Indian scheme of things is now ready for smart manufacturing?

A. A good question. Basically, smart manufacturing is bringing smartness into existing processes. This is done by implementing guidelines defined by the newest buzzword which is Industry 4.0 which is also termed as the fourth industrial revolution.

However, only time will answer the question as to whether the potential next industrial revolution would actually turn out to be a new revolution. Nonetheless, I think that Industry 4.0 is very exciting in terms of smartness that it brings to the table to make existing processes simpler. I also see new concepts solving a lot of on-ground issues that have been plaguing the Indian manufacturing sector. With these out of the way, society would potentially become a better place to live in.

Now, to throw light on the readiness of the Indian sector, I think that India is ready for Industry 4.0 considering the lesser time-divide with respect to technology adaptation from the developed economy.

Understand that the current Industry 3.0 has introduced technology like Automation, and Industrial Robotics. Therefore, Industry 4.0 would introduce aspects that are even beyond the Industry 3.0 technology.

A key component of the former includes an infusion of the Internet of Things (IoT) in the manufacturing segment. As this will involve lot of data along with sensors, innovative ideas will spring up to make manufacturing smarter. Here, machines will detect the parts to be produced, during the part transition time between machines, connected machines will also be able to download configurations (in the background) required to efficiently produce goods.

Q. Speaking about Industrial Revolution 4.0, do you have any timeline in mind as to when we can witness this?

A. Honestly speaking, I have no predictions as such. My interaction with industrial experts makes me think that India would adapt Industry 4.0 relatively quickly. Also, because the potential benefits of Industry 4.0 are very tangible and exciting, this whole prospect makes me stand up and take notice.

In summary, we are not under any time pressure or other factors with respect to adaptation of Industry 4.0 concepts. However, the writing on the wall is now being read clearly; this indicates that the newer technology is available, manageable, and we also have the technical expertise to utilise newer technical aspects here.

There is also a fear among industry experts that, in case we fail to fall in line with the next industrial revolution, we would definitely stand to lose.

Q. As far as smart manufacturing is concerned, what would be the essential technical elements here?

A. Data is the bottom line. Devices and sensors form the next layer of smart manufacturing process. Then, there is two-dimensional integration within smart systems.

In integration, it is worth understanding that there are two aspects viz Vertical & Horizontal. Vertical means interconnection of machines right from the factory floor, in tandem with the manufacturing execution systems layer (software systems to interconnect machine lines) to the Enterprise Resource Management (ERP) layer. This layer supports decision making, dashboards, and advanced planning. All these layers are seamlessly connected through smart technology to gather data to be taken to analytics platforms.

Horizontal integration comprises of the factory processes and the supply chain management layers. This also involves finished goods. By applying smart technology on finished products, issues such as best shipping techniques, shipping tracking techniques directly from the manufacturing line to the customer doorstep.

Potential triggering of e-payments can also be achieved by smart technology once finished goods reach customers successfully.

Q. What should be the degree of smartness that we should look at to make manufacturing really smart?

A. A very interesting question indeed. Here, it is important to note that a majority of our industrial experts believe our current industry to still be ‘Industry 1.0’. Penetration of smart technology is currently not high.

I think that there is a lot of headroom for the smart technologies to penetrate as far as our manufacturing sector is concerned.  An important aspect here is that smartness into manufacturing will eliminate manual processes and age-old mechanisms currently employed to detect proper working of industrial machines. This will be done through sensors, and running intensive data analytics.

Also, the new-age technicians will expect smart (and automatic) diagnosis as far as faulty machines are concerned. This can actually be accomplished by aspects such as the internet, analysis of fault history of machines, and finally knowledge sharing to the technician.

At Bosch, we work towards actively building knowledge base form technical experts spread across continents of the world.

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