Manufacturing challenges and structured approach for digitilization

Manufacturing has become the backbone for India and with growing demand in both domestic and exports, it has become imperative for the enterprises to look for ways to produce more with consistent quality and that too at a lesser cost. Challenges faced in plants have also grown multi-fold due to rising raw material cost, skilled workers availability, quality issues, pressures of improving process and machine efficiency

Traditional ways of manufacturing with just use of machines and high level of robotic automation will not help to manage the complex and multilevel challenges being faced in current situation. Manufacturers have reached to a level where they have maximized the benefits from machines, to get to next level of efficiency and productivity use of digital technologies will be must. Over the last few years, I have got opportunity to engage with more than thousand manufacturers from all sectors across the country. While there have been few exceptions but many of the enterprises specially SMEs are still struggling with ROI calculations, where to start and who are the right solution providers

There are also multiple apprehensions in SMEs like technology is expensive and will make value only for large enterprises. Many have said building digital skills is daunting and consumes lot of time and money. Another deterrent for adoption is that workers will not accept it and run away.

While all these concerns are real but thankfully not very difficult to manage. What we need is structured approach to move towards digitilization. Good thing is that many of the proven tools, frameworks and solutions used by large global enterprises are available to us to leverage. For example, to understand the current challenges, gaps in processes and technology the digital maturity assessment framework can be of big help. This methodology enables prioritising areas for technology adoption through considering current cost structure, business KPIs to be focused and benchmarking with leading enterprises in similar industry.

Design Thinking is another methodology being extensively used by global enterprises to identify solutions that workers will accept as they become part of ideation and solution development. There is no reason why both these concepts cannot help small and medium level enterprises in finding a way forward to be efficient and productive.

Most critical element of transformation journey is to build a digital mindset where management understands the applications of technologies on shopfloor and workers are open to use automated digital solutions. Basic level of workshops and promoting self-learning behaviour in organization can help in building minimum skills needed to digitize. When it comes to assessing ROI to decide on adoption, both direct and indirect benefits and cost needs to be considered. As this is not straightforward so better way of getting confidence is to do deployments at small level in plant and scale later based on the benefits received. Considering most of digital solutions comes as SAAS option, they are quick to deploy and need low initial investment thereby making it easier to do Proof of Concepts.

When it comes to deciding what solutions to deploy, start should be on building machine level connectivity and creating capabilities for operations visibility. Based on the insights from the machine and worker data lot of future decision can be taken on technology prioritization areas. Asset management with capabilities to do condition monitoring, quality inspection, AI based process optimization, inventory management. Compliance tracking should be next level of applications to be considered as part of plan.

Finally, technology adoption should be planned with long term focus considering company’s future business objectives rather than trying to handle immediate challenges. Proven frameworks and tools that have been consistently used by large enterprises needs to be leveraged and used in planning digital journey. Doing small PoCs will keep bringing learning and confidence.

At digiXLT, we are passionate about guiding enterprises build digital capabilities and adopt low cost and quick to deploy solutions through these standard methodologies, tools and frameworks. If you have questions on how to go about digitization write to us as