Indian Manufacturing Must Leverage Automation
Macro global forces such as globalization, emergence of knowledge economy, the narrowing divide between developed and developing economies, and demographic changes are ushering manufacturing transformation. While this transformation is taking place, consumers are increasingly demanding value for their money and instant gratification. While the influence of these forces may vary from industry to industry and company to company, at the macro level almost all companies are subject to time-to-market and cost pressures and other associated challenges. Although the overall growth of the world economy continues to spur manufacturing, only companies which continually discover ways to reduce costs and tightly couple all activities along the value chain have a chance to succeed in the fiercely competitive world. Manufacturers are squarely addressing these challenges by thinking out-of-the-box to optimize manufacturing processes and identify afresh controllable cost centers. Global companies extensively leverage automation to ensure productivity, improve plant availability, product consistency and quality, and such others, and they look upon automation as a business enabler and not as a technology enabler. It is necessary for Indian manufacturing companies also to leverage automation for achieving overall business goals, and they cannot ignore the imperatives of leveraging enabling technologies.
From a historical perspective, manufacturing, which essentially is a series of operations that transform inputs, such as raw materials/components by deploying human and financial resources through processes, sprung up close to demand or raw material centers, dictated largely by the value-addition criterion. As the global economy expanded resulting in demand spurt, manufacturing responded by transforming itself. Whether it is process, hybrid, or discrete, manufacturing transformation is a continuous saga of change. Manufacturing companies are moving away from vertically integrated structure to horizontally linked network models. Spanning countries and continents, companies are becoming an extensive network of enterprises, with networks extending beyond manufacturing supply chain to include design and engineering. Companies are seeking design, operate, and maintain (DOM) interoperability. The DOM interoperability ensures continuous iterations to reduce costs by continuous review and evaluation mechanisms relating to products or processes, operational and maintenance strategies.
In the present day world, business is done at the speed of thought, and therefore it is necessary for manufacturing companies to be agile both in spotting opportunities and in competitively responding to them. While opportunities are global, in many manufacturing segments, the world is awash with excess capacity, and in that scenario, what is important for manufacturing companies is in achieving ‘availability-to-promise’.
Role of Automation
The success of a manufacturing company will be determined by their ability to become globally competitive and successfully integrate with the emerging globally extended enterprises. Companies wanting to become agile, competitive, and globally networked must extensively deploy automation. While the automation at the plant-level deals with real-time decisions that impact shop-floor operations, automation at the enterprise-level relate to business decisions that are mostly transaction based. Since today’s business is done at the speed of thought, the enterprise-level support decisions have a direct bearing on the production and scheduling decisions that cascade down to the shop floor operations.
Actionable Information and Real-time Performance Management
Therefore, manufacturing companies have to invest in automation to become more agile, gain visibility across the extended supply chain, and synchronize their production and business decisions. They require synchronized actionable information which comes by deploying collaborative production management systems including manufacturing execution systems (MES) that link plant floor systems to enterprise solutions. With actionable information at its command, the company can seek Operational Excellence (OpX) or Continuous Improvements (CI). OpX is an on-going journey, and companies have to constantly work at it, year after year. Real-time Performance Management (RPM) is the key to achieve continuous improvement or OpX. Real-time Performance Management (RPM) is taking decisions based on Actionable Information provided by Collaborative Production Management (CPM) Systems. Automation helps a manufacturing company to efficiently deploy its resources — men, material, and finances. Automation brings within the company’s sphere of influence the factors that affect the deployment of these resources. For achieving this, synchronized actionable information is the key.
Indian Manufacturing Landscape
The booming Indian economy with a surging domestic demand and global growth opportunities are spurring India’s manufacturing companies to expand. Let us take a look at some of the manufacturing verticals, where Indian companies are moving beyond targeting the domestic market. These companies are going beyond exploiting factorial advantages and are seeking sustainable competitiveness. And in these endeavors, automation has an important role to play.
Some companies in India, having made a successful transition from operating in a sellers market, have emerged as global-sized world class companies capable of competing in a free market. Examples, such as the recent take-over of Corus by Tata Steel and the bid by India’s aluminum major Hindalco for Novelis, show how some of these companies are aggressively pursuing global growth opportunities through mergers and acquisitions. The pharmaceutical industry has witnessed many M & A deals. These trends clearly indicate that Indian manufacturing companies are plugging themselves into global networks. Their success will be largely determined by their ability to achieve convergence among people, processes, and technology; and this convergence is achieved through collaborative automation.
The automobile industry in India is going at full throttle. Spurred by domestic demand, India, the third largest manufacturer of compact passenger cars and the fifth largest commercial vehicle manufacturer in the world, is emerging as a major automotive market. The automotive industry in India, with its industry hardened homegrown vehicle manufacturers, the large number of quality conscious auto component suppliers, abundant supply of knowledge workers, and management talent, facilitates the growth of automotive companies. India is emerging as a global manufacturing hub for compact cars and auto components. The success of the automotive and auto component industry will largely depend on companies’ ability to competitively design, engineer, make, and supply them on time. Automation plays a crucial role in the success of automotive industry living up to the promise.
Globally Extended Enterprises
The Indian steel industry, the ninth largest globally and producing around 38 million tons of steel per annum, is on the upswing. Additionally with rich bauxite ores, the country is also a leading producer of aluminum. Indian companies in the metals segment realize that the way forward for them would be to segregate value chain into primary metal and finished products. The demand for high-value added finished products is beginning to expand in Asia, while the production facilities for the same already exist in NA and Europe. Their strategy is to integrate their facilities in India with the already existing finished products production facilities in the mature markets where the demand still exists for finished products. While this strategy helps them to meet the growing demand for finished products in India and Asian countries by maximizing the return on existing assets by integrating them vertically, their ultimate success depends on integrated and synchronized automation across all geographically dispersed plants.
The companies in the oil and gas segment have challenges which include sourcing crude, its transportation, refining it and distributing the refined products. They have to squeeze their margins by efficiently scheduling their crude supplies and by optimizing the refining processes among others. With some of the companies in the refining segment emerging as significant exporters of refined products, these companies have to adopt automation in a major way to manage their assets to maximize profits.
India’s pharmaceutical industry, presently ranking fourth globally in terms of volume and thirteenth in terms of value, is growing. Domestic pharmaceutical companies, keeping abreast with global developments and adopting new technologies with relative ease, have created good manufacturing practice (GMP) compliant facilities to produce and formulate drugs. Although some of them have taken strides along the drug discovery path, their main forte continues to be generic drug market. With generics pipeline worth around $30-40 billion remaining full, India’s pharmaceutical companies have ample growth opportunities. Wanting to seize growth opportunities, some of the pharmaceutical companies in India have taken the route of growing through mergers and acquisitions.
While Indian manufacturing have done well in adding production capacities and building economies of scale, it is time for them to evaluate how well they are leveraging automation technologies. While they are extending their reach beyond the Indian shores with export earnings growing robustly, it is time for them to evaluate how well they are leveraging automation technologies to achieve agility, supply chain efficiencies, and productivity improvements across globally extended and networked enterprises.
Global companies extensively leverage automation and they look upon automation as a business enabler and not as a technology enabler. Indian manufacturing companies have to leverage automation for achieving overall business goals, and they cannot ignore the benefits of leveraging enabling technologies.
The success of a manufacturing company will be determined by their ability to become globally competitive and successfully integrate with the emerging globally extended enterprises. Companies wanting to become agile, competitive, and globally networked must extensively deploy automation.
Manufacturing companies have to invest in automation to become more agile, gain visibility across the extended supply chain, and synchronize their production and business decisions.
Rajabahadur V Arcot
Director of South and South East Asian Operations, ARC Advisory Group