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Modern Day Technologies & their Role in a Manufacturing Setup

Gyan Pandey, Head Digital/CDO, Voltas

Gyan is a seasoned IT professional with over three decades of experience in diverse tech areas. Prior to joining Voltas in 2022, he has successfully handled key positions across numerous companies such as Aurobindo Pharma, Enrich, Qatar Petrochemical, International Turnkey System, Oracle India, GE Capital, Panasonic, and PricewaterhouseCoopers, to name a few. Some of his areas of expertise include Digital Strategy, Global Delivery Management, ERP Implementation, PMO and Competency Management.

In any manufacturing setup, the primary focus areas for organizations are ways to make the manufacturing process agile, maintain flexibility, efficient inventory management and ensuring zero defects and downtime. To implement these practices effectively, data plays a pivotal role in the organization. Since every machine, system or equipment that is part of the manufacturing setup produces data, it becomes easier for an organization to take informed decisions provided real time access to data across all the touchpoints. To ensure that a manufacturing plant stays operational without any disruptions, it is important for the organization to keep track of the health and status of various equipment within its production facility by collecting data from various sensors, PLCs and SCADA.

Next, this data can be analyzed to derive meaningful insights about different parameters of each equipment and accordingly make changes in processes wherever necessary. Also, correlating the data, gathered from various manufacturing processes with the supply chain data, enables the organization to have better production planning. It also helps the organization to optimize its entire production process in such a way that they produce only the required quantity of goods. This way, organizations can prevent their inventory from piling-up and save significant working capital. Furthermore, data is the one true enabler that helps manufacturing companies to improve visibility across their end-to-end production process, giving them the opportunity to improve their process efficiencies wherever possible.

Ensuring the Security of IoT Data

The more digitization penetration happens, the higher the risks of cyber-attacks. Since there is always a business objective behind taking-up any kind of digital initiative, the primary challenge that most manufacturing companies face is ensuring the security the data that is being gathered through various sensors that are integrated with the systems and machinery. As a result, it is paramount for every manufacturing company to strengthen its security measures, especially in the case of its IoT devices and sensor data. Depending on the existing IT/OT landscape and the kind of solutions that the organization has opted for, this can be done in several ways. Also, if the organization is storing all the IoT data on cloud, it must ensure that all the necessary security measures and solutions are in place so that the data is not exposed to any unauthorized entities through the internet. Some of the other simple, yet effective measures to ensure security of IoT data within a manufacturing setup include segmentation of the networks, regular patching of OS, database and antivirus, having complex password management, implementing two-factor authentication wherever feasible, efficient monitoring of access logs and many others.

To maintain competitiveness in the market in terms of supply chain, manufacturers must procure their materials at the right time, in the right quantity.

Challenges in Integrating Modern Technology Systems
Most of the traditional manufacturing companies have equipment that are older generation machines and are heavily CAPEX oriented. Some equipment might be capable of generating data and some might not be. Even if the organization gets external sensors to gather data from these older generation equipment, it might not be possible to integrate those external devices onto those equipment. This is one of the most common challenges that many manufacturing companies are currently facing. Also, many systems are still running on end of life OS such as Windows 7/8, making it extremely difficult for organizations to balance between their operations and cybersecurity risks. Additionally, any kind of new digital tech implementation demands a lot of changes in terms of job descriptions, employee trainings and other key aspects. Convincing various stakeholders to accept these changes is another tough nut to crack for organizations while implementing modern day technology systems.

Mitigating Supply Chain Risks
Maintaining supply chain efficiency has been one of the most important topics in the boardroom meetings across almost every organization globally, especially after witnessing the huge supply chain disruptions caused by the covid pandemic. Today, supply chain resilience has become even more important due to the currently ongoing geopolitical crisis worldwide. To maintain competitiveness in the market in terms of supply chain, manufacturers must procure their materials at the right time, in the right quantity. Most organizations have a manufacturing plan for every month which is devised one or month in advance depending on whether they are following make-to-order (MTO) or make-to-stock(MTS) policy. Make-to-Order is preferred a lot by most manufacturers because you only produce the goods according to the received order, thus having fewer risks in terms of making excessive production. However, MTO or MTS is more driven by industry vertical dynamics. In case of make-to-stock, it is critical for the manufacturing companies to pay close attention to various factors such as the demand in the market, seasonality if any, warehousing & logistical facilities, existing product inventories and many others, and accordingly plan their production.

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