Separator

Automotive Smart Factories: Selecting the Right Building Blocks for Future Readiness

Separator
Rajesh Kumar SharmaGeneral Manager & Head - Manufacturing TechnologyFiat India AutomobilesRajesh is a Mechanical Engineer graduate with a certificate in Leadership & Management from IIM Calcutta. He has more than 23 years of experience in automobile industry and has held technical & leadership roles in organisation like JBM, Honda Cars India, besides FIAPL.

Time is the best innovator. It brings its own set of innovations, thinking, and the way we wish things to happen. But behind every new thinking and inventions, there lies years of experience of working in an atmosphere where the wish to do things in a more better way remains. Today, to complement more better means of completing a work, advance technologies and products are coming to us at a very fast pace.

With dwindling expertise, processes becoming leaner, globalization of technology and to meet the never-ending customer demand, it is very important for factories to reorient themselves so that operational efficiency is at its highest level, in order to deliver product of the highest quality and at the most competitive cost, without compromising on flexibility. This will however not be possible if we continue to run our factories in the way that we have been doing till now. We will have to change, bring advance technologies, adapt to high automation, increase the digital footprint and connect with every resource with which we operate. In other words, our factories will have to become SMART.

Some key questions in our minds are - Do I really need to make my factory smart? If yes, then how do I do it? Where should I start & when? Will there be success?

There is a paradigm shift in the way people have started to think. Reactive is being replaced by a proactive approach and we have started to know when it is going to fail


Some key questions in our minds are - Do I really need to make my factory smart? If yes, then how do I do it? Where should I start & when? Will there be success? However, for all of the above questions, it is you who will have to decide. Your decision will be based on your vision that you have planned for your business in both the short-term and the long-term range. Once the firm’s decision of going for it is taken, which I feel is the most difficult one, the next steps starts becoming easier. Depending upon your prioritised need, your next step should be the total planning in terms of time, milestone, and the ability to pump resources. Here there is no need to rush, you have to set your own pace, but be very sure about your pace and closely monitor your milestone.

So in 2015 when we ultimately decided to go for the future factory they were three main challenges before us. First, increasing the automation level from present 20-85 percent level. Second, ensuring successful amalgamation of many new technologies as per the global requirement. Finally, making a World-Class Manufacturing (WCM) plant. WCM is a culture, an effective management tool, which plants can adopt to eliminate losses through the help of technology, people, processes, governance, and sustainability. Given the significance, fully imbibing the philosophy of WCM was essential.

With this in mind and with the strong support and backing of our top management team, a blueprint of the whole new planning was identified, efforts started taking shape and by 2016 end, we were ready with a plant which was highly digital, totally connected, operators and engineers knowing exactly what is happening on real-time basis, all data and reports readily available by a click of a button either on our laptops and on our smartphones. All this was made possible through the planned adoption of digital technologies like IoTs, camera-guided controls, high-end robotics, and so on.

Today, when we think about what we have done, did we achieve what we had planned to achieve, the answer we get is beyond what we had thought about. Travelling on the road of making the company smart we have opened new doors to connectivity, data collection, transparency and analytics. There is a paradigm shift in the way people have started to think. Reactive is being replaced by a proactive approach and we have started to know when it is going to fail. From here if we see where we will reach in the coming times - infinity is the word that comes into our mind. Because a solid start with a strong platform of a smart factory has been made. It is now for the younger generation to take it to the next level with every ones power of dream.