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BW Businessworld

Digital Transformation In Manufacturing And Design

The spread of the Internet has provided customers with significantly more information and a wide range of choices to which the manufacturing industry has to cater

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We are looking at the dawn of a new era as the manufacturing industry transforms itself in the digital age. Companies now understand the long term benefits of digital transformation. Digital is the new future; it will soon be obsolete to conduct business as we have in the past.  

The spread of the Internet has provided customers with significantly more information and a wide range of choices to which the manufacturing industry has to cater. To do so, manufacturers including those engaged in the B2B have to hit more aggressive deadlines, provide a high degree of customisation and small volume orders. Manufacturers are now willing to try out new strategies, working models and adopt the latest technologies. 

In a recently concluded roundtable organised by BW Businessworld with some of India’s finest leaders setting the pace for India’s digital transformation, a wide range of topics were discussed including the factors responsible for digital transformation, managing native designs and the role of technology.    

The era of digital Darwinism:  

With every industry going digital, those who do not take the digital leap are bound to fail. Vice President and Global Head at Harman Industries, Mohan Krishnaraj used the evolutionary concept of Darwin to elaborate on this point.  

He said, “This is the era of digital Darwinism, only those people who jump to the digital medium will survive as that is the need of the hour. Only the fittest can survive, and today the fitness is measured on the experience you are delivering to the end-user.”   

Digitalisation is a major challenge for the manufacturing industry as companies are now reaching a new set of consumers by going online.  

Mohan said, “There were a lot of non-consumers on digital, but they are now your consumers because you open yourself to the digital space. As a result, your scope of work expands beyond your set of existing consumers.” 

He also highlighted the importance of manufacturing industries becoming more “people-centric.”  

He said, “Earlier we would make product and see how people will react to the same but in today's world you have to put people first in your manufacturing strategy/design, and it also has to be location independent.”  

Providing the right user experience is the key to success: 

The secret behind a company’s growth is providing the right user experience above everything else. In today’s world, buyers are more empowered to look somewhere else if the experience is not up to their standards.  

Head- Digital Transformation at Fenner India, VR Chandrasekar cited the example of e-commerce giant Amazon to prove his point. 

He said, “Customers look for value for money. With the advent of Amazon in the e-commerce space, everyone is looking forward to a similar kind of experience elsewhere. Not just for ordering a product, but for its entire lifecycle.” 

“Customers are looking forward to a smooth superlative experience. They want to know the location of the products, date of shipment and arrival. This can be made possible only through digitalisation, i.e. I need to interact in the back-end with the logistics provider and furnish all the necessary details,” he added. 

Chandrasekar pointed out that providing the right customer experience will reflect in the sales. He said, “Increased customer attention and better customer experience will lead to more sales and increased revenue.”     

A new set of challenges in the digital age: 

The push into the digital age brings its unique set of complexities and challenges. 

Country Head Design and Manufacturing & Media Entertainment - India & SAARC at Autodesk, Parminder Singh said, “Customers are increasingly demanding smarter, more customised, and sustainable products. This is now leading to more complicated products being designed and manufactured.” 

Parminder pointed out that the same has resulted in a lot of complexity.  

He commented, “The design part not only contains software but also involves electronics. When such complexity tags alongside mechanical parts and systems, not only it leads to complexity in design, but in manufacturing too.” 

Also, there is a lot of competition in the market too. 

“Organisations need to have a competitive advantage by providing whatever the customer is asking for in a shorter timeframe than its competitors,” he added. 

Parminder highlighted the role of automation in accelerating product development.  

He said, “The usage of AI in product designing has reduced errors and speeded up the product development process. What earlier used to take 6-9 months to complete is now done in a week to 10 days. Such goals should be achieved and the platform should be such that it enables convergence, automation and collaboration with flexibility.” 

Executive Vice President (Technology & Engineering) at Praj Industries, Anant Patil stated that strategic planning plays a key role in the manufacturing industry for the implementation of digital transformation. 

He said, “For process and manufacturing industries, strategic planning should be of key importance in digitalisation. It should come from the top management itself. Unless and until there is a will to do the same across the organisation at each level, the digitalisation project does not fly. It is experienced that if the top people take it as the strategic initiative, it gets implemented quickly.” 

Anant highlighted that conceptualisation of digital transformation for manufacturing and business process is a key in the digital world. 

He said, “During the process of transformation towards digitalisation, one needs to understand the business processes and decide on how it can be digitised, digitalised & used for value addition to all stakeholders.” 

Example/Cases of Digital Transformation:

Parminder Singh shared examples from Autodesk India to highlight how digital transformation is taking place in the manufacturing sector. 

Parminder said, “One of the leading EPC organisations in India is using Autodesk’s platform in various stages of its journey from winning the bid to execution and commissioning. A lot of accuracy and analysis is required in this, alongside past information.”   

“This is happening through our platform where we are providing solutions like Vault, Vision 360, BIM 360 and that is leading to increased efficiency and reduced number of errors,” he added. 

Parminder provided another example of how Autodesk is providing the necessary support to Titan Engineering and Automation (TEAL) in its digital journey. 

He said, “TEAL is in the business of providing end to end engineering solutions right from conceptualisation to the commissioning of automation systems. TEAL can make a difference in their solution from design to delivery using our platform.”   

Need to tackle separate silos between departments in a manufacturing firm:  

Data silos act as a major deterrent in sharing information across departments in the manufacturing industry. This leads to decreased efficiency and hurts revenue generation. 

CIO at Finolex, Diptesh Patel said that he followed the mantra of business process-reengineering (BPR) before implementing any new technology.  

“Generally, I follow the philosophy of driving the business process reengineering program before implementing any technology. One hires a business consultant and lets them move around, interact with all the respective stakeholders, understand the current process and bridge those gaps keeping in mind business process improvement, best practices and technology fitment. 

“You then get everyone to the table and conduct an art of possibility workshops and identify the technologies that are most relevant to business which you should be considering for adoption," he added. 

The panellists concluded the roundtable by stating that though digitalisation is important and the pandemic has indeed speeded up its adoption, there is no need to go 100 per cent digital at least for the next couple of years. 

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