Digitization takes the Centre Stage for Manufacturing Sector

Digitization takes the Centre Stage for Manufacturing Sector
  • Edge computing, coupled with the power of cloud, has the potential to transform site operations, maintenance and factory floor automation for  manufacturing organizations.
  • As part of the modernization journey, supply chain is a key priority for manufacturing sector CIOs   with a focus on cost  optimization  and boosting efficiencies.

Digital transformation in the manufacturing sector is now being accelerated and it clearly demands for a fundamental paradigm shift in how business models and IT services are planned, built, and orchestrated within the organisation. This transformation has a direct impact on manufacturing business models which are now leveraging the cloud.

At the recent edition of “Digital Leaders Club”, curated by CORE Media and powered by Google Cloud India, CIOs from manufacturing enterprises and Google India executives, exchanged perspectives and experiences in adopting technology, the challenges and their future plans.

Anoop Mathur, Founder & President, CORE Media, who moderated the discussion, opened the session saying, “Manufacturing organisations are looking at cloud in a big way. It is phenomenal how the cloud has paved the way for newer business models and how the manufacturing enterprises are generating value in the entire chain of operations. CIOs are exploring technology, but every business comes with a set of digital challenges, issues and expectations. There are ample use-cases that testify the benefits of technology, but having the right cloud technology partner makes all the difference”.

Speaking about their digital transformation journey, the technology head of a large fertilizer and petrochemical corporation said “Automating with system-based approvals was just the beginning of the transformation journey. There are no physical documents now. Moving to a cloud-based environment became inevitable. SaaS based solutions are the first priority. And to avoid the limitations of physical access to data centres, public and private clouds were adopted. Digital transformation is no more in the planning phase. It has moved into the implementation stage and even if in a phased manner, businesses are expected to get onto the execution immediately”.

Sharing a solution on how manufacturers can accelerate their automation and how cloud can add value, Rajesh Shewani, Head of Customer Engineering, Enterprise - Google Cloud India said “Operational benefits that cloud can provide are given priority. Automation can be optimized along with it. Manufacturers will not automate processes at the cost of quality, efficiency and accuracy. Cloud enables hosting of processes in an operationally efficient manner and enhances the accuracy levels simultaneously. We have a dedicated division for agri-tech that is mapping the farm ecosystem and advancing into yield optimization, soil quality, water requirement and all this using machine learning algos”. 

HYBRID is preferred.

The CTO of a power generation and mining company spoke about the supply chain and logistics from digitization perspective, “Power plants are usually remotely located and the bandwidth is a major issue at these locations. So, we work on a hybrid model and we have adopted cloud in a way where mature products are readily available for deployment and add value to our core. Video analytics solutions to monitor pilferage incidents and GPS enabled tracking of the trucks help us to maintain a robust supply chain. We have deployed such solutions for overall monitoring too”.

Addressing the issue of deploying technology for remote location processes without causing delays and downtimes, Vishwanath Chandru, Head - Conglomerates Vertical India and SAARC, Google Cloud said “Sites are at times disconnected especially in the mining and energy enterprises. So, we have technology solutions for processes that happen on the edge where we have incorporated the event levels, supply chain forecasting, predictive maintenance and the specific process related problems that can cause potential disruptions. Distribution is another major area for the energy companies. We have created an end-to-end API mechanism to connect with the final distribution channels. Cloud allows us to incorporate the historical data elements and running algorithms at scale and this helps automate the processes seamlessly”.

CTO of one of India’s largest manufacturers of rubber and tea brand company, shared his concerns “IT cost-optimization is a key concern. Maybe here is the scope for improvement. We have not yet found a profitable solution and the right partner for starting the digital transformation journey at plantation, cultivation level and automating the entire operations.”

Digital transformation is not an overnight success. It is a journey that begins with a long-term vision and complete cultural alignment. Manufacturing is a sector that has traditionally been on the back foot on this journey. This could be because of the nature of the processes, the remote location plants, the vast spectrum of compliances and the need for processes to keep going.

Involving the stakeholders, customer-centricity is the key

Becoming customer-centric is the way to gain a competitive edge.

Streamlined logistics and predictive maintenance models can be derived with technology that will ingest, store, and analyse data across processes. In manufacturing, this means taking a holistic view of the business to identify how each business unit responds to the needs of its customers. Cloud can help this transformation in operations at an enterprise level.

Sharing his digital journey, the CIO of a real-estate business mentioned “Though we are working on a mix-match model. We have not yet got the right kind of product that can be tailormade and deployed across processes and seamlessly integrate the processes which takes care of all stakeholders. Integrating the forecasts across processes helps us to determine the marketing strategies and derive incremental value from the technology.”

Data and Security

Historical data collected across multiple projects and multiple processes becomes vital to generate forecasts, patterns and trends. While deploying new systems CIOs find it imperative to retain the historical data. This data then enables various forecasting modules and interdependencies of these forecasts across departments.

Sensitive data, services, and applications are meant to support internal processes. Sharing his experience on data security, the technology head of a leading infrastructure development company said “Cloud backups are a preferable solution incase of any compromise with the main systems. Local on-prems can be corrupted, but cloud backups are much more secured and data restoration is accurate. Workload monitoring has become more centralized. Our next step is to implement low-code no-code platforms. This accelerates the pace of automation of process documentation, process reports and creating more consolidated dashboards. However, this also requires a lot of budget monitoring”.

The members unanimously agreed that Hybrid Multi-Cloud is the model for the future. Google offers Anthos, a Hybrid Multi-Cloud that allows CIOs to use cloud native technologies without necessarily moving to the cloud. This helps retain the physical system in the data centre and parallelly run it on channel technologies like Kubernetes and DevOps in continuous integration and continuous delivery mode.

Manufacturing companies are on their journey towards Hybrid Cloud. CIOs are firm that their digitizing strategy must ensure gaining maximum business value from the incorporation of cloud services into the enterprise environment. They reckon a self-managed system with full control and one that integrates all processes without compromising the ongoing traditional applications.