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Enhancement of Competitiveness for  Heavy Engineering Equipment and  Machine Tools
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Enhancement of Competitiveness for Heavy Engineering Equipment and Machine Tools

October 1, 2022 3:15 pm

Entering robots and IIoT into manufacturing, increasing infrastructure, construction opportunities, and automation trends in the heavy equipment and machine tools industry and revamping the manufacturing sector are optimistic considerations of experts.

The heavy engineering and machine tools sector consists of the capital goods industry. The industry is de-licensed, FDI up to 100 percent under the automatic route, and technology collaboration is allowed freely. Import of old and new machinery is permitted freely. Heavy equipment and machinery engage heavy-duty vehicles, most frequently involving earthwork construction. The Machine Tool industry is considered the mother industry as it supplies machinery for the entire manufacturing sector.

The global machine tools market was valued at USD 77.22 billion in 2021 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 5.7 percent until 2030. The world is moving towards adopting artificial intelligence and digitalising operations. The IIoT increases efficiency and automation in manufacturing. IIoT has relevance to all kinds of Industrial monitoring applications and finds use in most manufacturing processes using cyber-physical systems such as sensors, software, instruments and devices. Machinery manufacturers are integrating digitalisation and data-oriented solutions to enhance competitiveness and productivity. Hence productivity generated by automated technology is expected to fuel demand in the heavy engineering equipment market. Moreover, governmental support such as PLI and other incentives propel manufacturing excellence and quality growth.

 

Opportunities for robotic calibration 

There are numerous ways to capitalise on the opportunity regarding calibration. Taking cognisance of the prevailing scenario, Mr. Vaibhav Shah, Managing Director, Asia Pacific, India and UAE region at Automated Precision Inc., remarked, “There are a lot of startups and many others in the industry who want to offer calibration services. They buy the equipment to enter into this servicing business. In certain ways, it is profitable because many CNC machines exist in the industrial areas.” India has several industrial zones and cities thronged with CNC machines. Hence, there exists ample opportunity for any new company to enter this type of business. At the same time, it is an excellent opportunity for all OEMs to have these tools as primary offerings. 

Companies with more than twenty, thirty or a hundred machines can improve their quality processes by making calibration mandatory. And implementing this simple method is quite productive. All of them can manage and monitor those machines year after year. It can be described as more of a health check. Further, this market has a lot of potential with so many robots entering into processes. Robot calibration has become a very niche area that few people know. This is a fabulous opportunity if someone is serious about getting into this field.

Robotics manufacturing 

The growing usage of robots is bringing more precision. And it is destined to bring competitive improvement to businesses in the heavy equipment and machine tools industry. Mr. John Leo Ignatius, Business Line Manager, General Industry, Robotics and Discrete Automation, ABB India Limited, stated, “The sector is competitive when output is at a certain level, and it is quite good in terms of quality and price. All of this is only possible if there is a multiplier effect.” Also, because technological advancements in robots result in less power consumption, the products are produced at a lower cost. The robotics industry, in general, is in its infancy in India. It has significantly less robotic density as compared to China. India aspires to be a manufacturing powerhouse over the next decade. This illustrates the current state of the economy. Machine tools are essential in providing employment opportunities in the economy.

Instilling quality for manufacturing 

At its most basic level, competence and quality go hand in hand. The manufacturing quality means conforming to specifications. Competence in the context of quality management is the ability to apply relevant skills, qualifications and knowledge to the operations to achieve implied results. Explaining quality and competence, Mr. C. S. Sharma, Joint Director and Head- PMU (UAS) in Quality Council of India said, “While talking about competence, we can see that the entire world is moving away from qualification-based systems toward competence based systems.” As equipment and machines are becoming increasingly complex with innovative manufacturing methods, workers need to hone their skills to become competent. 

Competence is a combination of knowledge, one or more skills, and certain attitudes. The industry has to design the academic curricula on the emerging needs of the industry concerning the specified job roles required to complete the task in the current context, elaborated Mr. Sharma. The academia has to be ready with those solutions regarding skill competency and course curriculum. If this integration is successful, the task will be more simple to handle.

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The industry is not getting the correct type of proficiency with skill. So, the imminent solution would be to instil quality through training among the workers. That will fill the industry gaps with a trained workforce. The qualification alone will not suffice. Consequently, prioritising competence in practice for professional ability to manage workflows is essential.

Prospects for competitiveness 

The optimum utilisation of resources that a manufacturing unit or facility must have should be utilised to the fullest extent. The basic requirements are the same across sectors, which are applicable to the heavy machinery sector. It is valid even if it is a raw material, workforce or machine used in manufacturing. As a result, optimisation of all those resources must be identified regarding the latest technological interventions on the shop floor, competence building, regular training, and workforce scaling. If concepts are effectively applied, where the man, machine, and material are optimised for efficient and effective use, then the competitiveness of existing industry can be increased, points out Mr. Sharma. Many challenges in the case of MSMEs are visible because big companies are still investing in those interventions. 

Still, small-level companies or MSMEs are not focusing enough on those aspects. However, the government is currently undertaking several initiatives based on specific quality-related interventions, such as the PLI scheme. Suppose the government places a high priority on competitiveness for building and enhancement. In that case, the manufacturing sector and software industry associations should take advantage of policy decisions made by the Government of India and intervene accordingly. As productivity and quality rise, so will their competitiveness. Today, economic benefits and technological developments have become critical factors for creating corporate value and enhancing industrial competitiveness.

Transition to the localised initiative 

The ‘Make in India’ campaign has been successful since its inception. It took a slow and steady start, but MSMEs are doing fairly well today. They are in the right areas and are now understanding and utilising more available market research before jumping into any particular industry. Heavy engineering is an area where India excels. In terms of raw materials, we have a lot of steel and primary raw materials available at pretty reasonable prices. We don’t import too many of these goods, and the processing cost is very efficient here in India because workforce costs are so low. Mr. Vaibhav states categorically, “Today, the entire Make in India initiative is a huge success because of these SMEs now processing heavy engineering goods and supplying them to larger international players or foreign companies with Indian subsidiaries or operations in India.” 

The globalisation approach the current government has implied over the last ten years has also invited many large manufacturing companies in India who are in this heavy sector. These MSMEs are now producing the outsourced components, acquiring a stake in the OEMs and supplying them. So, like in the automotive industry, it’s now a tierone, tier-two, and tier-three supplier game. Earlier, the companies were limited when they could only supply a certain number of items or were defined in their business capacities. So there’s a lot of potentials there. Make in India can be improved further if the government supports these MSMEs if their visions or ideas fail and they are bailed out.

Mr. John clarifies, “The localisation initiative is one of the backbones of Atmanirbharta. But, the initiative that would ramp up the localisation initiatives is the production linked incentive scheme that has recently been introduced.” The PLI scheme has outlined incentives that have been earmarked across different industries. Today, the automotive industry is clearly seen as the biggest beneficiary of this PLI scheme. The localisation efforts will come when the production also shifts towards India. So, we have the capability already in place. And the other sector that will get even more localisation is the electronics, such as the manufacturing of smartphones, consumer goods, etc. A lot of localisation is coming into play. The government has set the right platform for companies even to go further. Now we have to start thinking differently to become a reliable manufacturing destination for some global OEMs who will set up shops in the future. Many other technologies needed for effective manufacturing operations have started to make inroads. SMEs do not necessarily come into the spotlight because they are not the ones who are making large investments. But, they always form a backbone of the entire supply network, be it automotive, machine tools, or plastics industry, just for instance. A policy or financing scheme should be available for those companies to catch on to the wave of localisation and benefit. That would create a very harmonious and very economically sustainable society in the future.

IIoT, an accelerator for enhancing automation

 The pace of innovation and technology acceleration has been faster in present times. Innovations are changing the face of modern manufacturing. Various innovative measures have been developed and adopted that allow automated manufacturing processes to become less energy-consuming, cost-saving, environmentally friendly and digitalised. Manufacturers are integrating newer technologies. In this context, Industry 4.0 is an evolution focusing on interconnectivity, machine learning, and big and real-time data. Industry 4.0 encompasses IIoT and smart manufacturing. IIoT or digital technologies involves connecting machines and data management that increase the production and improve productivity and quality of what we are already doing, points out Mr. John. The industrial IoT supports manufacturers in making the right decision. Since the manufacturing landscape is changing, a lot of flexibility is needed in this system. There have been supply chain shortages, which means one cannot plan production in a brief period. It has to be well planned to improve manufacturing and supply chain efficiency from management. 

Taking a different perspective, Mr. Vineet Seth, Managing Director – South Asia & Middle East, Mastercam APAC, states, “Configuring the IIoT systems is vital for the processes and given that there are many players – domestic as well as international, businesses will require a costefficient and reliable deployment across their manufacturing.” Modern IIoT systems are highly customisable. They are structured to display information related to disruptive events. The input information leads to scheduling the output, and functions have to be integrated. There are different levels of integration that have to happen. Industrial IoT enables manufacturers to connect their machines to the internet. And such machines capture and communicate real-time data more accurately and consistently than was possible earlier. Real-time data from IIoT-connected systems allow manufacturers to take preventative measures against the issues before they surface. That results in saving downtime and enhancing productivity. But, the most significant benefit of automation that one can derive is making the right decisions at the right time, explains Mr. John.

Going ahead 

Conclusively, it is interesting to observe how robots are coming in and how the whole industrial shift is happening. It is also pertinent to understand the fundamentals of quality and the simplest of things, according to Mr. Sharma. The most crucial point to be considered is that it is not very expensive to invest in quality. It’s just eight or ten percent of your actual revenue. We have to position ourselves as a destination; more focused on quality with a reliable supply chain, supply network etc. Flexibility is needed in adopting the newest technologies. We must start embracing the change happening already in the technological space. Robots are infiltrating the market, and industrial IoT has started making inroads adding value to manufacturing competitiveness for heavy engineering equipment and machine tools. The essence is to move for technology adoption going ahead.  

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