In a free-flowing chat with CMR, Bharat Forge’s CIO, Yogesh Zope explains how the manufacturing giant is moving to the next industrial revolution

Interaction by Anil Chopra

Yogesh Zope, Group CIO, Bharat Forge Ltd.

Industry 4.0 or digital transformation of manufacturing is one the most popular buzzwords today and touted to be the next big leap in this sector. Many global studies have shown how early movers to industry 4.0 have achieved considerable gains in their topline and bottom line. So globally, manufacturers are busy putting 5-year roadmaps in place for industry 4.0.

In India, organizations like Pune based MNC, Bharat Forge are leading the industry 4 revolution and taking a first mover advantage. We spoke to the group’s CIO, Yogesh Zope to understand what they’re doing.

How the Journey Began

“We started our I-4.0 journey about 2-3 years ago with some workshops with Flipkart to understand how to leverage new technologies. We also studied how German and other global companies are moving forward with in industry 4.0”, said Yogesh. The group even tried to work with two startups in India but didn’t land anywhere. “We were just not able to get the required scale and speed”, he added. He feels that the maturity level of markets like Germany is very different from India, which is why the solutions they require are also very different.

The Winning Partnership

That’s when the group partnered with PTC and implemented their ThingWorx IoT platform for their digital transformation journey. A team was put in place, which started connecting all shop-floor machines with the top floor.

The group started by building an initial level of predictive analytics with Machine Learning capabilities and AI, which is actually inherent in the PTC platform. All machines were connected so that they could send all data to a data aggregator, sensors were installed to measure machine vibrations, and accelerometers were put in place for speed and direction, etc. So far, 16,000 lines have been connected.

The deployment has already yielded some benefits in predictive maintenance. For instance, it discovered a sudden change in the vibration pattern and sent out an alert at 2 AM in the morning, thereby reducing major downtime. “If such downtime can be reduced even for a single shift, then it delivers the RoI for that production line”, added Zope.

The deployment is a cultural shift actually and people are getting used to it. Earlier in ops analytics, someone would count the number of cases, put them into Excel, and enter it into the SAP system at the end of the shift. All that gets eliminated now as people have started getting info proactively for failures, pattern changes, etc.

Yogesh is confident that in the long run, the deployment would start giving out some real use cases very soon, in terms of productivity, quality, reduction in scrap, finding the root cause for downtime, etc.

Overcoming Resistance to Change

It’s extremely important to take all key stakeholders along when taking a massive step like this. Supervisors for instance are an important part of the Industry 4.0 journey. “Our Communication has been very consistent for the last 2-3 years about moving in this direction and that people have to gear up for changes that will come to the shop-floor” said Zope. It’s also important to re-skill employees for this. Bharat Forge for instance has put up an IoT lab, where people are getting re-skilled at a massive scale. “We’ll have 2,500 experts on I-4.0 who’ll be able to correlate all the data”, added Yogesh. In fact, the group’s Chairman wants their I-4.0 roll-out to not only be at par with any European company but exceed it.

Moving Forward

Augmented reality is a technology that Yogesh expects to come to the shopfloor in another six months down the line. Plus, there’ll be a dire need for experts who can correlate the massive amounts of information being churned out on the shop-floor. “A typical forging press for instance, throws out 150 odd parameters at a very high frequency. Currently it’s difficult to figure out what to do with all this data, so we need machine learning and experts to do the correlation. Moving forward, we expect algorithms to analyze standard and non-standard behavior changes.”, he added.

Yogesh also expects that moving forward, the deployment would ensure that there won’t be any abrupt mechanical failures in the press. Another benefit that’s expected is statistical process control, which would help predict product quality by detecting any pattern changes.

Key Learnings

One key learning from the I-4.0 movement is that you must have a goal in mind, which shouldn’t be about how many machines are being connected. That’s a technology goal, which shouldn’t be the case. “At the end of the day, what matters is how much scrap has been reduced, or how much productivity improvement has happened on the line as a result of tech”, he added.

Second, Yogesh added that from Day 1, their focus was very clear–deploy quickly and learn from failures. You can’t expect to reap benefits from day 1, so the management must be open to experimentation.

Third, I-4.0 journey has to be done jointly between IT and OT, else it will lead to conflicts. That’s because more than IT, you need a combination of manufacturing expertise and digital technologies. For this, you have to be able to speak their language, and build trust, which can be challenging.

Message for Other Manufacturers

Lastly, Yogesh advises that you have to be able to choose the right use case that can show results in a month or two, otherwise people will become skeptical. Since it’s a journey, the real benefits would only start to show in the long run.