By: Kathryn Gerardino-Elagio
The Asia-Pacific economy is challenged with countless urgent and possible problems and threats. One of the many hurdles industrial players in the region face is how to adopt smart manufacturing technology quickly, whilst seamlessly integrating legacy equipment and machinery. This challenge merits close attention and serious consideration.
Mr. Inbavanan Rathinam, Senior Director, Solutions & Services, Asia-Pacific at Rockwell Automation explained how enterprises in Asia-Pacific could be future-ready, especially with the growing attention on sustainable operations in an interview with International Metalworking News for Asia.
Adopting smart manufacturing
For a company to implement smart manufacturing successfully, it demands processes to be intelligent, aware, connected, and responsive. Inbavanan said that adopting smart manufacturing often requires a phased, evolutionary approach.
"Manufacturers incorporating these changes must account for both short- and long-term benefits, allowing them to identify competitive advantages and establish a market leading positon. The most successful manufacturers design systems that allow for the mining of valuable data insights from their production processes by carefully choosing their entry point," he explained.
Inbavanan added that implementing smart manufacturing typically starts with identifying available manufacturing data, assessing readiness, and maturity, before developing a blueprint, and identifying the necessary tools, practices, and investments to realise the vision. He emphasised, "The execution requires careful selection of a highly-secured technology stack that allows for seamless connectivity between various assets and integrated processes."
"Equally important are the new skills and competency needed with the relevant stakeholders to maximise the new processes, deriving optimised business outcomes," noted Inbavanan.
Inbavanan revealed how LifeCycleIQ Services can help industrial manufacturers address the adoption of smart manufacturing technology here in APAC quickly whilst seamlessly integrating legacy equipment and machinery.
"Many organisations have lingering issues with aging legacy infrastructure, skill gaps within the workforce, and supply chain issues that hinder their ability to adopt smart manufacturing. Through its consultative engagement model, LifecycleIQ Services provides a comprehensive, trusted, and long-term partnership solution for our customers throughout their product lifecycle journey, supporting them to successfully adopt smart manufacturing in order to maximise productivity and stay competitive," he expounded.
Inbavanan added that having a secured, well-connected infrastructure and a seamless integrated process is vital for smart manufacturing adoption. This starts with an assessment of the current status and identifying quantifiable targets before building out a digital transformation roadmap to achieve these goals.
"Through LifecycleIQ Services, Rockwell Automation designs, develops, and implements bespoke digital transformation strategies for our customers. LifecycleIQ Services combines legacy expertise and innovative technologies to help companies maximise their systems, processes and plant investments across the enterprise lifecycle," he further added.
According to Inbavanan, the significant advantage LifecycleIQ Services brings to manufacturers is reducing inefficiencies and minimising waste to maximise output. At the same time, digitalising manufacturing processes is crucial to increase end-to-end agility to drive innovation, future proofing the business.
"Through leveraging data analytics, Rockwell Automation is able to help business gain a deeper understanding of their clientele’s behaviour to create a unique digitally-enhanced customer experience. This results in a competitive advantage that fosters brand loyalty, augmenting customer acquisition and retention efforts," he stated.
Customer experience in APAC
Inbavanan shared that they have worked with customers across various industries across the region, including food and beverage manufacturing, chemicals, and life sciences to implement LifeCycle IQ Services. "Its discernible benefits include helping businesses quicken market launches, lower ownership costs, improve asset utilisation, and improve enterprise risk management," he mentioned.
"For example, a large tire-manufacturing player in the region was facing high downtime risks which would have increased production costs had the manufacturing environment not been properly maintained. Due to its a highly complex control system, the organisation needed additional expertise to manage and support the plant in terms of technical domain expertise for speedy problem resolution, optimised asset management, and 24/7 support," Inbavanan said.
He disclosed that the company partnered with Rockwell Automation for an Integrated Support Agreement which allows ready access to spare parts, remote technical support, on-site preventative maintenance and parts replacement (with fixed fees) to help regulate their entire manufacturing environment.
"Rockwell Automation completed a first-year support contract which helped the company save productivity losses by addressing issues and anomalies in real time. The customer was so satisfied, they have extended the program for three additional years and the scope to other plants in Asia Pacific," Inbavanan remarked.
Smart manufacturing transformation
In this highly competitive and rapidly changing technology landscape, the convergence of Information Technology (IT) and Operational Technology (OT) under a common governance structure is key for smart manufacturing transformation. The holistic management of manufacturing lifecycles is imperative to ensure that systems, machines, and processes work faster, smarter, and with greater agility.
Inbavanan pointed, "This is where LifeCycle IQ Services comes in. With its tailored approach and end-to-end solutions, LifeCycle IQ services combines in-depth consultation, deep technical expertise, and industry knowledge to to improve operational performance at every stage of the process: innovate, design, operate, and maintain."
He disclosed that even in its nascent stage, the market is huge, providing a play for every company in this transformation. In general, software companies may lack in-depth expertise and knowledge of the OT domain. Aligning IT and OT is fundamental in optimising the business performance and processes. The advantage Rockwell Automation can offer is in the seamless convergence of OT and IT environments to achieve critical business objectives.
As of today, Inbavanan stated that the company is currently working with several strategic global regional customers on large and mid-sized digital transformation programs in the region, with a focus on targeting Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) to accelerate their transition into Industry 4.0 through smart manufacturing solutions.
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