#BoschConversations on Why I4.0 is the Way Forward for SMEs

Date:February 29, 2024

Author name:Gajendra Mohan Jha

Date:February 29, 2024

Author designation: Business Head, Phantom

We are witnessing seismic shifts in the manufacturing paradigm. From the upward swing in mass production enabled by the previous industrial revolutions, we have now transitioned to mass customization with Industry 4.0.

But how is mass customization made possible at scale? Take a look at the stats- around 1 TB of production data is created daily by an average factory. And yet, less than 1% of the data gets acted upon in real time. Industry 4.0 is making it possible to leverage the power of IoT at scale. With connected devices communicating real-time data to a centralized planning hub, decisions get taken a lot faster, downtime reduces drastically, and many more possibilities for innovation open up.

digital and IoT


Understanding the Power of digitalization for SMEs

The SME sector in India contributes to 45% of industrial production. Despite this contribution, there are several challenges ailing the SME segment. As compared to larger enterprises, SMEs lag significantly in terms of productivity. This is a direct result of inefficiencies in processes resulting from a lack of technology driven approach. A number of SME owners and managers get stuck with operational issues which handicaps them from measuring their current productivity levels and potential areas of improvement.

Uwe Georg Fischer, MD, Kern Liebers (India) talks about the benefits of connected devices with a simple example, “Think of the amount of time and productivity lost when a machine breaks down. In a scenario without IoT, a terrible amount of time could be spent in getting the systems running again. First, it’ll take time for maintenance engineers to arrive at the site. Further, more time will be spent to understand the problem and gather all data needed to figure out the root cause. In a connected factory however, as soon as a machine stops, a notification is sent to the maintenance team who can get information like operating speed, energy consumption before breakdown, irregularities etc., so they already have a hint of the problem before they reach the site. This enables them to solve the underlying issue quickly, helping productivity get back on track.”

Measuring productivity levels is first step towards improving them.

For manufacturing units to understand their current levels of performance, it becomes imperative for them to know, how much data is being produced, where it resides and how to analyze it.

Simple technologies which answer these questions could go a long way in helping SMEs improve their productivity significantly, while reducing costs and improving ROI. Yet, SMEs are often tempted to keep running their business as usual without considering new technologies, unless market changes force them to adapt.


Why is it difficult for SMEs to embrace technology?

No matter how good the data is, no matter how many methods you have in place to analyze it, if the people aren’t able to follow and understand the technology, it won’t work.

Uwe Georg Fischer is responsible for coordination and implementation of new solutions at Kern Liebers. He highlights a major impediment in technology adoption for SMEs. “Often SMEs feel that IoT only works for big firms and they don’t see how exactly new technologies can benefit them. I, on the other hand, have a different opinion, based on my past experience. Very often, the machines that even smaller enterprises buy, come with IoT capabilities which they aren’t even aware of. Most of the times it’s only a question of capturing and analyzing the data which is already available.”

While people have been quick to integrate technology with their personal lives, technology integration in work lives especially in factory setups still meets resistance. From treating technology as a threat to jobs, to looking at it as a cost center, there are various myths which prevent SMEs from leveraging the full potential of digitalization.


How can we address technology adoption challenges?

Mr. Krishnamoorthy, Senior Director at IMTMA (Indian Machine Tools Manufacturers Association) discusses the importance of developing and introducing new training programs for enhancing competitiveness of SMEs. “At IMTMA, we strongly believe that training and skill development plays a crucial role in adopting new technologies. SMEs think that implementation of new technologies will need a lot of budget and time, which honestly is not true.” he remarks.

technology adoption

It is crucial for industries to start thinking how they can maximize the potential of their existing assets, given the current level of resources. The real benefit of Industry 4.0 comes from data sharing. With a two-way communication established, data can be shared across the entire network, from supplier to the customer. This leads to a better understanding of both perspectives. Moreover, integration of customer feedback becomes convenient which in turn helps SMEs manufacture the right products which are likely to have more acceptance in the market.

Ms. Hema Bhandari, Head of Purchasing Supplier Development, Bosch India, states, “SMEs are now understanding the drawbacks of handling a large number of processes manually. Manual supervision not only takes away valuable time of an important resource but is also more prone to errors. Erroneous data leads to wrong analysis and subsequently wrong decisions. Phantom has worked great for our suppliers in helping them transition from manual to automated data capturing and analysis. We handhold our suppliers throughout the entire digital transformation journey. Starting with supplier enabling, and helping them improve their lines to understanding their concerns and then coming up with affordable industry 4.0 solutions which address the existing challenges.”


How does Phantom help?

Phantom solutions brings together sensors, software and services under one umbrella. Phantom is an intelligent real-time asset monitoring solution, led by algorithm operating at Edge. The solution non-intrusively taps into an electrical network to gathers power signatures, while our algorithm analyses these signatures to provide in-depth analysis of productivity metrics (OEE) – Availability, Performance and Quality, energy consumption and analytics tools to undertake trend and correlation analyses.

Phantom help

The solution is easy to use and is almost intuitively learnable for end-users. The platform features dashboards for daily reports, incident-based alerts and notifications, metric reviews, real-time monitoring of machines and critical charts to get a bird’s eye view of the overall enterprise performance.

The objective is to drive continuous improvement by improving visibility, transparency and accuracy.

As the world fights its battle with the pandemic during these pressing times, the need for digital transformation has become inevitable. More and more firms have started realizing that going digital is not an option anymore. However, the new normal should not be defined by a threat rather than by a proactive approach towards embracing technology. The ‘perform or perish’ market landscape is demanding and to be able to be able to reciprocate to it, technology will form the most crucial underlying layer for enterprises that want to sustain and thrive.

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