Dr Vishad Rahangdale, Chief Information Officer, Electrotherm (India) Limited

For smooth integration of the various stages of the production value chain, manufacturing enterprises are adopting new IT solutions like industrial internet of things (IIoT) to extract information from the plant floor and along the supply chain, and turn it into actionable insights. Meanwhile, social media, mobile, cloud and analytics (SMAC) technologies are helping industries gain real-time insight into market trends and customer preferences. Going forward, the role of robotics, 3D printing and augmented reality in manufacturing operations is expected to increase significantly. Leading enterprises talk about the key IT trends in manufacturing and their own IT initiatives…

How have IT solutions helped manufacturing enterprises enhance business operations?

In India, as far as the adoption of IT and telecom is concerned, the core manufacturing sector is perceived to be lagging. In general, these organisations are inclined towards time-tested practices. However, since the first decade of the 21st century, there has been a huge shift in the manufacturing business from traditional to contemporary IT solutions. The reason for adopting IT or telecom are different for every manufacturing or­ga­nisation. In the case of Electrotherm, the need to ease the in-built rigidity led to the transformation. We are a multi-location and multi-product conglomerate. As the company expanded horizontally and vertically, new challenges like management and control started surfacing. The situation prompted us to re-visit our IT infrastructure strategy, and invest in bu­il­­ding IT infrastructure across the group. Our telecom partners also played a pivotal role in this endeavour. Today, Electrotherm is a highly networked company, benefiting from its investments in IT infrastructure.

What are the technology trends in the manufacturing space? How has been the adoption of new technologies like IoT, M2M and the cloud?

IT has become like adrenaline in the manufacturing sector. Its initial adoption has induced more flexibility and agility in manufacturing businesses. Moreover, consumerisation of IT has pushed organisations towards decentralisation in many ways. To retain their competitive position, organisations are also aggressively adopting new disruptive technologies such as IoT, machine-to-machine (M2M) and cloud. Meanwhile, the penetration of SMAC in the manufacturing sector is quite significant.

“IT has become like adrenaline in the manufacturing sector, and its initial adoption has induced more flexibility and agility in businesses.” Dr Vishad Rahangdale

What are some of the IT initiatives taken by your organisation in the past few years? What are the company’s plans going forward?

During the past couple of years, our focus has been on digitisation and the adoption of innovative SMAC technologies. Even though SMAC technologies are largely in place, digitisation is still an ongoing process in the company. The key IT initiatives taken by the company pertain to analytics, customer relationship management, consolidation, mobility and cloud computing. Going forward, our emphasis will be on moving from the capex model to the opex model. Moving on to the cloud platform is also on the agenda and we gradually plan to explore IoT and M2M technologies.

What are the key challenges in the deployment of IT and telecom solutions?

As far as the challenges are concerned, data security threats are a major cause of concern for manufacturing organisations. Augmenting the IT infrastructure to make it less vulnerable is also a big challenge. Therefore, it is essential that IT and telecom solution providers make their solutions highly secure. In today’s highly interdependent and complex networked world, it is not sufficient to have a secure immediate solution partner. In fact, the entire ecosystem has to be secure. Further, the solutions have to be dynamically adaptive. In addition, there should be redundancy within the solution. This is very crucial for continuous manufacturing operations. Lastly, the seamless integration of high speed machines within manufacturing operations and data exchange between them are other challenges.