Digital manufacturing enhances operational efficiency

  • Interviews
  • Oct 31,23
In this interview, Ranjit Patil, Head CoE – Manufacturing Operations Management, Tata Technologies, elaborates on transformations taking place in the Indian manufacturing sector due to the integration of advanced technologies.
Digital manufacturing enhances operational efficiency

As the government aims to India a $ 1 trillion manufacturing economy, digital manufacturing is emerging as a key enabler in this trajectory. Digital manufacturing enhances operational efficiency, facilitates innovation, and bolsters adaptability to evolving market demands, opines Ranjit Patil, Head CoE – Manufacturing Operations Management, Tata Technologies. In this interview with Rakesh Rao, Ranjit Patil elaborates on transformations taking place in the Indian manufacturing sector due to the integration of advanced technologies.

How is Indian manufacturing sector transforming with the arrival of advanced automation, AI, ML, IoT, data analytics, cloud, etc? 
The landscape of the Indian manufacturing sector has undergone significant transformations in recent years with the integration of advanced technologies. Automation has streamlined production processes, enhanced efficiency and reduced manual intervention. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) have played instrumental roles in predictive maintenance, quality control, and process optimization, contributing to improved overall operational performance.

The adoption of Internet of Things (IoT) devices has facilitated real-time monitoring and data collection, enabling better decision-making and heightened visibility across the production chain. Data analytics has emerged as a key driver, offering actionable insights for informed decision-making and continuous process improvement. Additionally, the integration of cloud technologies has revolutionized data storage, accessibility, and collaboration, fostering a more agile and interconnected manufacturing ecosystem. These technological advancements collectively signify a paradigm shift in the Indian manufacturing sector, positioning it at the forefront of innovation and efficiency on the global stage.

How is Tata Technologies supporting the manufacturing industry’s journey towards digital manufacturing?
Tata Technologies is a driving force in the manufacturing industry's transition to digital manufacturing. At our dedicated lab, we have established a state-of-the-art setup emulating a modern factory, employing advanced technologies like cloud computing, augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR), data science, and the Internet of Things (IoT). As parts move along the conveyor belt, they undergo real-time machine inspections for dimensions, shape, defects, colour, and overall condition. This tech-integrated environment allows us to automate quality control during production. This not only enhances the efficiency of our production processes but also serves as a showcase of our commitment to embracing Industry 4.0 technologies.

Moreover, our commitment extends beyond our lab initiatives. We actively collaborate with industry peers, research institutions, and technology providers to create a dynamic network for knowledge exchange and innovation. By investing significantly in skill development programs, we ensure that our workforce is well-equipped to navigate the challenges and opportunities presented by the digital transformation. This strategic approach, coupled with our advocacy for a supportive regulatory environment, positions us at the forefront of contributing to the industry's profound digital evolution in India.

What steps is Tata Technologies taking to develop the Industry 4.0 ecosystem in India? 
In contributing to the development of India's Industry 4.0 ecosystem, Tata Technologies employs a strategic and collaborative approach. Beyond our cutting-edge lab initiatives, we actively engage with industry partners, research institutions, and technology providers. This collaborative network becomes a catalyst for knowledge exchange and innovation, expediting the widespread adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies across the manufacturing sector.

Simultaneously, our significant investments focus on skill development programs. By empowering our workforce with proficiency in artificial intelligence, data science, and IoT, we ensure they are well-prepared to navigate Industry 4.0 complexities and leverage emerging opportunities. Additionally, our proactive involvement with policymakers and advocacy for a regulatory framework supportive of technological integration underscores our commitment to creating a conducive ecosystem for seamless Industry 4.0 integration in India. Also, we are working with multiple State Governments in India to transform their Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) into Industry 4.0 Technology Centers which will upskill youth on latest manufacturing technologies.

What are the key hurdles faced by companies when they adopt (or plan to adopt) automation/digitalization? How can they mitigate these hurdles? Any tips to make adoption hassle-free?
The primary challenges in automation adoption often revolve around resistance to change, high initial costs, integration complexities, and data security concerns. To mitigate these, fostering adaptability through communication and training is key. Detailed cost-benefit analysis, phased implementations, and strategic alignment with business goals address financial hurdles. Prioritizing seamless solutions, collaborating closely with IT, and conducting small-scale pilots ease integration challenges. Robust cybersecurity measures and a culture of security awareness effectively address data concerns. The holistic approach ensures a smoother transition to automation.

The hurdles of employee skill gaps and workforce transition also pose significant challenges. Companies can address these by implementing targeted training programs, partnering with educational institutions, and strategically hiring external talent to bridge critical skill gaps. Furthermore, continuous evaluation and adaptation of automation strategies based on key performance indicators contribute to a successful and hassle-free adoption journey.

What are the emerging trends in the automation and digital manufacturing space?
In automation and digital manufacturing, trends include a shift to edge computing for real-time decision-making, the integration of 5G for enhanced connectivity, and increased use of AI and ML for predictive maintenance. Digital twins are gaining ground for simulation and optimization, while collaborative robots (Cobots) work alongside humans to boost efficiency. Blockchain secures supply chains, and AR/VR technologies enhance training. Sustainability is a key focus, along with advancements in 3D printing, cybersecurity measures, and resilient supply chains. Human-machine collaboration is evolving, and the industry is adapting to an ever-changing regulatory landscape.

How important will digital manufacturing be for India to become a $1 trillion manufacturing economy?
Digital manufacturing holds pivotal significance in India's quest to achieve a $1 trillion manufacturing economy. Currently, manufacturing contributes approximately 16 per cent to the overall economic output. To attain the $1 trillion milestone, a strategic imperative involves elevating this contribution substantially, aiming for a target of around 25 per cent.

Digital manufacturing emerges as a critical enabler in this trajectory. It enhances operational efficiency, facilitates innovation, and bolsters adaptability to evolving market demands. This technological shift is not just advantageous; it's imperative for propelling India's manufacturing sector into a higher echelon of productivity, job creation, and global competitiveness. Embracing digital manufacturing is, therefore, not merely an option; it is a transformative strategy essential for realising India's ambitions in the manufacturing domain.

What kinds of new opportunities are you looking to tap as digital manufacturing grows in India?
As we witness the evolution of digital manufacturing, our strategic focus centers on exploring opportunities within smart manufacturing. Emphasizing simplicity and cutting-edge advancements, our primary thrust involves harnessing the potential of the Internet of Things (IoT) to gather real-time data. This initiative aims to optimise processes, predict maintenance requirements, and enable data-driven decision-making for enhanced operational efficiency.

Additionally, we are enthusiastic about the integration of collaborative robots (Cobots), as valuable contributors to our factory floor. Operating seamlessly alongside our human workforce, these collaborative technologies enhance safety and efficiency. Furthermore, Unified Network Systems (UNS) play a pivotal role in our vision, ensuring seamless communication among all devices. By prioritising these opportunities, we are not merely adapting to technological trends but proactively shaping the trajectory of manufacturing in India, positioning ourselves at the forefront of innovation and efficiency.

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