Fares Zaier
VP & Country Head- Germany & Austria, Enterprise Business
Tech Mahindra

Supporting the Factories of the Future

At a time when other countries were building better connectivity, Germany with its flourishing economy reserved a sweet spot for manufacturing and large-scale production in Europe way back in the 19th century. To date, Germany has retained its position as the breeding ground for industrialization. Even when production took a hit in 2020 because of the pandemic, Germany’s contribution to ‘sold production’ remained the highest in Europe at 29%1. The driving force behind this success is a constant endeavor to outperform previous accomplishments; nothing embodies this mindset as perfectly as Industry 4.0 and its milestone of smart factories.

Germany is already one of the top 10 automated nations in the world, with 346 robots per 10,000 employees2. In the coming years, with more applications of AI/ML, and digital twin, along with hybrid edge-cloud-based solutions, businesses will be able to reduce computing costs further and enhance productivity and supply chain efficiency.

As connectivity improves from the shop floor to the top floor, manufacturers must also ensure a holistic view of their information technology/operation technology IT/OT security. Integrated Systems on a Chip (SoCs) will play a crucial role in enabling complete visibility across OT, IoT, and IT for improved security and accelerated digital transformation. Below are some of the technologies from where manufacturers can embark on the smart factory journey.

Smart Manufacturing – How Smart is Smart Enough?

Advanced digital technologies such as 5G, software-defined network (SDN), quantum computing power, and blockchain-based security, are waiting to make a grand entrance in the manufacturing industry. On the other hand, futuristic techniques, such as lights-out manufacturing, connected logistics, human-robot collaboration, and predictive maintenance, are gradually gaining mainstream attraction. The ask is simple: a responsive, adaptive, and integrated assembly line that aims to reduce time-to-market, streamline operations, and optimize costs.

Let’s look at how smarter factories can make it happen.

Digital Twin

The role of virtual spaces is becoming increasingly important in manufacturing, and seamless interactions between physical and virtual spaces will be crucial in executing remote operations. Here, digital twins can be a true game changer, where for every physical entity, a virtual mirror model is created. For an industrial enterprise, the best use cases for digital twins can be found in the areas of risk assessment, predictive maintenance, financial planning, and R&D. The result is a vast improvement in the manufacturer’s capability to analyze market trends, optimize operations, and make more informed decisions.

5G-Enabled IoT Infrastructure 

When coupled with the low-latent, ultra-speed 5G network, industrial IoT (IIoT) will help manufacturers solve the prosaic problem of real-time process optimization. Be it operations, energy consumption, material wastage, or stock levels, 5G is poised to bump up real-time monitoring abilities across the value chain. Wearable devices connected to an IIoT network can improve workplace safety by monitoring an employee’s state of health in real time.

Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality (AR/VR)

A manufacturing industry pipedream just a few years ago, AR is now stirring a revolution in the realm of smart manufacturing, where it speeds up the process of cross-skilling and on-field training. At a time when factories were operated with limited staff, demand for goods surged, and companies were left with only remote training options, AR technologies saved the day for manufacturing companies in the essential goods sector. Remote communication is yet another application where, with the help of AR technology, remote workers can collaborate with on-field staff for effective troubleshooting. The ability to place virtual assets in the real world can help shop floor managers determine whether an equipment can be installed within an allocated space. AR/VR can also be used to simulate how robots will interact with humans and their surroundings within a manufacturing cell.

Additive Manufacturing

Additive manufacturing or 3D printing can ramp up functional prototype fabrication, thus accelerating products’ time-to-market. It removes the limitations on geometry; a production line tailored for 3D printing is easier to modify compared to one that has been set up for traditional manufacturing. This makes the technology an ideal solution for manufacturers who cater to rapidly evolving markets.

In Conclusion

Intelligent manufacturing will be key to reviving the economic stability of Germany. Alternative procurement, touchless logistics and supply chains, agile new product development (NPD), rapid cloud adoption, and closed feedback loops with data analytics-based CRM will top the agenda for manufacturers. In addition to disruptive digital solutions, working with the right set of partners and creating a comprehensive roadmap with well-defined KPIs and robust governance will go a long way in helping organizations achieve their goals. Tech Mahindra is combining its expertise in digital solutions and a localized presence to help businesses capitalize on the tenets of smart factories. Through NXT.NOW™ and an upcoming innovation hub in Mannheim, German manufacturers can build the foundation for and traverse a guided roadmap towards the factories of the future.