How to create smarter SMEs in manufacturing sector?

Smaller manufacturers can significantly benefit from automation. The need of the hour is to create and communicate frugal automation solutions to these enterprises in order to serve the “Bottom of the Pyramid”, says Vikas Manral.
How to create smarter SMEs in manufacturing sector?
Smaller manufacturers can significantly benefit from automation. The need of the hour is to create and communicate frugal automation solutions to these enterprises in order to serve the “Bottom of the Pyramid”, says Vikas Manral.
 
As economies around the globe show signs of sluggishness, it’s time for Indian SMEs in manufacturing sector to capture Indian growth and in parallel start attacking global markets for higher revenues and growth sustainability. This can be achieved by enhancement in productivity, global cost competitiveness and improved & reliable quality. The use of smart manufacturing practices seems to be inevitable to achieve this transformation that has signalled a revolution in manufacturing sector. 
 
The major throughput to these smart manufacturing technologies is automation. Rapidly changing trends in the manufacturing industry and the increased expansion in the processing lines to improve productivity are impelling the growth of automation globally. The historical perspective of automation to be best suited to larger manufacturing businesses is changing. Manufacturers across the world have started using automation in production processes for “low volume- high variety” scenarios like marine, defence & hi-tech.
 
It is proved experimentally that approximately 80 variants of a product could be built in three separate production lines without automation & digitization.  However, 180 variants of the same product can be built in a single production line using automation. This widens the scope of viability of medium and small enterprises, while amplifying the importance of digitization in cost competitiveness and improved productivity. Smaller manufacturers can significantly benefit from automation.
 
While the long term advantages of automation to SMEs are undisputed, the focus on operational activities and lack of long term vision constraints smaller organisations to invest in automation. The procrastination on adoption of automation is often backed by paucity of funds and a high cost perception of automation solutions. The last few years have seen multiple innovations to ensure increasing credit availability to SMEs. The need of the hour is to create and communicate frugal automation solutions to these enterprises in order to serve the “Bottom of the Pyramid”. Also industries are to be educated on long term advantages that are associated with automation.
 
Some SMEs that have taken a leadership role in digitization and automation are often observed grappling to find skilled manpower. In a volatile and fast paced business environment, training has evolved as an indispensable function for all enterprises. SMEs must go for strategic collaborations with organisations that provide cost effective, robust, proven, and cutting-edge solutions to reduce their cost on technology development.
 
Automation is the first step towards a big journey but the actual metamorphosis will take place when these SMEs will transform into “smart factories” that will inherently meet deadlines, optimise throughput, utilise capacity, and enhance product quality on its own autonomously. These “smart factories” will be seamlessly interconnecting machines, physical systems and humans in real time through Internet of Things (IoT) and also connect other smart factories & design establishments across the value chain resulting into transparency, speed, responsiveness and higher value for the ultimate end user.
 
Studies worldwide have indicated that technology does not eliminate employment in long term. As factories get ‘smarter’, the number of indirect jobs requiring higher skill sets is created proportionally. This mega change will result into emergence of new sets of suppliers in new industries, fuelling the advancements from outside the smart factory. Creation of “smart factories” is the only path for manufacturers to thrive in today’s globally competitive and volatile business environment.
 
About the Author:
Vikas Manral, a thought leader from global manufacturing industry, is presently leading a growth start-up (SolBuggy Connect Pvt Ltd) helping MSMEs across India to become globally competitive. He can be reached on Email: vikas.manral@solutionbuggy.com
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