Drive Payback in Industry 4.0 – Altizon and HIL Limited Podcast

Altizon recently hosted a podcast with HIL Limited to deep dive into driving payback in Industry 4.0, especially so in the area of building material solutions.

Established in 1946, HIL Limited is a flagship company of the $2.4 Billion conglomerate, CK Birla Group. The company offers comprehensive building materials and solutions since last 70 years and has achieved market leadership by developing and marketing most sustainable and relevant products which are future ready, high quality and have innovation at its core. HIL has 5 major brands – Charminar, Birla Aerocon, Charminar Fortune, Birla HIL and recently acquired German flooring brand, Parador. The company boasts of 21 state-of-the art manufacturing facilities in India, and 2 manufacturing sites in Germany and Austria. It is committed to innovation through dynamic R&D facilities in India and Germany.

Here are snippets from the conversation between Co-Founder & CEO Vinay Nathan (Altizon) and CIO Murali Raj G R (HIL). Enjoy!

Murali: Two years back the entire digitalization program at HIL was born. I think we worked with multiple partners to introduce us to a digital road mapping or digital strategy for the entire organization. The planning took three to four years, taking different aspects into account. Not only the maturity levels at HIL but operations maturity level as well. We had around 20 different plants spread across the entire India, which influenced the decision and we had outside-in views as well from the market, the ecosystem in which we operate – the supplier system and the customers.

There was a clear plan in place for the finance, procurement and logistics transformation as well. If we look at only the manufacturing transformation, I’d say it was completely based on Industry 4.0. It began with all the plant heads coming together, along with the vice president across different SBUs, as well as partners and the digitization team. That’s how this project was taken up as an Industry 4.0 journey.

Vinay: While I realized that the ambition was always there, what would you say was the key reason for the implementation across all 20 plants?

Murali: We had close to 20 manufacturing plants, each commissioned at different years, HIL being a 70 year old organization. This came with different maturity levels, different problem statements as well as different solutions. Having said that, digital transformation can’t be introduced in silos, but has to across all the plants. We had taken into consideration all the plants and laid the roadmap in a such a way that it can be extended to all the 20 plants within two years. When you are looking at a solution that can address most of the problems, payback and ROI automatically falls in place.

Vinay: Yes, we definitely need to look into ROI. I believe that was that also one of the reasons why this project was rolled out in phases, where phase 1 covered four plants and the others were taken care of in the second phase. So what was the kind of guiding philosophy behind that?

Murali: Yes, so the journey had to start somewhere. It could have been a plant. We were definitely not looking at only one production line or one use case such as asset monitoring. We were always looking at a foundational layer that can lay the path per Industry 4.0. For example, if you have connected shop floor for the entire plant, then you can address all aspects of the plant operation whether it is your OEE improvement or efficiency improvements, asset monitoring or condition based monitoring to ensure the quality is predicted and delivered. Or you can look at data analytics for predictive maintenance or raw material consumption. In either of these cases, you can assess how to finetune your process. There are many use cases in Industry 4.0 but an Industrial IoT platform can bring it all together to ensure real-time decision making. So that’s how we started our journey, by laying out the connected shop floor. The decision to begin with four plants came from the senior management. We distributed the four across different business units.

Our approach was to have ‘change champions’ take care of the implementation and begin rolling this out in different plants using the same template.

Vinay: The people element of bringing change is central to driving digital transformation. So what did you taken into consideration for choosing the right people?

Murali: We didn’t go by the problems of the plants, but rather the plant heads who we felt could champion this change, how aspirational they were and how open they were to bring in transparency courtesy of digital transformation. It was also important for them to be people-oriented. The change, I must say, has been spearheaded very well.

There was imminent excitement for the launch at each plant, with the MD coming in to get the connected shop floor rolling. However, the actual ground level excitement for the key SMEs was evident when they saw the real data and compared it to the manual logs to assess the gaps.

Vinay: What were your key considerations when you were looking for a technology provider to help you lay this foundation for success?

Murali: It was a long journey. The first consideration was the architecture of the product. It should be aligned with our thought process. What is industry 4.0! There is a data acquisition from the PLCs, which is then taken to the cloud for that analytics. You need to have a good UI for skilled and unskilled labor at the plant and the shop floor in specific, so they can punch in data with little education. Plus, those on contract level keep changing often so a UI friendly platform is of utmost importance. You need to be able to add or remove plant, add or remove tags from a data acquisition perspective. The architecture of the product is very important in my view. That was one of the critical criteria. A partner needs to have capability in all of these areas, so that the capabilities are well connected and the process is seamless. Value for money was another key parameter for us.

Vinay: If you had to choose, what do you think has been the standout use case at HIL around digital transformation?

Murali: Vinay, you are limiting to one standout use cases. There were more. Something that stood out soon after going live is OEE. Before the implementation, we did a baselining for all the parameters of the first plant. So within a month or two, we could see 2% increase in OEE. How did that happen? The plant head who was also the champion noted that now everyone knows what is the bottleneck and what is feeding the bottleneck; there is real-time visibility. Earlier for probably small breakdowns, if say you had set a limit of anything over five minutes to be reported to the plant head, anything lesser won’t come to his notice. Now for every three minutes, the plant staff can assess the issues and have started engaging with the data, thinking how a certain shift performance can affect the next one. I’d like to share that one of our plant supervisors was getting married and was away for two weeks. He could run the entire plant remotely, by assessing plant OEE and even machine OEE. He would then leave instructions for the next team to operate. In one of our plants, we had 20 yard molds moving and different mixtures coming in and it was extremely laborious to manually trace and associate molds and mixtures. And this was just one of the problems. Since automation, traceability fell into place, energy management as well. In fact, the team is now looking at optimizing the use of other utilities as water, as our processes are water heavy, for cost savings.

To summarize, for one particular plant that went live, I would say the payback was six months.

Vinay: Would you like to share any key learnings around data acquisition?

Murali: If we look at our journey we had SCADA running across plants, three or four in each depending upon the stage. The biggest learning we had was you have to do your OT much earlier actually getting into a business discussion. The partner you bring in needs to understand different systems. As we speak, we are commissioning a new plant and are having discussions with OEMs. A team that we recently spoke with has knowledge of the new as well as the old machines with 70 years of history.

In essence, you have to do an OT readiness check first and then make a list of the machines that you have, be it SCADA or PLC controllers. Also ensure that they are openable; if not, discuss a workaround with the technology partner to capture the data.

The final point I would make is about security. I think we all know the importance of secure data transfer to the cloud. So that’s an angle you need to look at as well.

Vinay: What’s new and what’s next?

Murali: With this implementation, there’s a lot of excitement about the potential. With COVID, the remaining 16 implementations are on hold for now. Once we resume operations, we will definitely see how this can be horizontally deployed across on the plants. The next one is vertical deployment. Once the plant is live on a digital shop floor, it opens up many possibilities – such as now that we are capturing the data on the performance from the machines, can we open up this data to the OEMs!

Either you stand on the sidelines and watch the transformation happening somewhere else or you make it happen for yourself and for your organization. I’d say you have to take the plunge. Industry 4.0, in my view, is a next-generation foundational manufacturing concept that you have to put in place for the business to realize more value from the plants.

Contact Us

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.