Transforming The Traditional Steel Manufacturing Into A Digital Ecosystem

Transforming The Traditional Steel Manufacturing Into A Digital Ecosystem

Transforming The Traditional Steel Manufacturing Into A Digital Ecosystem

Abhyuday Jindal MD, Jindal Stainless, 0

Often ask myself what the ideal workspace of the future would look like. In my opinion, it will be highly technology-driven, with the IT team as a core business-enabler; way more sophisticated than it is today. As we enter 2020, an age where AI and VR are becoming visible phenomena, there is a dire need to adapt to newer technologies. After all, change is the only constant. And that constant is evolving like never before!

The first industrial revolution in the 18th century introduced mechanisation through water and steam power. Nearly a century later, mass production and assembly lines using electricity were welcomed in the second industrial metamorphosis. This transformation led to further development of trade and necessitated quick turnaround in an efficient and economical manner. The third paradigm shift introduced technology through computers and automation, changing the fabric of manufacturing like never before. Today, fuelled by data and machine learning, the manufacturing sector is striding towards Industry 4.0, aiming to revolutionize the production processes once again - only this time digitally!

Steel manufacturing has traditionally been manpower-intensive. An amalgamation of raw material selection, intricate continuous production processes, complex chemical reactions and analytical calculations, international supply chains, unique customer requirement, inter- and intra-communication, amongst other factors, make the steel industry a highly specialized and capital-intensive sector. As Industry 4.0 unfolds, these aspects automate through an efficient and precise decision-making process, reducing the need for human intervention. However, the key to a successful future digitisation depends on how the processes remain stable with higher accuracy each time.

When we decided to go paperless in 2017 by digitising our entire material procurement process right from indent creation, purchase order conversion and release, to delivery follow-ups, and receipt of materials, we were merely getting our foot in the door in the vast potential of technology. Traditional manufacturing setups in India need to evolve quickly to catch-up with the rest of the world. Being a millennial, I am personally invested in digitising processes at our manufacturing setup in Jindal Stainless and have taken-up several digital reforms to improve production efficiency and increase customer satisfaction.

Speed & Accuracy
With great digitising comes great manufacturing power. I believe digitisation is a pre-requisite for any manufacturing company that caters to rapidly changing consumer requirement and short life span of product innovation. The modern machinery needs to be adaptable and efficient while adhering to quality standards.

I was very keen to first bring about a change in the mindset of my workforce and then equip them with technology, to have that edge over peers in our industry. Keeping this in mind, Jindal Stainless unleashed a massive digital revolution in 2017 by upgrading its ERP applications and migrating to HANA Database on Cloud. It enabled business transactions and reports to be 10-15 times faster. After this, in January 2018, the company’s in-house experts undertook successful cloud upgradation for one of its plants in Indonesia. This was followed by the Company becoming one of the first in the world to adopt BW/4HANA, the world’s fastest data warehouse and reporting system, in 2019.
More recently, the Company has also enabled level-2-process automation for its Argon Oxygen Decarburization (AOD) converter to ensure efficiency and product quality, in line with the latest manufacturing trends. Our team has taken this digitisation wave further by allowing all units to communicate in real time. This has made the production process highly interconnected and easy to monitor, as we now have a digital receipt of every product in the furnace. This for me is nothing less than magic.

Setting up a ‘Smart Factory’
While increased production is one thing, how efficiently we achieve it is another. At a time when the world is fraught with scarce natural resources, it is imperative to upgrade the current manufacturing setup and drive production growth with minimal impact. The manufacturing industry is in a transitionary period and is expected to take a giant leap in the future with the advent of smart factories. These high-end digitised manufacturing setups are envisioned to enable efficient production with improved connectivity, intelligence, flexible automation, and minimal human intervention. Industry 4.0 comprises cyber-physical systems and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) that make smart factories a reality. Cyber-physical systems bring technology and operations together, ensuring tandem between them for smooth and faster processing. The IIoT, a total product data loop, refers to the overall setup of machinery, devices, and sensors that enables data transfer and communication with minimal human-to-human or human-to-machine interaction.

Digitising processes also tackles an organization’s multi-location manufacturing struggle. With an inter-connected network, data is easier to share. Moreover, operations do not suffer with emergency shut-downs or downtimes at certain locations. Work is seamlessly handed-over and production continues across locations. Hence, at Jindal Stainless, we ensured a simultaneous adoption of SAP HANA at our overseas manufacturing facility in order to maintain consistency across operations.

A Real-time Customer Experience
As digitisation turns non-digital formats of information into digital ones, customers too become a part of the manufacturing process. Various processes requiring to-and-fro company-customer intervention while placing orders, payments, and service-checks can be taken-up online in a user-friendly and real-time manner. This reduces cycle-time for the company through a robust network of inter-connected data hubs. Further, with real-time reporting in place, 100 percent traceability of intermediate and final products is made possible.

In the era of e-Commerce, customer expectations have greatly increased when it comes to service quality and transparency. Moreover, the customer seeks a higher service value in exchange for any transaction. We had to think beyond our operations, and that’s when we decided to opt for customer-friendly platforms. With the adoption of SAP HANA, Jindal Stainless launched several operational excellence initiatives & improvements in material procurement processes such as digitising statements, master data management tools, raising purchase orders, customer communication, and many others.

The Way Forward
The dawn of Industry 4.0 integrates businesses with ever-dynamic technology, thus making the former more advanced, self-sustainable, and less humandependent. I believe that digitising will not only speed-up manufacturing businesses, but will also foster innovation. The success of any organization lies in effective communication and data exchange between its departments, and digitisation will ensure that.

Rapid product iteration will make prototyping, testing, analyzing, and refining of new products possible with the help of efficient and intelligent systems. This will further expedite with seamless data sharing across departments, facilities, and system softwares by the virtue of advanced systems. Thus, there is a vast potential for organizations to tap into innovation trends, market opportunities, and consumer demands like never before.