‘Digitalisation can help automakers produce highly individualised cars.’
We speak to Sebastian Israel, Automotive Digitalisation Specialist at Siemens AG, which is scouting for opportunities to implement its digitalisation program for automotive OEMs in India.
Automation major Siemens AG is scouting for opportunities to implement its digitalisation program for automotive OEMs in India. Sebastian Israel, Automotive Digitalisation Specialist at Siemens AG, speaks to Shobha Mathur.
How do you find India emerging as an automotive hub in terms of volume and investments?
India is emerging as a favorable destination for international manufacturers. Foreign companies have been attracted by India’s cost competitiveness, its skilled workforce and favorable policies initiated by the government. Furthermore, the most fundamental factor fostering growth in the automotive sector is the presence of a huge local market.
The density for cars in India is currently just 15 for 1,000 people which is very low compared with countries like Germany or China and therefore offers a huge potential for growth. This is giving a fillip to international and Indian manufacturers who are focusing their efforts to develop innovative products, technologies and the required supply chains.
How does Siemens plan to leverage the Indian auto industry in its future growth plans?
The digitalisation activities in the automobile manufacturing sector in the country are on the rise and there is huge potential, considering that digitalisation will influence the future of manufacturing across the globe.
This is an opportunity not just for Siemens but also for automobile manufacturers based in India who are looking at a sustainable and globally competitive model. We at Siemens are closely following any developments that might influence the production processes in the future. Together with our customers, we want to use our experience to actively shape the process of change.
How can digitalisation influence the buying experience of the customer?
Why shouldn´t a customer expect, in the future, that he will be able to slightly design the car and completely configure it on his tablet?
To be able to produce such a car, the automotive manufacturer will need a very flexible production line which can produce this highly individualised car. This should be possible without many manual interventions in order to keep the production efficiency high and to keep the pricing competitive.
Digitalisation can help the manufacturers to master this challenge.
How does Siemens define digitalisation in the automotive industry?
There are four cornerstones necessary for digitalisation. The first is consistent data flow from the design of the product to the design of production, the engineering of production, the manufacturing operations themselves, and the necessary services – or, in other words, the continuous value chain throughout the plant’s entire lifecycle.
Then there is what we call the digital shadow or twin: an up-to-date digital image of the product and the production plant that is available throughout the entire lifecycle. We call the third cornerstone the ‘transparent plant,’ which means that there are defined KPIs [key performance indicators] that are the basis for optimisation, big data analyses, or even predictive maintenance.
The final cornerstone is horizontal and vertical integration, which means that the shopfloor will be horizontally connected by Ethernet networks and that the worlds of the shopfloor and IT will converge vertically to a great degree.
What are the solutions Siemens can offer to the automotive industry in terms of digitalisation?
Siemens has built a portfolio that already enables our customers to integrate important parts of the product- and production lifecycle and digitally supports their entire value-added chain. We call this the digital enterprise software suite.
It consists of our product lifecycle management (PLM) portfolio for design, planning, and simulation; the totally integrated automation (TIA) portfolio for production engineering; and our manufacturing execution system (MES) portfolio for ongoing operations. The team centre acts as a common data backbone. This comprehensive digitalisation portfolio is unique in the market.
Another important aspect is that digitalisation must also take place on the shopfloor. With our engineering software TIA Portal and our new generation of control systems, we can now provide the basis for the digital shopfloor to our customers.
Can you elaborate on global trends and how are requirements changing in India? How different are they from those worldwide?
Global trends like Industry 4.0 and digitalisation in manufacturing are flowing into India through various channels like global automotive players who have set up manufacturing facilities in India. Also from Indian auto ancillaries who are supplying to global auto companies and Indian IT companies who are engaged in delivery of these concepts for global auto companies.
These global trends need to be adapted for India, based on the needs and characteristics of Indian manufacturing. Automotive manufacturing in India is still in the phase of mass customisation whereas global automotive manufacturing is already moving towards individualised mass production. Further, manufacturing processes in India are based on frugal automation compared to a much higher automation level in global manufacturing.
These differences make it necessary to innovatively amend the global digitalisation concepts in order to successfully work in India. This can be easily managed on a local base as India has a strong pool of engineering manpower. This also offers the advantage to learn from experiences in global manufacturing and leap straight to the latest technology concepts like Industry 4.0.
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