Bosch India's Karsten Mueller: ‘Digitisation is a must-have to make India a global manufacturing hub.’

by Mayank Dhingra 21 Apr 2021


The German Tier 1  technology and component major is embracing digital solutions to innovate and transform India into a global manufacturing hub by focusing on efficiency and productivity improvements. Transparency, data analytics and an open mindset are must-haves to make this switch, says Karsten Mueller, Bosch India’s Senior Vice-President, Manufacturing and Quality.

What are the advancements Bosch is making in the Industry 4.0 domain and what trends are you observing right now?
The future of manufacturing will be fully automated and fully adaptable with self-adjusting machines. These machines will also be capable of adjusting themselves physically in the order of process change. It is all about first to make them connected to a database. At Bosch, we have devised a standardised approach by having an in-house developed manufacturing execution system (MES) which is mandatory to invest into. Most of the machines also come with Bosch PLCs. So, we have an entire chain of technologies on-board to implement these kind of connectivity solutions at the highest level possible.

The MES is about connecting and bringing data to the next platform – Red Lake – which stands for Robert Bosch Enterprise DataLake, where we stream all the data from the MES so that we can further build upon this data. We also perform special analytics on this data by leveraging AI and ML, and also have in-house manufacturing analytics system, which is powered by the Bosch Innovation Cluster for Artificial intelligence. This department is spread over the world with one centre being in India, the other in Sunnyvale in the Silicon Valley, and lastlyat its main R&D centre in Germany.

We are capable of doing all the advanced analytics in these centres and we bring the data from data warehouses in a standardised format, so as to allow easy analytics on a day-to-day basis. It’s a global solution and in India, we are pushing ourselves to implementing this across all machines, and therefore, reinvesting into the MES system, in order to bring more efficiency into the organisation.

Who are your key customers for the MES platform in India and how are you trying to make India as a global manufacturing hub by implementing AI and ML?
The solution is being used in-house and would be available in the market in the next few months. While we are offering the full-fledged MES system in Europe, we are not yet fully into the Indian market with it because it is meant for big-sized multinational companies and also requires efforts on the server management side.

Having said that, at RBEI (Robert Bosch Engineering India), we have some slow-scale solutions with respect to Industry 4.0 particularly for MSMEs. These solutions can be utilised without investing into a platform infrastructure.

With one of the solutions called Phantom, companies can start experiencing efficiency improvements with digitisation. It is already in the market and is for both MES, as well as energy monitoring to optimise energy consumption in plants.

Coming to the second part, for me, digitisation is a must-have for making India a global manufacturing hub. While it starts with the wish for complete localisation which is not done yet, but we’re on the way to localise to quite an extent and also export specifically regions in the Asia Pacific. But to get there, we must be competitive on a global scale and we have some gaps to close. Of course, Industry 4.0 is a big enabler of performance with its biggest use-case being offering world-class performance with up to 95 percent efficiency of systems.

India still has a long way to go when it comes to performance efficiency, and we are at least 15 percent away if we compare ourselves to competitors or even our sister plants in other locations within Asia Pacific. But with more transparency, data and focus on the MES strategy, which will be key enablers to ensure world-class performance. We could also use machine learning to reduce cycle times, and improving quality by being able to predict failure by building alert mechanisms. These are all data-driven improvements that would be very beneficial going forward.

Companies have not been so forthcoming towards investing into Industry 4.0. Is there a shift in the status quo?
There’s always a lot of debate when we go towards AI and data analytics simply because these all are very capital intensive. But one has to take the first step, otherwise they would remain stagnant in terms of quality and efficiency, and would perhaps make the gap with competition even bigger.

Therefore, the mindset of the leaders must come from a visionary standpoint and they must be prepared to do this. So, for us as a big player in the automotive market as well as in sectors beyond mobility, we must invest into digital tools. We must also encourage the supply base to do it as we will only be able to be successful in becoming a global manufacturing hub if we have a strong and world-class level of supply chain behind us. At our supplier meets as well, we do encourage our suppliers in taking this step because in future, we are also looking at digital control towers, that will require fully-embedded suppliers.

Is automation set to take away human jobs? What are your thoughts?
Automation has been there for the last 70 years and it is not about replacing manpower . . . it is about growth. So, as a country, if automation is pushing us towards growth, it will eventually be overcompensated by growth and productivity. At the end, the Indian society too wants to earn more money and increase its wealth, which is quite normal. So, step-by-step, we will need to move into the direction of advanced manufacturing.

If we compare India with China, they are dominating the Asia-Pacific markets quite well, and even expanding to more countries. So, we need to also be very competitive and must understand how countries like China have reached where they are today. If we go into the Chinese factories of Bosch, one can see much higher degree of automation and my clear motivation is to close this gap very quickly so that we become competitive on a total-cost basis.

Although on a personal-cost index, India is still quite competitive but we have to move the needle on a productivity and reliability basis, and there is a good chance that India can become No. 1 in cost performance in the next three years. This is something that we need to understand and target. Digitisation without a purpose makes no sense, and one must have a clear picture of what to digitise and how to transform the user experience.

What is the overall outlook for business in the coming times?
The market has recovered quite well, and there are good opportunities out there to pick up speed quickly and go on with our investments in advanced manufacturing. I am quite optimistic for the near-term.