May 19, 2020
8 insightful answers in less
than 8 minutes
Internet of Business’ IoB 8×8 Series is designed to reveal more about the people who have helped shape IoB’s live event and digital content over the years, picking the key industry brains who have dedicated
time to educating peers.
Lucy Ashton meets Haresh Malkani, CTO, CESMII, who shares why he believes subject matter expertise is one of the most under-valued aspects in Smart Manufacturing today, how analytics vendors and tools are not silver bullets alone, and his advice on how to steer through the Covid-19 pandemic.
L: In one line, what is the main objective of the CESMII – The Smart Manufacturing Institute?
H: CESMII’s objective is to accelerate the democratization of Smart Manufacturing (SM) through technology, knowledge and innovation.
L: What are the three key drivers that lead manufacturers to invest in smart manufacturing?
H: In short – Productivity, precision and performance. SM solutions provide information visibility to know what is happening, including establishing a baseline or current state. They provide information necessary to analyze that information and develop insights to understand why it is happening, establishing cause and effect relationships. These cause and effect relationships, combined with subject matter expertise, lead to developing the intelligence to know when will it happen again, how can we make it happen again, or how can we prevent it from happening. Having these capabilities through SM technologies and a well-trained workforce enables smarter decisions that lead to sustainable improvements in throughput, quality, and efficiency.
L: And what are the three barriers of adoption?
H: Cost, talent and scalability come across as some of the common barriers to SM adoption.
Having a technology solution is necessary but not sufficient for the adoption of SM. For small manufacturers, in particular, many of the SM solutions may be cost-prohibitive. Unless the entire process of developing proof of concept solutions quickly, trying them out, and implementing them can be done in a cost-effective scalable fashion, this journey will be difficult for them. Scaling up from a proof of concept is hampered by solutions that are locked down with proprietary technologies, and single-source technical solutions.
Scaling often requires huge repeated investments. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, talent and culture is an extremely critical issue for all sizes of manufacturers. Acquiring, training, and retaining talent in this field is a challenge, and must be considered as a strategic priority to embrace SM and make it part of the organization’s DNA. And changing your company’s culture takes commitment across all layers of the organization – provide a compelling vision from the top down, but engage from the bottoms up with tangible “show me the impact” use cases, and you will change the company’s culture.
“Scaling up from a proof of concept is hampered by solutions that are locked down with proprietary technologies,
and single-source technical solutions.”
L: Who is leading the way, could you name some manufacturers who you would define as truly ‘smart’ manufacturers?
H: Generally speaking, some of the larger companies in the chemical, Oil and Gas, food, automotive and aerospace sectors have been successful at adopting the SM journey – primarily due to their capacity to invest in infrastructure, technology and talent. They have the power to influence their own supply chains to raise the tide for everyone including the small and medium players. Smaller manufacturers, on the other hand, can be agile and innovative (quick to try, quick to fail/learn, and make innovative strides) as long as they can leverage partners that can fill their internal knowledge/talent gaps. A lot of small manufacturers are now beginning to embrace SM technologies, and will soon be the engine that drives broader adoption.
L: What will lead to more scalable, low-cost solutions?
H: We have consistently heard from manufacturers about the dire need for open, standards-based, collaborative, interoperable technologies that can help reduce the barrier to broad SM adoption. The industry needs to collaborate more, and leverage each other’s strengths to move forward faster, together. Fortunately, the thought process is converging and it is encouraging to see that this approach is gathering momentum and support from many thought leaders, and those that have been early adopters of SM.
“We have consistently heard from manufacturers about the dire need for open, standards-based, collaborative, interoperable technologies that can help reduce the barrier to broad SM adoption.”
L: Industry 4.0/ Smart Manufacturing allows manufacturers to leverage an abundance data, and analytics is key, but in your opinion, what are the key steps manufacturers need to make before even getting to the analytics stage
H: You may have the world’s latest and greatest analytics tools at your disposal, but unless and until you have spent enough time understanding what data you need to solve the problems and use cases, you really won’t be gaining much from the data.
Sensors are getting cheaper, connectivity is becoming ubiquitous, but that does not mean you have to over-capture data from your operations. Start with the problem to be solved, get a diverse set of subject matter experts together, determine what information is required to solve that problem, then move on to what sensors are necessary to obtain that data, what infrastructure is necessary to capture and manage the information, and what tools are necessary to leverage that information.
L: Manufacturers are often data-rich, knowledge poor, how do you think the lack of subject matter expertise in the industry can be addressed?
H: Subject matter expertise is one of the most under-valued aspects of SM out there. To my point above, it is the subject matter expertise that is critical for any manufacturer to be able to determine not only what information is needed to solve a problem but also to ensure that modern analytics, machine learning, and AI tools really provide the insights and intelligence that is relevant to what you are trying to solve. With the abundance of analytics vendors and tools, there is a tendency to treat them as silver bullets, but what is underestimated is the importance of the domain expertise in ensuring that the tools are providing meaningful insights. Investments made in acquiring, training and growing domain knowledge is absolutely critical to the success of any SM journey. And it is not just the subject matter expertise of your manufacturing process, but also the ability to understand the relevance of SM technologies to your processes and products.
“With the abundance of analytics vendors and tools, there is a tendency to treat them as silver bullets, but what is underestimated is the importance of the domain expertise in ensuring that the tools are
providing meaningful insights.”
L: What is your advice for the US manufacturing industry during the Covid-19 pandemic?
H: Manufacturers, small and large, have all fallen victims of Covid-19 in one way or another.
Whether it is a downturn in demand, or the ability to safely operate. The wounds are deep – and people from all walks of life are hurting. The recovery (from both health and economic point of view) will no doubt be slow until we have treatments and vaccinations and the new norm is established. Perhaps this is a good time to think through what will be required to come out strong at the other end. Can you use this time to train your workforce? Can you strategize on what infrastructure and technologies you need to invest in for the future, to become more agile, and more resilient to such times?
Can you re-envision your business model and supply chains? And finally, I think this is the right time to think about understanding the needs of your customers, suppliers, and your employees – how can you help them to become stronger? Like has been said over and over, we are in this together, and we will get through it.
Stay safe, stay positive.
Haresh was appointed CTO of CESMII starting March 1, 2018. He brings over 29 years of experience in industrial RD&E covering development and deployment of Smart Manufacturing technologies including sensing, automation, control, modeling, simulation and analytics for applications in continuous, hybrid and discrete manufacturing operations. Haresh oversees the technology mission, road map and objectives of CESMII. He is responsible for developing the institute’s project portfolio for Smart Manufacturing technologies spanning advanced sensors, controls, modeling, analytics and platforms for manufacturing. He also oversees the development and application of the nation’s first open, collaborative Smart Manufacturing technology platform for industrial applications.
Hear more from Haresh at the 4th Internet of Manufacturing Midwest, September 28 – 30, 2020.