Virtual Twins of Manufacturing & Logistics

Manufacturing sector is emerging as one of the high-growth sectors in India. It not only is the second largest contributor to Indian GDP but also the largest in generating employment on a huge scale. Government’s Make in India & AatmaNirbharBharat policies are a big stride towards placing India on the world map as a manufacturing hub giving global recognition to the Indian economy. With the help of these policies, India is on a path of becoming the hub for hi-tech manufacturing as global giants such as GE, HTC, Toshiba, Airbus, and Boeing have either set up or are in process of setting up manufacturing plants in India, attracted by India's market of more than a billion consumers and its increasing purchasing power. This needs a robust manufacturing ecosystem to meet global demands and quality standards. Manufacturing excellent products with agility and efficiency call for a paradigm shift in the Indian manufacturing sector. Achieving this can only be possible by empowering MSMEs - the lifeblood of Indian manufacturing. Increased FDI in various industrial sectors has provided MSMEs with business opportunities. However, their ability to scale their business depends on three key parameters – Quality, Cost, and Time. Despite having the inherent advantage of labor costs, our MSMEs have suffered issues on the quality front that in turn resulted in time and cost overruns. Many experts have opined the lack of technology adoption is one of the reasons for these shortcomings. Modernizing the plant infrastructure, adopting new methods, processes & technologies, and employing the concepts and principles of future factories is the need of the hour. Enabling such transformation on a massive scale demands Digitalization.

While the digital renderings of component parts, assemblies, and fixtures are nothing new to 21st-century manufacturers, the digitalization of the workplace, however, has been ad hoc and distributed. Design, manufacturing, production planning and MRO frequently operate as independent “silos” within the organization. But, what if this data could be aggregated and expanded to allow total process simulation of an actual production process? The potential for new insight into operations is obvious. It’s called the Virtual Twin of Manufacturing. A virtual twin allows MSMEs to run “what if” experiments in the virtual factory, trying different techniques and technologies to see what works and what does not. Production managers and engineers can develop a high degree of confidence in a new configuration before the expensive (and historically risky) step of interrupting production to make a change. The benefits of these virtual twins are many; unlimited iterations to perfect the production systems and processes, better insight into bottlenecks and pitfalls, added flexibility to respond to the ever-changing needs of consumers, predictive plant maintenance with sensor integration to virtual twins, and knowledge capitalization.

Another aspect that the manufacturing sector needs is the ecosystem’s ability to deliver/transport goods on time, every time. The COVID pandemic highlighted the need of developing a resilient supply chain that is capable of managing supply chain disruptions of any scale. For this, it is critical to enhance the logistics sector with multimodal transport systems. Improving the efficiency of the logistics sector is of high importance for the country’s economy as it boosts economic growth, grows exports through global supply chains, and generates employment. While India’s passenger and freight mobility sectors are becoming more efficient and the logistics sector is growing at a CAGR of 10.5% and expected to reach about $ 215B in 2022, there are a set of interconnected problems in the system, which need to be addressed to further enhance efficiency. Logistical inefficiencies lead to reduced employment opportunities, perpetuate a poverty cycle for rural populations, make roads and highways unsafe, and contribute to pollution. Conversely, enhancing the efficiency of logistics can create high-quality economic growth and employment opportunities, improve safety and public health, and support India’s successful fulfillment of international commitments towards climate change. Logistics efficiency can also benefit farmers through a reduction in loss and wastage of produce during transportation to markets. National Logistics Policy emphasizes the need for this and draws out key actions – one of them being Digitalization.

One of the critical axes of achieving the efficiencies is Virtual twin of Operations. Virtual twins help to design, validate and integrate the supply chains, right from demand forecasting to load consolidation to truck routing and dispatch scheduling. Leveraging the virtual twin of operations to validate all the possible scenarios in the virtual world will not only help reduce the delivery time and costs but also reduce the carbon footprint due to optimized fuel consumption in logistics. Virtual twins, hence, contribute not only to the profitability of the organizations but also to their sustainability goals.

In summary, the manufacturing sector will play the lead role in India’s economic progress in its journey towards 100 years of independence. For this to happen, both the manufacturing sector and its allied logistics sector must embrace the new-age technologies rapidly. Virtual twins of Manufacturing and operations for innovating future factories and optimizing the logistics respectively need to be adopted at scale by MSMEs to achieve countrywide manufacturing transformation.