New Delhi: As COVID-19 has discouraged the physical means of completing any program, the need for smart manufacturing has surged in relevance within the automotive industry. After going through two months of almost stalled production schedules, the automakers are gradually shifting towards virtual manufacturing, however, making this concept a reality requires broad-based support and consensus, said CV Raman, Senior Executive Director (Engg), Maruti Suzuki India.
According to Raman, embracing the new version of manufacturing will bring the resilience to cope with disruption and the agility to react and adapt when that inevitable disruption occurs.
Speaking at ETAuto Simulation & Testing Virtual Congress, Raman said the industry needs to learn the technicalities of the virtual world and emphasised on the need to beef up levels of automation on shop floors.
“Last two months experience has been very different. Manufacturing has been nearly ero and product and skill development severely got impacted. As an industry, we now need more virtual technologies to carry on our product even in a disrupted environment,” Raman said in his keynote address at the virtual event.
Acknowledging the new changes in norms at the plant, Raman further said that social distancing is going to be a new reality going forward and engineers have to find out ways to evolve manufacturing while adhering to the center guidelines on combating COVID-19.
Major focus is on simulation and use of VR technology to decide the design direction so that they can improve the judgment capability and make the right decisionCV Raman, MSIL
“When we started manufacturing in Maruti Suzuki, social distancing has emerged as a key challenge that impacted productivity due to low levels of workforce. We then decided to adopt the means of technology and automation in order to recover our loss,” he added. In the absence of human-to-human connect, the time available for designing the models becomes very short and stringent and this is where simulation and virtual reality (VR) play a critical role, he asserted. Performing simulation at an early development stage is crucial for building design robustness, which is severely lacking at the moment Raman pointed out adding that “Our focus should be to maximise design simulation methodologies to meet product targets.”
As a result, he added designers and engineers are gravitating towards an industry 4.0 approach to reduce the development time. “Major focus is on simulation and use of VR technology to decide the design direction so that they can improve the judgment capability and make the right decision,” highlighted Raman.
Talking about the engineering aspect, Raman said it is the second important area in product development which desperately needs a shift from the conventional approach. At the time when cash was king, Raman suggested adopting virtual validation concepts to quickly test and approve the validity of the prototypes.
In general, virtual validation is the process which engineers and designers follow to validate design functions of new products without substantial investments. With the use of this tool automakers can reduce their time-to-market, cost and can achieve better product and ROI.
“Our focus at present is to reduce the development time and front load some of production processes by means of virtual validation,” said Raman.
Emphasizing on the need to develop an efficient network of virtual testing, Raman highlighted the need to develop virtual labs.
“Virtual labs could be one possibility going forward which could further improve the design robustness of the computer-aided engineering and simulation so that there could be in uncertain time we do certain work and do product development on time,” he added.