The Infosys global supply chain management blog enables leaner supply chains through process and IT related interventions. Discuss the latest trends and solutions across the supply chain management landscape.

January 22, 2015

Configuration Management for Complex Assets

We are getting into an era where tremendous inventions and engineering marvels taking shape in front of our eyes. At one time flying across continents was considered to be challenge. When this become reality with aircraft, focus shifted to improve the efficiency of these marvels. Latest of the latest aircrafts being designed are expected to offer increased operating efficiency, enhanced passenger comfort and lesser noise. In future hope we will even never realize a takeoff and landing! While it becomes imperative that manufacturing being one side of the coin, maintaining these marvels working for the intended purpose is the other side of it. It is the daunting responsibility of airlines to keep it running. Latest engineering advancements have paved the way to develop huge complex assets like aircrafts, locomotives, automotive, earth movers etc. However, when it comes to maintaining these assets, one important challenge is to manage their whole assembly structure, which we call as 'Configuration Management'.

Some key reasons for this are:
1. Need for visibility of Asset configuration which comprises of various major component assemblies like Engines, Landing gears, Transformers, Traction Motors, Rectifiers etc. This helps in maintaining the Asset configuration up to date which ensures that the asset is intact with all mandatory components
2. Ability to track component and sub components at serial number level inside the major component assemblies with their designated positions on the Main assembly (like Aircraft, Locomotive, etc.). This helps is following the movement of life limited subcomponents across different parent assemblies and implementing engineering changes (Service Bulletins, Directives, Campaigns, etc.)
3. Integrating configuration information with maintenance (includes maintenance programs, inventory optimization for alternates and spares, etc.)
4. Preserving maintenance history of each components for regulatory compliance and warranty tracking

In this blog, I thought of highlighting on how software helps in managing these tasks for complex assets. This thought is more justified if the number of such assets increases. There are two types of software vendors available - (a) best of breed which cater to the specific industry segment and need of configuration management and (b) Asset Management Systems bundled with configuration management capabilities flexible enough to suite requirements across industry segments. Best of Breed software provide the advantage of industry specific terminology, process and functionalities. However, advantage of having asset management capabilities as a backbone helps in integrating many down the lane processes such as Maintenance Planning, Procure to pay, etc.

Some of the common features provided by these software are - define the asset configuration, build the complete assembly, track them at serial # level, identify spares required at each position level, map maintenance programs for each sub component, track their movement across multiple parent assets, and archive the complete maintenance history. Some software even have the striking feature to depict the Asset assembly on a past date.

One another challenge faced by maintenance departments is availability of spares when any unscheduled snag / defect is identified. If this happens on a critical asset like aircraft (which typically happens in line maintenance where aircraft is about to start for its next flight), it mounts the pressure on the maintenance staff to rectify the snag with whatever possible options they have. In such cases, options of alternate parts, swapping parts across parent assemblies, cannibalizing the parts from assets siting in repair shop etc. becomes the need of the hour. Software provides help in such need by providing the list of alternates for a specific component, its availability in inventory and across various parent assemblies and their condition.

Regulatory compliance on scheduled maintenance and engineering changes from OEMs / Regulatory agencies is one of the vital process to be managed by maintenance organizations. This can be tied up using the Work Management modules available. It can also be extended for managing warranties with additional advantage of capitalizing the maintenance cost for warranty covered parts.


With the above features and options available to choose from, organizations have choice to find the best suitable type of software and reap the benefits accordingly.

Next time when you get a chance to fly, you will realize that you are flying in an engineering marvel built on a complex structure intact with several thousands of smaller components. A big team of professionals are working day and night to keep them flying and make our flying experience a remarkable one. And software inside a computer is helping these professionals to make this happen. Let us have a happy journey!!!

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January 18, 2015

The Expert Talks- Sustainability

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 About The Expert

 

Vijayaraghavan Krishnamurthy is a Principal Consultant working with Digital and Integration Services at Infosys. Vijay has worked extensively across areas spanning Supply Chain Planning and Execution. He is based out of Hyderabad, India and is closely associated with the ECO group at Infosys, working on sustainable practices. Read on as Vijay shares with us his insights on Sustainability in the context of Supply Chain Management.

 

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December 3, 2014

Should we really 'Make in India'? Why & How?

 



Should we really 'Make in India'? Why & How?


Last month on my flight back to Pune after Diwali Vacations, I happened to read an article on Manufacturing strategy in India. The writer was a former bureaucrat of recently defunct Planning commission. It made me think have we really missed the bus, Are we too late or even if we aren't, Is it a step in right direction. Well if it is, then it should be put forward in the right manner too.


Politically speaking I have been giving cheers and thumbs up to the decisions of our Prime Minister so far. He talks about good governance, employment, growth and development so on and so forth. The article I read in my flight made me ponder on the decision to "Make in India". The motive behind the rhetoric which I think and have explained later is still naïve, is to bring and create more jobs in India, reduce unemployment and to thus solve the major problem of our burgeoning and aspirational young population. I agree that India's policy should mainly focus on creating millions of more jobs in manufacturing for the stability of India's socio-economic and political situation.


 Alas! There is a catch.....!!!!


In the present ever changing dynamics of world where new technologies can/are disrupting/replacing old monolithic production systems, It is not yet clear what our new government exactly wants from "Skill Development". Is it to predict how many technicians, mechanics or technicians or even carpenters will be needed in some years to come and precisely what skills are needed and  hence how to train those youth early?


Two kinds of technologies have combined together to disrupt the existing old conventional manufacturing monoliths. First one is the next big change which No doubt will change the dynamics of manufacturing processes. Have we heard about 3D printing lately?  It is basically manufacturing of a complete product by means of a single, automated machine, right from blueprint, prototype design, assembly and finished item. A 3D printer can make almost anything it may seem to take days, months and large skill force. Example: a complete apparel from raw material, or a complex internal combustion engine, turbine blade or even a machine gun that can fire bullets.. As a result, there are ever increasing fears that with the advent of this technology, what would be the role of human beings at operational levels as the number of jobs in manufacturing will appreciably reduce. No doubt the valuation of machines, patents, factories will reduce as newer invention of disruptive technologies but the risk of human liability is imperative. But doesn't automation kill jobs even though it creates fewer on which companies like ours exist?. No wonder enterprises come to us for (first) Cost Cutting (then) Outsourcing (through) Automation (using) Technologies (end) Blah Blah Blah.... J!


So this 'New  world order' is of cutting edge and more importantly Disruptive technology, we have to plan and devise our policy of 'Make in India' keeping this in mind.  A world in which everything is done by machines or computers is very much thinkable if not realistic. Let me try to complete my whimsical fantasy as one should also visualize what human beings might be doing in such a world, How will we earn to pay for all the products and services created by machines. A completely mechanized world, in which machines will produce machines. All this might require very few or negligible workforce. Probably the only people who will have money or will be generating it may be a handful of capitalists who own these machines, their financial managers to manage it and increase it further or their lawyers to fight for any property disputes amongst them! This might create a perpetual cycle in which power will entirely be in the hands of capitalists only, and to increase and protect their power they will replace leftover humans with more efficient and 'obedient' machines. While I have contemplated a twist in the script of Hollywood Sci-Fi flick 'Transcendence' which could have brought some more revenues to it. But I surely don't think the idea is far behind.


The second one is the Digital technology connecting widely dispersed suppliers and customers which are creating new disruptive business models in India like abroad such as flipkart, olacabs, bms. Even though things aren't as bad for our own Indian Baniya ? (Brick-mortar retail store) but the combinations of these different technologies are leading to ideation and thus invention of large networks of many small enterprises.


Hence, methods of skill development which are based on the Assembly-line production to ensure mass production through large workforce might not be the correct approach. When it's just not clear how to predict the type of these jobs in coming 5 to 10 years what are we going to teach in the program where youth's career is involved and India's future as well. The government skill development programs should inculcate in youth the ability to learn required and much needed latest technology skills in the enterprises where the jobs are being created rather than through a large system like Skill development institutes that aims for mass production by millions of narrowly skilled and certified people who may not be employable any more when they pass out from these institutes. A similar problem is faced by Indian IT companies for past several years.


Now coming on to the point from where I started the discussion: Is "Make in India" statement incomplete or flawed? India, with its large aspirational youth population must be at the forefront of the creation of new disruptive models of manufacturing. India's policymakers must envisage what shapes these new enterprises to safeguard the interests of youth keeping in mind the new technologies that might come up. The new models can be formulated on these new concepts of production management and technology. Hence we shouldn't create Jobs like old conventional model of say garment manufacturing which may lead to wastage of time, training and effort of youth at the advent of radically disruptive technology. We surely don't want to be world's largest 'towel' manufacturer!


Another challenge for us is to make the "Make in India" financially viable. Unlike China, India may not sustain to be the market place of 'cheap labor'. We have a vibrant democracy which has its roots spread till Worker Unions in each factory. The main aim of Indian policy makers must be  improving the livelihoods of all Indian citizens. So can we compete with China's Low cost manufacturing? No! Have we ever wondered about the recent decision by our Communist neighbor to abrogate one-child norm with two-child norm. Why has this been done? Is it because India will soon overtake the dubious distinction of World's most populous country? I think probably not, it's because China's working class which is primarily 'Youth' is diminishing as a percentage of country's total population. China will soon be the place of world's most populous country of old men. Hence to increase the youth's population and sustain in being world's manufacturing hub, they had to change this policy. It is an inexorable certainty.


But we must keep this in mind as well that we just can't merely aim to increase the gross domestic product (GDP). Our aim should also be that the manufacturing strategies lead to growth in jobs and opportunities for better livelihoods, not just increase the share of manufacturing output in overall GDP (which has been stagnant for years)--As that can be easily increased by some large investments in capital-intensive factories which probably the government is doing right now from back end, much to its folly. The Indian economists overriding concern must be the satisfaction of workforce and not the satisfaction of capital. Humanistic values should be core of governance policies of manufacturing enterprises in which the creation of shareholders financial value must not overrun human aspirations. Moreover, centrestage of the growth of employment should be to have it dispersed across the country into many smaller enterprises. This will lead to all round regional growth and prevent mass scale migrations and regional polarization of jobs. No doubt, their network with larger clusters must be facilitated, with which they will get the benefits of a large scale enterprise, purchasing power without losing their innovativeness and entrepreneurship.  Therefore the push through policies must be on  core strategy of supply chain design which is to drive the creation of more effective supply networks, clusters, hubs, and cooperative enterprises.


Let me offer a polemic to my earlier confabulation: Technology is the only force shaping this 'New world order' today. No doubt the production systems are changing with technology or sometimes even some business processes get re-engineered (Radically change with a need of doing away with what was done earlier to reduce costs , effort and bring efficiency). But Human need may not be completely eliminated. They will be performing new activities in the enterprises which will gradually take new forms. Technology will enabler in shaping new enterprises and may be they will ascertain my earlier concern somehow but we must agree that as more disruptive technologies are developed, human beings will remain at the center of new forms of sustainable and networked manufacturing systems.



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November 12, 2014

How to measure the performance of a manufacturing plant?

Posted by Abhay Dhall, Associate Consultant (Manufacturing Vertical), Infosys Limited

In my previous blog, I spoke about the need for companies to create a value stream map for their processes in order measure, control & improve their processes. To preach is one thing but to perform is something else. Is it as easy to execute as being said?

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October 20, 2014

Simple Measurements - Levers for Operational Efficiency Gains

Posted by Abhay Dhall, Associate Consultant (Manufacturing Vertical), Infosys Limited

The world of manufacturing is perpetually concerned with improving operational and manufacturing efficiency of a plant. A common approach is the much-used and abused lean manufacturing. Manufacturing companies think of lean manufacturing as a formula but instead it is a philosophy with many facets which can create value by reducing redundancy and non-value processes in a manufacturing system. The philosophy of reducing waste must be applied throughout the value chain of a product and not just during the manufacturing phase because by the time the product is on the shop floor, most likely it has gone through multiple unnecessary systems and processes.

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September 30, 2014

Typical Challenges in a Repair & Return Process - Part 2 ( Analysis)

Analysis & Probable Solution:

The conversation which is mentioned in the blog titled "Typical Challenges in a Repair & Return - Part 1" brings out some of the key issues which are pertinent to a repair & return process. In the following section I have attempted to classify the issues into categories and suggested possible solutions for them.

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Typical Challenges in a Repair & Return Process - Part 1

Very recently I was a member of a project team implementing an Asset/Inventory Management system for a well-known pipeline maintenance company in North America. In the course of the implementation I had the opportunity to interact with the business leads managing both operations and inventory functions in the organization.  During these interactions I came across many process related issues like enabling material visibility across the organization, acknowledging service receipts, tracking material movement across warehouses, material reservation by work management teams etc.  But the challenges posed in one process area stood out amongst all these and that was the 'Repair & Return' process.

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September 28, 2014

Automated Workforce Management - Part 2

In service industries, which are mainly dependent on their field force to execute the work, the key ask is to co-ordinate and manage the completion of high volume of work requests that are executed by the field force.  The requirement is to optimize the scheduling and mobility processes which along with the tightly integrated Enterprise Asset Management processes will automatically determine the most appropriate resource to carry out field works and dispatch work orders directly to the responsible engineer and allow for a two way communication flow between the engineers and office support team to provide a real time status update with minimum intervention from office management team.

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September 24, 2014

A Tryst with ERP Implementations

Gaining efficiencies, reducing maintenance cost, improving visibility across the company, reducing diverse IT system maintenance costs - these are some of the common reasons a company goes for an ERP implementation. Agreed, the reasons and the benefits are well thought out and the plan is all firmed up. But is it always a 'Bed of Roses'? I would say, not at all. Especially after my recent experience at a well-known oil pipeline company in North America. Immediately after the go-live we not only encountered a lot of unexpected issues especially in areas like reconciliation & document approval management, but also had to face a lot end user queries on how certain things are done in the new system. We did manage to bring the situation under control. But I would say that there were a few important lessons which I learnt from this experience which will stay with me for life. These include some of the good practices we followed which helped us and some of the improvement areas where we could have done better. The intent of this write up is to share the lessons from my experience so that it might be helpful for others embarking on a similar journey.

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September 22, 2014

SAP - Concur deal : SCM Practioner's view


In order to acquire an unbeatable leadership position in the SaaS and Cloud based solutions SAP recently acquired Concur technology, a market leader in cloud based Travel and Expense management software.This 8 billion USD deal has several questions in the minds of several SCM practioners across the globe. My blog will try to address few of them.

With Concur's acquisition SAP will be strengthening its position on the cloud base ERP market which is different ball game then the traditional on premise ERP market. Though SAP is a leader in the on premise SAP market the cloud / SaaS ERP is different ball game altogether. Though SAP took a while before acquiring Ariba, a leader in the cloud based procurement solutions, it was quite swift in acquiring Fieldglass, 'cloud' based vendor management software specialized in temporary workforce management. The question is where in concur fits in. Ariba and Fieldglass are so far successful acquisitions for SAP and Concur will help SAP to help customers in T&E  space. Looking at the fitment, scope and potential of the product, some doubts have been raised on the price at which SAP clinched the deal. But as it happens with every deal, concur's acquisition is no exception as most of the deals are questioned either on the acquisition cost or the timing of the deal.

We can certainly say that SAP has taken a lead in positioning itself in this new 'ERP on cloud' scenario. Besides other advantages, cloud based ERP can help the online access to all the all the parties involved in the 'transaction' without specific integration needs. SAP expects revenues from on demand ERP to surpass on premise from 2020.

We can certainly say that Ariba, Fieldglass and now concur are part of the large jigsaw puzzle which SAP wants to solve in order to be an unquestionable leader in cloud based ERP solutions. I am sure there will be few more acquisitions especially in the mobile ERP space to solve this puzzle which will put SAP in lead position both in premise and cloud.


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