The Journey of Gentex Optics from Manual Production Processes to Industry 4.0
Amit Agarwal, Sr. Manager, Automation Enginer & MIS, Gentex Optics
Amit has 15 plus years in manufacturing/operations/engineering experience in areas of processing, product development, applications engineering, project engineering in medical and commercial plastics. His recent experiences have been in Operational Excellence (Lean, Six Sigma) and Automation Program Management. In various roles that he has held his experience includes coaching and leading teams, developing and implementing new technology, strategy alignment, strategy deployment, plant P&L and program ROI/savings. He has a Masters in Plastics Engineering from Umass Lowell and an MBA in Entrepreneurship and Finance from Babson College.
Some of his current interests include:
- Role of Leadership in inspiring and developing great organizations, great teams
- World Class Manufacturing - Bridging Technology & Culture,
- Applying technology available in consumer space to industry/manufacturing
- Industry 4.0, Connected Enterprise, Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT), Big Data Analytics, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning
Creating the business case for the automation that includes Paradigm shift from a customer's requirement perspective, paradigm shift in terms of how the company could evolve in 5-10 years end to end, tangible financial benefits in terms of productivity, support organizations optimization, asset utilization, real time information, track & trace capability, improved quality & yield and intangible benefits in terms of skill development, culture change, hiring new skills. Having this part done well helps with getting funding as well as buy-in from all parties.
Through our journey on this project we have a good idea of the kind of leadership that is required both at management and project level, team member skillsets (Mechanical, Controls, Electrical, Network, Server, Database etc) that are required.
Also we learnt very early and merged the Engineering and MIS/IT groups under one group to gain the benefits of IT/OT collaboration. Also a key takeaway within skills was what skills to have in-house versus what to outsource. What skills will be required to run the automated department 24X7 in production. What is the relation (who does what) between the automation design and product support department. What to develop and build for machines/technology internally vs outsource to 3rd party vendors should be carefully planned and discussed. "People learning by doing and making mistakes and we did too.
- Having a clear defined goal and requirements document is important.
- Doing small prototypes before spending tons of money is key to long term success even if it costs some extra money. It helps with getting buy-in, prevents from delays and builds confidence among team members
- Understanding flow of product and required buffers in between 2 processes is key to prevent the starving and blocking conditions. It extremely important to understand bottleneck conditions.
- Understanding abnormal flows, extreme conditions, current and future product requirements is key to future flexibility.
- Legacy equipment and interfacing with them in a connected smart factory needs to be predefined with the supplier of the legacy equipment"