Akums Injects a Dose of IT to Transform its Shop Floor into a Visual Factory

The pharma company’s CIO brought about IT-operational technology (OT) integration to enhance operational visibility and capacity utilisation as outages came down by 10-12 per cent.
Key Learnings
  • Formulating a Clear Project Charter: before any project kicks off, it is critical to have clear and defined guidelines and responsibilities. The intervention of the chairman’s office warranted a clear project charter with proper timelines and responsibilities, ensuring systematic planning and execution.
  • Building Resiliency: as the application demanded high uptime, Jitendra Mishra, CIO, Akums Drugs and Pharmaceuticals, hosted it at the company’s in-house data centre. He also undertook server resizing and network segregation to ensure network resiliency, cyber security, and high availability (HA).
  • Change Management: Mishra initially saw a low buy-in of the new implementation on the shop floor. Rather than directing workers on what to do and what not to do, Mishra organised workshops to enhance their awareness on factory automation - how other companies were leveraging it and how it could empower them.

The Challenge

Akums Drugs and Pharmaceuticals is an Indian WHO-GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) certified pharmaceutical contract manufacturer. Its 14, state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities supply formulations in a wide spectrum of dosage forms and therapeutic segments to a large number of Indian and multinational pharmaceutical companies across the globe.

While Akums had streamlined business areas such as finance and supply chain through technology, it still relied on humans to manually report on operations on the floor, uptime, and highly specialised machines and the knock-on impact of stoppages. In short, operational visibility was limited to only what individual workers could see. This limited view hindered operational planning and options for improving efficiency. 

“A lot of ground was uncovered in the areas of shop floor optimisation, equipment integration with IT-OT, maintenance, and capacity planning. There was no automation whereby data flow could be captured to enable intelligent decision-making,” says Mishra.

“The need to bring visibility on the shop floor and enhance capacity utilisation was so critical that the chairman’s office stepped in this time to approve the project of IT-OT integration. A clear project charter with timelines and responsibilities was formulated. Instead of driving a project through emails or accidental meetings, the project was to be planned and executed in a very systematic way,” Mishra says.

Ushering in Industry 4.0

Mishra initiated the rollout of digital automation technologies such as HMI (human-machine interface) and programmable logic controller (PLC) at the company’s largest manufacturing facility, which contributed 55 – 60 per cent to Akum’s overall production.

PLCs and HMIs are sophisticated technologies that provide valuable data on parameters such as machine rate, quality of production, how much production is achieved, machine performance, how much time was spent on scheduled or breakdown maintenance, etc. However, this data has to be analysed to make informed decisions.

Akums leveraged PTC’s, an IoT and augmented reality solution provider, analytical application to make sense of the data generated from the shop floor. 

Mishra has hosted the application in the company’s in-house data centre to ensure network resiliency and overcome the issues of information security, compliance, and latency. As any downtime can lead to incorrect information getting relayed, he has ensured HA in case of an outage. Besides, server sizing and segregation of the network have been done to ensure robustness and cyber security. There is a parallel network and a parallel disaster recovery (DR) site in New Delhi. 

IBRS notes that operational visibility is not trivial. Even almost imperceptible delays in one part of a processing chain can lead to cascading delays. That is, the small delay over many interactions can cause bottlenecks over time. When working with a medical product manufacturer, IBRS discovered that a delay of seconds resulting from new software at one stage of production resulted in a critical failure to a production process. 

Such observations are not readily visible to humans. Since the production floor did not have sophisticated IoT, IBRS used high-speed cameras and time-and-motion analysis. While workable, such an approach only works where there is a suspected cause (such as new software), readily observable behaviour, and specialists to encode and analyse the results. The more sophisticated and scalable option is to leverage IoT and PLC. Such an approach addresses more than known issues across multiple interconnected production systems, but also reveals unexpected and often invisible issues that humans simply cannot see.

Proper risk assessment and IT-OT security were undertaken. “Our core system is system applications and products in data processing (SAP) enterprise resource planning central component (ECC), and a lot of information flows from it. Therefore, it was integrated with many dashboards. Tablets have been provided to the management and also placed on shop floors to display information from the various dashboards,” says Mishra.

Giving Shape to a Visual Factory

The project was initiated in August 2023 and went live in February 2024. With all the important equipment on the shop floor now connected to the software, there is advanced alert notification for equipment maintenance with analytics in-built. This has led to an increase in capacity utilisation by way of having fewer breakdowns.

“If machine failure happens, the accountability is immediately assigned to the engineering department. In case of preventive maintenance, an increase in temperature or vibration, an alert will go to the engineering department. Such breakdown prevention and root cause analysis ensure minimum outage of the equipment. Earlier the outage was 22-23 per cent that has now come down by 10-12 per cent,” says Mishra.

The new technology deployment has also enhanced transparency. Besides IT-OT-driven preventive maintenance, there are insights into electronic batch manufacturing record (EBMR), machine rate, quality of production, rate of production, machine performance, and how much time was spent on scheduled or breakdown maintenance. Some supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems were also plugged in.

“All this is analysed by the application software, leading to enhanced management control as now what exactly is happening on the shop floor is visible,” says Mishra.

As the solution is automated, there is negligible human intervention, resulting in manpower reduction on the shop floor.

Future Planning

Mishra intends to replicate this solution in all other plants within a year. “We are also planning to deploy a manufacturing execution system (MES) in this financial year, which will document, track, monitor, and control the process of manufacturing goods from raw materials to finished products,” Mishra says.

Besides, there are plans to shift from SAP ECC to suite 4 high-performance analytic appliance (S4 HANA).

CIO Insights

“Breakdown prevention and root cause analysis ensure minimum outage of the equipment. Earlier the outage was 22-23 per cent but has now come down by 10-12 per cent,” 

  • Jitendra Mishra, CIO, Akums Drugs and Pharmaceuticals.

Company Details

Jitendra Mishra

CIO, Akums Drugs and Pharmaceuticals. Visionary leader with over 25 years of diversified experience across pharmaceuticals, clinical research industry verticals in providing strategic direction to the management on technology, collaborating technology.

Company: Akums Drugs and Pharmaceuticals.

Vertical: Healthcare and Pharmaceutical.

Revenue: USD 480 million.

Employee: 18,000.

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