Production soars as robots replace human factory workers
Such a headline used to be the stuff of sci-fi films or books. No longer so: in fact they are becoming more commonplace. Globally, while technology has smartified the manufacturing process, in countries like India humans still are the key in the scheme of things.
And the founders of ClairViz, a startup that provides industrial Internet of things (IIoT), analytics and big data-based products to the manufacturing sector, recognise that. As Aditya Vermani, Co-founder and Business Head, points out, “The line operator and supervisor in a factory are very important for us. They should not see our technology as a disturbance. Rather, they should look at it as an enabler assisting them to achieve high targets.”
According to him, the inspiration to start ClairViz Systems came from a negative reaction to technology by one such line operator. “I found a non-functioning digital manufacturing system on a shop floor. The line operator said he didn’t know what it was meant for and implied that the owner had wasted money on such a machine. I felt bad that technology, which provided proven benefits to companies across the globe, was being badmouthed in this way.”
Delving further, Aditya discovered that the system supplier was a software company that had little understanding of manufacturing processes and how to acquire data from machines. “As I have a background in the automation and manufacturing domain, I saw an opportunity here. I reached out to Ranjeev Singh Andotra, my old friend and colleague from Larsen & Toubro (L&T), who has experience in building software products, and like me has a background in automation and manufacturing. That’s how we started ClairViz in July 2015.”
Today, the Navi Mumbai-based startup offers a complete suite of digital manufacturing products/solutions that leverage IoT, big data, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning for the manufacturing sector. Osprey, its flagship product, is a platform that integrates with a variety of data sources and converts raw information into real-time actionable intelligence on parameters such as OEE (overall equipment effectiveness), production, productivity, performance, yield, availability and TPM (total productive maintenance) analysis. They also have a range of digital manufacturing products, including E-Log Books, E- Kanban, E-Andon, Digital SOPs (standing operating procedures), and solutions for tracking and tracing, energy management and e-maintenance. “Our products seamlessly integrate with ERP (enterprise resource planning) and other business intelligence tools which ensure that our customers’ existing investments in technology are protected,” says Ranjeev, who heads the Products & Technology function at ClairViz.
Their Track & Trace solution is used to streamline manufacturing processes and track back various components used during production. The Maintenance Management product provides condition-based monitoring (CBM) and predictive maintenance for equipment, which helps customers plan their maintenance activities. With the Digital SOPs solution, customers can complete operational and maintenance activities in a shorter duration, improving their margins.
Since the IIoT field is just maturing, customers need to be thoroughly coached about the proper adoption of technology to gain maximum benefits. The ClairViz team does a complete process analysis and plant study, and provides end-to-end solutions wrapped around the products line.
The founders firmly believe in Peter Drucker’s dictum: What gets measured gets improved. “We believe that a company is good because of its best practices, so digitalisation should begin with the digital manifestation of their best practices. The benefits automatically start pouring in due to real-time visibility, reduction of waste, proactive information and complete traceability. After using our product / solution, some customers saw improved labour relations, others saw better warranty management and fewer customer complaints. In some cases, the productivity improvement has been up to 40 per cent,” says Aditya.
Aware that they would be competing with the likes of global giants such as SAP, Rockwell and GE, the founding duo understood that their product/solution had to be both top-notch and cost-effective. “The Indian manufacturing industry has always been very quality and cost-conscious. So we decided to bring in disruptions in the digital space within manufacturing by providing relevant and frugal solutions/products to our clients, which would give them maximum benefits. Our products use open source technologies; hence solutions are cost-effective and are not dependent on any vendor,” say the founders. “The competitive advantage of Indian manufacturing comes from its best use of men and machines. Frugality is the key pillar of Indian manufacturing. We do not have the advanced machines of developed countries. Once you make technology relevant to Indian manufacturing, the opportunity is huge.”
So it’s no surprise then that their business has been seeing a steady growth. In 2015-16 their revenue was Rs 4 lakh, whereas in 2016-17 it grew tenfold to Rs 40 lakh. “Most of our customers are at a post-POC (proof of concept) stage now and we look forward to a very good FY 18-19,” says an optimistic Aditya.
ClairViz’s customers include majors such as Mahindra Intertrade and Grasim Industries. “Today we are targeting mid to large companies with a turnover of over Rs 100 crore. This segment has more than 7,000 enterprises. So we see an opportunity size of over Rs 2,500 crore from this segment in India alone. This will increase once we start offering our product to smaller manufacturers,” says Aditya.
Being a part of NASSCOM’s 10,000 Startups programme has brought with it several advantages, says Ranjeev. While NASSCOM’s corporate connections have helped ClairViz reach a wider network of corporates, the visibility garnered from events organised by the apex industry body helps them grow and reach more customers, which would otherwise have been challenging if they set out to do it on their own. ”Startups like ours benefit immensely from Nasscom’s programmes and initiatives, and we thank them for all their help and guidance,” says Ranjeev.
As for the future, the founders say they are looking forward to investing in AR (augmented reality), machine learning and blockchain technologies. “In the next couple of months, we will launch our new product, OspreyCloud, a cloud-based manufacturing analytics platform, which will use a plug-and-play approach to bring on board a manufacturing line. Clients simply need to plug in their devices to track and monitor their manufacturing KPIs (key performance indicators). This will be a highly scalable model where clients can start using the new technology almost immediately from the time they connect their factory to the cloud,” says Ranjeev.
In a bid to bring about more digital inclusiveness in the manufacturing sector, they also plan to launch standard cloud-based, plug-and-play products which even the smallest of manufacturers with very few machines will be able to use.
Hitherto bootstrapped, the ClairViz founders say, “We have been lucky that all our customers are paying us. We do not believe in free POCs as they are destined to fail.”
According to Aditya, in the past year, they have seen serious interest from manufacturers who are now aware of the concepts of smart manufacturing and Industry 4 (automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies). “Customers understand that adoption of digital manufacturing is now imperative, especially as the World Economic Forum (WEF), in its latest global manufacturing index, has placed India in the ‘Legacy’ group of countries that have a strong current base but are at risk for the future. The emphasis is on investing further in technology for the manufacturing sector to be future-ready.”
So what sets ClairViz apart from others in the digital manufacturing space? Aditya responds, “We stand out because of our ability to work on old legacy machines as well as ones with the latest technology. Our strength comes from our deep understanding of sensors, processes, domains and technology. Our suite of products caters to end-to-end requirements in the digital manufacturing space, whereas most of our competitors are platform-oriented, which means that you need to provide data to them. We make machines IoT-enabled, capture the most relevant data depending on the outcome required, and convert that data into actionable intelligence.”
While they do face minor challenges, such as acquiring the last-mile connectivity with legacy machines that may not have communication capabilities, and some OEMs’ (original equipment manufacturers) password protecting their controllers, they say there’s nothing that they can’t combat with a little help from their customers.
Aditya sums up their product philosophy by narrating an interesting takeaway from his previous experience of building satellites for the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) during his stint at L&T: “I realised that ISRO does not have a repair centre. They believe that once the product that they make is launched, it should work flawlessly. We have tried to inculcate this spirit into our products as well.”