An obligation for every Technical Professional

Irrespective of your political affiliation you should read the attached link for an excellent panel discussion on Education, Advanced Manufacturing and Funding for Research

If your candidate understands and supports these issues vote for her / him. If your candidate has no clue on these issues then demand their attention and policy positions. Standing on the side line or casting a protest vote is not a good option.

Your jobs, career and future depend on your activist role in this election (and in every election).

NGPG – 8 Year journey for end to end Innovation



A group of executives of machine tool manufacturing companies and precision components manufacturers met in July 2008 at Ghaziabad, a small town in the outskirts of Delhi. This meeting was organized by Mr. N.K. Dhand, CEO, Micromatic Grinding Technology, a leading machine tool manufacturer in India. Their discussion centered on Precision Manufacturing in India. This was an early initiative very much in line with the now famous Make in India movement spear headed by the current Prime Minister of India, Mr. Narendra Modi. This journey started in 2008 has resulted in a commercially viable indigenous machine tool, capable of manufacturing higher precision engineered components in India. This machine (NGPG) was inaugurated on June 24th 2016 at IIT – Madras, India.


This report is a brief summary of the 8 – Year journey of collaborative development, leading to end to end innovation (i.e.) from concept to commercially viable end product.

Following are a few pictures from the kick off meeting held at Ghaziabad on July 1, 2008. The meeting was attended by CEOs of several precision machine tool manufacturers, Senior Managers from Precision components manufacturers, Senior advisers from Indian Machine Tool Manufacturers Association (IMTMA).


Kick off meeting held at MGT at Gazhiabad, Delhi July 1, 20008

 Dr. K. (Subbu) Subramanian, President, STIMS Institute (then working at Saint-Gobain Co.)  was invited to this meeting to offer his views on manufacturing and innovation. He offered an outline for a road map for machine tool developments in India. He suggested the following outline:

  • Step 1: Target Industries, applications and their market opportunity (Driven by National and Global Policies): Inside of India; in Selected Geographies?
  • Step 2: There are similar applications (e.g): Cylindrical Grinding, everywhere. What is the “Served Market” for the IMTMA members?
  • Step 3: What industries and markets that IMTMA members want to drive? Proactive Vs. Reactive ?
  • Step 4: There is a natural evolution path for Core Capabilities  depending on the           component/supplier capabilities.
  • Step 5: Leverage capabilities of Individual members or industry suppliers?  (e.g): Grinding Technology
  • Step 6: Leverage capabilities of a collection of members and their capabilities for  “Integrated Solutions”? Technology Value Chain?

Dr. Subramanian also explained the need for an eco-system for collaborative development in India, as an unique alternative to the industry – university models noted in developed nations such as USA and Germany.


At the end of this meeting the following conclusion was reached:

Indian Machine Tool manufacturers and their customers for the machines made in India cannot achieve tolerances for less than 1 micron (roundness, taper, size holding, …) with out in-process gaging. But in-process gaging cannot be used for many precision components including non-round grinding applications such as cam lobe grinding or match grinding of precision parts. Such machines can be imported but technologies to manufacture such machines are not available for sale that can be purchased from the overseas manufacturers. Lack of such higher precision machine tools also impacts further progress inside of India in the use of advanced grinding solutions – such as high speed CBN grinding – in the manufacturing sector.

After such clearly outlined industry need, Dr. Subramanian and Mr. N.K. Dhand contacted Prof. Babu at IIT – Madras. Further discussions together with Mr. Mohanram, Scientific Adviser, IMTMA resulted in a research proposal, which was timely for submission to a RFP for research in the year 2010, supported through the Office of the Principal Scientific Advisor, GOI. The proposal was accepted by GOI. The review process that followed was valuable as noted in the following exchange:

Reviewer Comment: The proposal should make the technical details of what is meant by the next generation precision grinding machine. This information given in the proposal is too general and is not sufficient to judge the quality of the proposal. It is also not proper to identify an existing machine tool of the sponsor without establishing its superiority over the existing machine tools of the other brands.

I recommend that the first phase of the project should compare and identify the  best grinding machine presently available and then spell out the requirements of the next generation precision Grinding machine so as to take up the second phase project involving the development.

Response:   There will be a parallel effort to calibrate cylindrical grinding machines available in India and the state of the art of such machines available worldwide. With this data set of the cylindrical grinding machine capabilities inside of India and those available abroad should be the reference for developing the next generation precision grinder. The framework developed in the project will provide the necessary guidance for building the next generation precision grinders.

After further reflection, the following factors were also identified by the R&D team:

  • In most industries the commercial developments are incremental. But the history of such development is not a well-documented continuum. Hence while many companies can manufacture higher precision machine tools, they cannot “teach” a comprehensive methodology for someone else to follow!
  • Often the legacy knowledge is also lost with the retirement or departure of experienced and senior level workers as each generation of machine tool is developed or due to changes in company business conditions and strategy.
  • The research pursued by individual academic researchers often delve into depth of one or the other aspect of precision machine tools such as stiffness, dynamic stability, etc. Rare few if any study all aspects of machine tool developments needed for the development of a higher precision machine tool. This requires an integrated or System View of the research and development.
  • Hence the System Approach developed and advocated by STIMS Institute and the related Transformational Skills were adapted as the frame work for the development of the Next Generation Precision Grinder (NGPG).

The NGPG project was approved by the end of 2012. It has progressed well to achieve all the goals set forth in the visionary meeting held at Ghaziabad in 2008. The machine was inaugurated on June 24th 2016 at IIT – Madras by Dr. R. Chidambaram, Principal Scientific Advisor, GOI. The project, its progress and the end result – a commercially viable next generation machine tool developed as an outcome of GOI funded research carried out through active team of collaborators from Industry, Academia, Govt. Research labs. and world experts – is a true testament to the application of System Thinking and Transformational Skills and their impact. We are pleased to document below the progress and the results through the following slides:







NGPG: Outcome of effective Project Management and guidance by the Project Review and Management Committee (PRMC)Slide7

Transformational Skills displayed through the NGPG Project

Slide12 As it is often said “Success Breeds Success”. The success of the NGPG project and the collaborative environment created across the industry / university research and manufacturing community has resulted in the development and formation of the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Development Center (AMTDC). This is a collaborative effort across six machine tool / components manufacturers, IIT – M supported by GOI R&D funding.  STIMS Institute will continue its role of mentoring and guidance for the success of this consortium and its impact on the manufacturing sector.


Bringing the science to shopfloor manufacturing


Traditionally grinding process is treated as something very complex and known only to a few with many years of experience and with specialised skills in the shop floor. A portable diagnostic tool and interpreting the process signal is changing the situation and helping to reduce such challenges faced in grinding.

It is like using a torch light in a dark ally. Once the light of the signal shines, we can see the path more clearly and easily,” states Dr Subramanian.

Further analysis of the signals and explaining the variations in terms of the microscopic interactions that occur in the grinding zone, brings the science of grinding to the shop floor,” according to Dr K (Subbu) Subramanian, President, STIMS Institute Inc, USA. He has been mentoring this work at IIT Madras and its subsequent transfer for industrial use. This work at IIT Madras has been carried out as part of a larger project, “Development of Next Generation High Precision Grinding Machine Tool,” funded by the Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India. Prof Ramesh Babu is the principal investigator of this project along with his students at IIT Madras. MGTL, an industrial partner in this project is commercializing this mobile diagnostic tool as Grind TrakTM.

In a recent example, a grinding process was the bottleneck operation, limiting the production of the entire line. By looking at the signals obtained and analyzing them, it was determined that the cycle time for this operation can be reduced resulting in a net increase in line throughput of 40%, without the need for any additional investments.

Next generation of manufacturing will require smart and well qualified people using portable diagnostic tools and techniques very much like the medical field. In this regard, the Grind TrakTM will serve as the stethoscope and thermometer for this new generation of grinding professionals”, asserts Dr Subramanian.

42 Technology Grinding Machines EM FEB 2016



Optimising Complex Manufacturing

Slide1Every aspect of our economy is now undergoing a transformation, leading to the evolution of a broadening gap between modes for

  • Replication Solutions for cost reduction where minimum skills are required along with minimum of wages and a mode for creating and
  • New Solutions, where high skills and ability to integrate knowledge from all sources is the need. This New Solution mode is also the opportunity for the few – companies, employers and workers – to gain high wages and high rewards in terms of growth and profitability.

Binary Economy

These two modes are also leaving behind a widening gap – a chasm – and if you are trapped in this middle, you are part of the growing middle class (of companies, workers and professionals) where the floor is collapsing under your feet. Of course if you are the investor – the rich – you make money off both these economic modes and hence the rich getting richer, the poor getting poorer and the middle left clueless. This is not the issue for the left vs. right or progressives vs. conservatives. WE ARE ALL IN THE SAME BOAT, with cracks developing in the middle.

We have described this evolving economic model as the Binary Economy and how to get a handle on this through a set of Transformational Skills in our New Book.

The challenges of doing well in the cost reduction mode, while creating opportunities through New Products and Services is the new complexity in the manufacturing. Dr. Subramanian, President, STIMS Institute was interviewed along with a panel of experts. This panel discussion is published in the Efficient Manufacturing Magazine

Round Table EM India 2015

Slide2The draft of the Q &A with Dr. Subramanian is presented below.

For more details and for any services we can help you with in your manufacturing and innovation efforts Contact US.

  • What are the various ways through which one can take advantage of advanced technologies and at the same time avoid complexity in manufacturing processes?      Worldwide there is a plateau – point of diminishing return – being reached in cost reduction and continuous improvement. Supply Chain, Lean and such practices are slowly running out of steam. What is needed is a step change or radical departure in terms of new processes leading to new products. Companies like Apple are setting this new vision by introducing totally new products every six months, backed up by manufacturing processes that allow them to offer over ten million units within the first quarter of product release.

In India, manufacturing seems to be facing the same head wind as well. Instead of toll manufacturing based on what is already well established, manufacturers are required to design new products and adapt new processes to produce them. The complexities in such manufacturing increase largely because of a lack of knowledge and inability to perceive the value added through the physical processes imbedded in manufacturing. Education and training of the work force on the knowledge and methods to exploit value through physical processes across the entire supply chain would be required as the first step. Developing an eco-system of suppliers and manufacturers working as a team for such value addition through the physical processes in manufacturing could be another step.

  • Currently, manufacturing enterprises have been increasingly focusing on optimising performance, productivity and asset management. What are your recommendations for such approaches?   It is imperative that these steps are pursued relentlessly. But, are they happening in the real world and what is their effectiveness? Consider this case for example: A senior manufacturing executive wanted to improve line productivity and asset utilization. Expert resource was used to achieve cycle time reduction in the bottle neck operation which resulted in throughput increase by about 40%. No additional investment was required. Higher productivity and better asset utilization was demonstrated. But these results could not be sustained after a short period of two weeks. The exercise revealed that the process know-how in this plant was very limited. The process was restored to the original – longer – cycle time due to a perceived fear the machine tool may wear out! This situation clearly illustrates the need for better education of the engineers and managers already in the work force. Incentives are required for changing their attitude to gain the most value out of the assets used in the manufacturing operations.

There is also a need to get over the “frog in the well” mind set. Even the most efficient manufacturing operations in India have tremendous scope for improvement in quality, productivity and cost. I can personally attest to the fact that the cycle times and machine capacity used for precision grinding processes are well below the industrial practice in the manufacturing plants in USA and Germany. Also many of the advanced tooling available for several processes may not be accessible inside of India due to very small usage and the supply chain issues faced in handling such small volume of consumables.

  • How to overcome the challenges of complexities arising out of collaborative manufacturing, outsourcing, innovation compulsion, flexibility and risk management?   Complexity in any situation is a matter of two issues: (a) lack of clear goals agreed upon by everyone and (b) lack of specific knowledge required for achieving such goals.

Consider for example a manufacturer who sees a new opportunity to produce a new component to meet the requirements of an export customer or a large new market inside of India. How does it translate into new opportunities for every one required in the development of the solution? The manufacturer may require collaboration with machine tool builders, raw material supplier and several tooling manufacturers. These are all the stake holders in the new solution. Unless the benefits for all these stake holders are agreed upon and clarified upfront, the risk will be too high and the collaboration may be limited or constrained. To avoid this pitfall we encourage the senior managers to actively promote the concept of Emotional Intelligence for Innovation. It implies that you seek out collaboration with a mind-set “I seek your help for my success, but I am also committed to make sure that you succeed as well in the end”. When the second half of the above equation is ignored or left unspecified, then the eco-system does not evolve. Leaving the benefit sharing to the people at lower levels, who have little influence, vision or authority also increases the complexities in collaboration many fold.

Even with good intent, knowledge specific to the solution is vital. A supplier who undertakes a new project may not have adequate knowledge to arrive at the final solution. It may require several iterations. Are these iterations carried out before the solution is approved? Frequently such learning steps are postponed for reasons of cost or lack of collaborative mind-set between the supplier and the manufacturer. Such learning steps may not be scientific with due emphasis on in-process data and their analysis. Documentation of such results and a system approach for problem solving may be missing. Lack of data driven problem solving also leads to trial and error where each step is seen as new, even though the same path might have been crossed many times. All of these result in a partially cooked solution implemented on the shop floor.

When the knowledge and communication methods are not institutionalized, mobility and changes in the people involved leads to complexity in the solution development effort. There are efforts in India to foster common knowledge pool through collaboration across the universities and the industry. Trade associations and government bodies such as the Department of Science and Technology also have a role to bring the industries and research institutions into a consortium. Recently collaboration between a CEO with long term vision, a research team from one of the IITs together with our worldwide expertise has resulted in some unique results. While the nature and magnitude of the collaboration is small, it shows the potential for new a vision for “Make in India”!

  • Can you brief on the major manufacturing trends which can be expected in the next 5 years?    Thanks to higher level of automation in the shop floor, in the years to come there will be less competitive advantage due to low cost labour. This will put manufacturers in India competing for the export markets at a serious dis-advantage. They need to overcome this challenge through advanced manufacturing solutions, higher productivity in current manufacturing and introduction of unique new manufacturing solutions. On the other hand the prospects for a growing demand in the domestic market will provide added opportunities for suppliers and manufacturers for this market segment. Collaboration between like-minded companies for mutual and long term growth and shared knowledge base will be the key to success here.