(i) A top Indian manufacturer’s perspective on manufacture of biscuits
(ii) The Coffee cycle – from beans to the bins
We had four parts in the afternoon’s proceedings involving introductions from Infosys and then from the Bangalore section of ISA followed by the main event , that is the TechTalks by Mr.Kanchan Chakraborty of ITC and by Mr.Ranbir Mansingh of Kahava Fresh.
The first speaker was Abhishek Goyal, Vice president and Head of IOT Services at Infosys who welcomed the gathering. He mentioned that his group with a staff of about 3000 is one among others in Infosys offering, what they call, Digital Services globally. They have partnered with PTC , Microsoft, Amazon, Siemens and others to create IOT solutions . Relevant ISA standards, he said, have been the backbone for many implementations. Dr.G V V Ravikumar, Associate VP, Engg.Services at Infosys, shared that when the Industry 4.0 started becoming prominent, Infosys went about systematically to understand it by collaborating with the German University of Achen and conducting surveys in various countries. He mentioned that interactions with ISA were also part of their initial explorations and partnering with Acatech consortium, the national science & engineering organisation of Germany . Finally an Industry 4.0 framework was designed and that is the basis now for approaching customers. Improvement of efficiencies in different departments of large corporations are the deliverables they aim for. The industry segments targeted to begin with, he said, are Pharma, Mining and Food & Beverage.
Dr.Sunil Shah, the current president of ISA, Bangalore section briefly gave an overview about ISA globally and specifically about the Bangalore section’s activities.
This Tech Talk, he said, is an example of one role of ISA to act as a bridge for companies like Infosys to facilitate their domain explorations and looked forward to sustained collaborations.
Kanchan Chakraborty, General Manager Technology & Engineering ,ITC started by saying he wished in this talk to give a technology end-user perspective of the biscuit mass manufacture process in an Indian context. Thanks to his vast experience ranging from the shop floor to the top floor coupled with excellent communication skills, he served up an engrossing and highly informative talk
The ever present challenges to be faced he said are Inconsistency in the composition of the main raw material which is wheat flour which makes up 65 to 70 % of the weight of a biscuit ; multiple stages in the process each with its specific speed of operation and handling of the material all needing, at the same time, an integrated operation ; the imperative to have high yield and throughput so as to keep a tight control on costs in the low- margin, high volume scenario for the standard, ‘carrier’ range of biscuits ; need for innovative manufacturing techniques of the ‘premium’ range of biscuits which can be sold at higher margin and for exports ; occasional glitches in power supply.
He shared how the industry has got a handle on all these challenges by transforming the manufacturing technology over the years. The current processes are vastly superior to those he saw in the eighties, he said, due to evolution on many fronts - electric drives (from Reeves gear to VFD ), Control (from Open loop to closed loop ) operator interface (manual to SCADA ), Yield ( from 50 % to 97 %), Concepts ( from Manufacturing Intelligence systems to Manufacturing Excellence systems) . . The cost concepts have shifted from Least-cost-to-manufacture to Least-cost-to-market considering the whole chain till the product reaches the consumer.
The new challenges to be faced now he said are – interoperability of the equipment from different vendors, making sense and better use of the large amounts of data being acquired, reducing capital investment by simplification and standardisation, still further improvement in yield (why not aim for 99 %, he wondered), and finally, to develop enterprise level solutions for the large factory complexes coming up with multiple operations, in addition to biscuit making, in one location.
That’s a broad picture for new solution providers to focus on. There was no dearth of questions posed to the speaker before he had to peel himself away to head back to Kolkata, such was the interest generated.
Mr.Ranbir Mansingh of Kahava Fresh, is a quiet gentleman, a master of coffee plant growing, the methods of extracting coffee and the various good (and bad) ways of finally making the beverage. He is an artist who has a keen appreciation of the finest tastes and flavours and the capability to distinguish them to boot. After a long stint in Brooke Bond and Nestle, he is now a planter himself and gourmet coffee maker.
This industry veteran also is well aware of the history and the current dynamics of the coffee industry as a whole and so we were fortunate to have him illuminate about the craft behind coffee . All that was missing was a coffee lab with flavours and sights to complement his lecture, though we got a glimpse of it with the video he presented and the visuals from a plantation.
We learnt that this is the second largest traded commodity, that there are mainly four varieties world-wide ( Arabica and Robusta being the major ones), that good rains at the right time (March/April) and bees are essential for a good yield, that the plants start producing seeds about 5 years after planting, that the stages in the full coffee cycle are Planting & Harvesting, Curing, Roasting ( 7 to 22 minutes), grinding, Extraction, Packing and delivery. He revealed that the precision and skill in roasting plays a crucial part in the eventual quality and that is when the flavour is released, that passing seeds thru the guts of various animals is a taste enhancer as also keeping seeds in a moist environment on the coastal regions (monsooning is the term for this ).
Speaking about the market dynamics he explained that the dealings at major exchanges are now such that a truly remunerative price is not available to growers and hence they are struggling to make ends meet. Plus there are threats of pests (especially affecting the Arabica variety). The audience was curious to know about Chicory, an additive to coffee to give a taste liked by some . It was news to know that this is not derived from a bean but is a root like radish with a 5 to 6 month growing cycle and which can be stored for a long time.
And a native of Chickmagalur in the audience was pleased to hear that the coffee grown there was the best in India. He was queried about trends in India for gourmet coffee which are special blends customised to different tastes and we learnt that this is a small niche market as of now. Well, this expert talk would have certainly helped to create more discerning consumers.