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Cummins India’s Annapurna Vishwanathan Talks About Leveraging AI/ML for Operational Excellence

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In this exclusive interview, Annapurna Vishwanathan, Chief Information Officer, Cummins India, delves into the digital transformation journey of Cummins India, a key player in the manufacturing sector actively leveraging technology for operational excellence. With a particular focus on artificial intelligence and machine learning, Cummins India has implemented innovative strategies to enhance supply chain efficiency, logistics optimisation, and manufacturing processes.

Cummins has been actively involved in digital transformation initiatives across the manufacturing and supply chain. Could you highlight some of the key projects or strategies that have contributed to this transformation, particularly those involving AI/ML?

At Cummins India, we view technology as a strategic differentiator in our manufacturing and supply chain journey. In this journey, we are focusing on three key digital transformation areas:

Supply Chain efficiency: To build our supply chain efficiency, we are introducing tools such as Rough-cut Capacity Planning (RCCP) and Advanced Supply Chain Planning (ASCP). These tools allow us to measure suppliers’ performance. The ability to match our demand without confirmed supply enables strategic sourcing planning, resulting in improved supply chain efficiency.

Optimised logistics: Digitising our logistics process with a Transportation Management System (TMS) has benefitted all our stakeholders – Cummins Logistics team, Third-Party Logistics (3PL) partners, and customers. We have transitioned from manual carrier selection and route planning to a rule engine-based output, providing direct consumption. This has helped our 3PL partners to receive digitalised confirmation of Indent Management and has enhanced the customer experience with track and trace support for their shipments.

Manufacturing excellence with Industry 4.0: Industry 4.0 is shaping the future of manufacturing with technology enablement and digital transformation. In the past two years, Cummins India has been at the forefront of embracing Industry 4.0 across its manufacturing processes. Our mission is to connect our key equipment for pan-India visibility. This initiative has already delivered significant value, particularly in safety and efficiency. At present, we are capturing real-time sensor-based Overall Equipment Efficiency (OEE) to identify the areas for efficiency improvement. We have also deployed skill-based machine allocation tools to ensure the safety of our machine operators.

From a technology perspective, our approach focuses on leapfrogging our capabilities by introducing and deploying the right tools across our operations, to maximise the value of technology investments.

Industry 4.0 and IIOT have revolutionised the manufacturing sector. How has Cummins India leveraged these technologies to achieve manufacturing excellence and enhance operational efficiency?

At Cummins India, we are deploying Industry 4.0 technology across multiple plants. The aim is to connect people, assets, and processes to establish an end-to-end visibility of our operations.

To achieve this, we are leveraging IIOT-based solutions for improving the OEE of machines on the shop floor along with Condition-based Monitoring or Machine Health tracking. Real-time data and insights have enabled relevant and swift decision-making by empowering the manufacturing and maintenance teams with digital dashboards. This approach helps us with improved cycle time, better production planning, proactive predictive maintenance, and prevention of machine breakdown.

Cybersecurity is a critical concern in the digital age. What measures and strategies has Cummins India implemented to ensure the security and integrity of its digital assets and manufacturing processes?

Cybersecurity is a topmost priority for us at Cummins India. In collaboration with our global cybersecurity team, we are committed to implementing robust practices aligned with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) framework.

Our approach involves the deployment of cutting-edge and state-of-the-art technologies to fortify cybersecurity defences, demonstrating our unwavering commitment to safeguarding the essential infrastructure. A few measures that we have adopted include, maintaining network security, end-point security, encryption, and patch management among others, to protect the integrity and confidentiality of our digital assets and manufacturing processes.

Generative AI has the potential to revolutionise various aspects of business. How does Cummins India want to harness generative AI to drive innovation and improve its operations?

As we embark on digitisation of our core operations, we have implemented AI-enabled solutions to optimise our processes. This includes digitising our sales and service management/processes, logistics systems, and various planning processes. We are currently evaluating the integration of Generative AI capabilities. In our ongoing discussions with various product companies, we have observed that significant product refinement is still underway. We are closely watching the space and will be adopting as the products evolve to suit our business needs.

Over the next two years, our primary focus remains on the digitisation of business processes. As we systematically digitise our end-to-end processes, it positions us well to adopt evolving capabilities like Generative AI, which would have also matured in the way it is integrated into products by then.

I am particularly intrigued by the potential of Generative AI in transforming the way we use data. In the next two years, I envision a shift where our teams will not be developing Business Intelligence (BI) reports, instead, they will have the ability to ask questions directly and receive answers that empower them to make informed decisions.

Currently, we are laying the foundation to make this vision a reality.

In what ways does your role as CIO contribute to fostering a culture of innovation within Cummins India, and how do you encourage your team to think creatively about technology solutions?

At Cummins India, we believe in democratising the process of building solutions with technology. We recognise that people who work on the processes day in and day out are the ones who possess a deep understanding about them. Therefore, we want to empower them with the right tools to drive micro digitisation. Leveraging platforms like low-code, self-service BI, automation, etc. have helped us to successfully achieve this goal.

Today, we have multiple solutions that were created in one plant through a collaboration between the plant teams and IT and were then expanded to other facilities. For instance, a safety app developed in one of our plants quickly gained adoption across multiple plants, providing a comprehensive safety record. Similarly, apps have been built for asset inventory count, and canteen management to name a few.

This approach has enabled us to create a culture of technology empowerment. When faced with a need, business teams no longer wait for a solution but possess the ability to build one for themselves within a defined framework.

As a CIO, can you share the one particular innovation that you are particularly proud of?

We are proud to be among the industry pioneers for the way we are establishing a digital sales and service ecosystem.
Our initial step was to develop a comprehensive sales and service contract management system, that successfully automated the entire process, from inquiry management to contract registration, execution, and billing. This consolidation replaced the need for users to navigate through ten different applications to complete the same process, providing multiple stakeholders with the necessary visibility for decision-making.

Building on this success, our next step was to implement an AI-powered Dealer Management System (DMS) for our channel partners. Since our sales teams and service engineers operate in the market through channel partners, empowering them with the right technology was a crucial step toward achieving growth. This initiative enabled service and sales teams to be more proactive while reducing overall complexity and enhancing the efficiency of our dealers.

Through these initiatives, we have instilled a culture of fast-paced tech delivery and established nimble teams to introduce an agile approach to implementation. Our Minimum Viable Product (MVP) was delivered within three months. Since then, we have completed eight releases to enhance the application’s capabilities. Additionally, we have placed a strong emphasis on capturing the value achieved throughout the delivery process, focusing on four key areas: process improvement, cycle time reduction, productivity, and traceability.

As we continue to grow, we are well-positioned to expand this digital footprint across all our channels, creating a truly digitised front-end experience for our customers and partners.

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