India’s manufacturing sector has accelerated the pace of digital transformation. Advanced manufacturing organisations are implementing new-age technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), internet of things (IoT), robotics and analytics to enhance growth and profitability, reduce costs and improve the customer experience. Industry leaders share their views on how these technologies are transforming the manufacturing industry in India, the implementation challenges and the way forward…
How are new-age technologies such as AI/ ML, big data, AR/VR and robotics transforming the manufacturing sector and fuelling Industry 4.0?
With the emergence of new-age technologies such as IoT, ML and AI, we can expect more investment in these technologies due to the capabilities they can bring to the value chain within the manufacturing sector. For instance, ML and AI will enable the shop floor manager to analyse equipment/machine behaviour to improve performance and predict the maintenance cycle. Further, it will enable robust human-robotic collaboration allowing machines to better work with humans and predict any dangerous situations for employees before they happen. These technologies will assist manufacturers in providing insights into the operational efficiency of the end-to-end value chain from procurement to the finished line and delivering products to end consumers.
How will the widespread deployment of 5G and IoT/IIoT accelerate the digital transformation of enterprises in the sector?
IoT is one of the areas that 5G technology has the potential to impact in a big way. With more manufacturers adopting emerging technologies such as AI/ML and IoT to enhance the experience of their consumers, 5G opens up a new world. 5G could be up to 20-30 times faster than the current long-term evolution (LTE) networks in modest conditions, thus allowing IoT devices to communicate and share data faster than ever. This will give the necessary impetus to the connected devices ecosystem with improved productivity by empowering augmented reality (AR) overlays in workflows and ensuring safe practices through virtual reality (VR)-based training, thereby, presenting a significant growth opportunity for businesses in the country.
What are the key challenges faced while deploying new-age technologies?
The challenge for manufacturers is that information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) often work in silos with little interaction, even when critical production data is concerned. This results in a lack of visibility into how each department’s role fits with the manufacturing entity. Ensuring seamless convergence between IT and OT is difficult because, in the past, the systems had different objectives; hence, they were built based on different technologies and networks. Today, the rapid adoption of Ethernet protocols at the machine level and the fast diffusion of web-based user interfaces are gradually easing the integration process. Moreover, there are other challenges including a lack of skilled workforce and limited design capability in the market.
Addressing such challenges, Panasonic’s Miraie Profactory Platform provides visualisation based on real-time data collected from a wide range of industrial machines from different manufacturers. Enabled by AI technology, it provides predictive maintenance recommendation to further reduce downtime.
What are the three key technological trends that will reshape the manufacturing sector in the near future?
As the country is witnessing improvement in digital infrastructure, the three technological trends that will be pertinent to the manufacturing sector are:
- IIoT is still a major trend that will continue, where data is collected from connected devices in industrial and production units to improve the manufacturing process.
- 5G and edge computing, which will make it easier for manufacturers to integrate their IIoT technologies and take advantage of devices such as smart machines and sensors for collecting data and processing it on the cloud. This would allow manufacturers to take preventative action and maintain the equipment more efficiently, remotely.
- With AR/VR technology, we could address remote service and also improve training for factory workers, thus achieving better output.