All the latest news from the industry weekly compiled by the editorial team for you free of charge.
This eMail is already registered.
An unexpected error occured.
Please accept our Terms of Use.
Registration successful.
1 Rating

SYMBOLIC AUTONOMY - FUTURE OF MANUFACTURING INDUSTRY COVID-19 upscales industries from automation to autonomy

Jan 17, 2022

With COVID-19, the manufacturing industry is at the cusp of transformation. It is making a tactical shift from automation to autonomy to face the pandemic’s challenges and accelerate business further. The article explores how the industry can make a vital effort to shift to autonomy and how symbiotic autonomy is the future of the manufacturing industry. - Sajiv Nath, Chief Executive Officer - India, Middle East & Africa, Yokogawa & Managing Director, Yokogawa India

With COVID-19, the manufacturing industry is at the cusp of transformation. It is making a tactical shift from automation to autonomy to face the pandemic’s challenges and accelerate business further. The article explores how the industry can make a vital effort to shift automation to autonomy and how symbiotic is the future of the manufacturing industry.

The unprecedented pandemic times are here to stay, and various industry sectors face challenges with determination and the power of technological innovations. As the healthcare system copes with the overwhelming number of COVID-19 cases, the governments across India are cautious and working towards breaking the infection thread. Social distancing and other COVID-19 countermeasures have compelled an immediate recognition for autonomous solutions that enable operations with minimum human intervention.

In this unprecedented situation, the industry struggles to keep operations going while maintaining safety. When companies strive for greater control through innovative manufacturing programmes, they have many business goals in mind. All organisations look for the efficiency of operation, the safety of the process and human resources, profitability, and having backup plans for unpredictable crises are a few goals, but getting it is not easy.

For many businesses, the pandemic guidelines necessitate that most processes, such as maintenance, service and general operations, be performed remotely or with minimal human intervention. A higher priority is now being placed on the ability to continue operating with minimal or no workers present.

Automation to autonomy: Generating safer, effective plant operations

Manufacturing plants are being revolutionised by innovations promoting a transition toward more autonomous activities and decision-making processes. Information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) have been enabling innovations for many years. Still, each of these technologies has been used separately, and thus, manufacturers have not been reaping the full synergistic benefits. The industry is now working towards the convergence of IT, and OT and the dual power are generating newer, safer and more effective ways of manufacturing plant operations.

As a result, and due to the adoption of these technical innovations, we are witnessing an unprecedented wave of industrial autonomy where machines being deployed have the power of cognition, providing the manufacturing industry with the capabilities required to withstand the current crisis and thrive in the post-COVID future where safety will be one of the prime concerns. While automation performs a series of highly organised pre-programmed tasks, which requires human supervision and interaction, with autonomous operations, plant assets and operations have learning and adaptive capabilities that enable responses with minimal human intervention, ensuring the process operates at its best. Understandably, industries are speeding up to move from Industrial Automation to Industrial Autonomy (IA2IA).

Enabling technologies like robotics, digital twins and AI promotes the transition toward more autonomous activities and decision-making processes to boost efficiency and worker safety. In addition, the need for operational resilience has never been more critical in today’s business world, which industrial autonomy adroitly addresses.

It is the world of rapid change in the industry, it seems that the pandemic has, in a way, triggered a perception of what constitutes best and safe practices or operations. As a result, businesses have begun to investigate, pilot and expand industrial autonomy in their operations. Fortunately, much of the technology and data required to transition to autonomous operations already exist.

As a starting point, all businesses are currently in some stage of automated operations. The industry anticipates that this IA2IA shift will gain traction as the economic situation improves.

Cognitive systems for process management

Autonomous operations are assets and operations with human-like learning and adaptive capabilities, allowing them to react without operator intervention to situations within a secure, bounded domain that are not pre-programmed or anticipated at the design phase. They are in charge of all functions, including safety-critical ones. In a fully autonomous operation (ie, one that does not require human intervention), the cognitive system is responsible for all aspects of the operation, including safety. This is an ideal state that may take time to achieve, but companies need to make strides in this direction.

Process control & procedures, planning & scheduling, supply chain management, field operations, maintenance and engineering would benefit from increased autonomy. Although it’s challenging to leap right into autonomous operations, it will be a gradual shift. Hence, some customer-centric solution developers have created a maturity model to determine where businesses are now and where they need to be in the future.

Integration with symbiotic autonomy

As the industry reaches a higher level of autonomy, we envision a transcendent phase called ‘symbiotic autonomy’, which focuses on further integration across industries.

The autonomous operations of multi-collaborating ecosystems are brought together in symbiotic autonomy to look beyond an individual plant and achieve autonomous data and resource interaction between plants and companies. This strategy will produce multi-win results for a wider variety of stakeholders in an environment where companies are expected to consider their activities from the point of view of global sustainability.

Taking the IA2IA journey for future factories

Understandably, automation is the trend that causes the most concern among workers, particularly as a threat to manufacturing jobs. However, the ability to perform work without requiring workers to be present in a hazardous environment provides significant safety benefits, primarily by keeping people out of harm’s way. AI and dynamic, intuitive robots are transforming the way companies work in every industry, whereas human resources are being repurposed for more meaningful work in safer environments.

It is the right time to start the IA2IA journey and, in the future, make symbiotic autonomy a reality across the world.

Image Gallery

  • Enabling technologies like robotics, digital twins and AI promotes the transition toward more autonomous activities and decision-making processes to boost efficiency and worker safety

  • The autonomous operations of multi-collaborating ecosystems are brought together in symbiotic autonomy to look beyond an individual plant and achieve autonomous data and resource interaction between plants and companies

  • Sajiv Nath

    Chief Executive Officer - India, Middle East & Africa, Yokogawa

    Managing Director, Yokogawa India

Companies related to this article
Related articles