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DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION Disruptive technologies for disruptive manufacturing

Jul 27, 2021

The year 2020 had plenty of lessons taught to industries, and the year 2021 has been about implementing these lessons. While many-a-lessons were learnt, there is still plenty to figure out and find solutions to. To decode these lessons for effective digital transformation, NASSCOM, in association with Efficient Manufacturing (EM) magazine, hosted a virtual round table on ‘Disruptive technologies for disruptive manufacturing – Digital innovation, key to manufacturing efficiencies & global competitiveness’ on July 08, 2021. Excerpts from the discussion…

‘Change is inevitable, and the disruption it causes often brings both inconvenience and opportunity’. The current COVID period is a testament of it. With the recent technology growth in India, various sectors, especially manufacturing, have found their dependency increase on robots, cobots, 3D Printing, AI, ML and last but not the least, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Given the volatility of the pandemic, the dependency has also turned into solace for business continuity. To further discuss the disruptive technologies, how to monitor them and strategies to ensure increasing manufacturing efficiency, NASSCOM, in Disruptive technologies for disruptive manufacturing association with Efficient Manufacturing (EM) magazine, hosted a round-table on ‘Disruptive technologies for disruptive manufacturing – Digital innovation, key to manufacturing efficiencies & global competitiveness’.

Yesterday’s buzzwords, today’s mainstream technologies

The session which comprised four industry stalwarts - Sanjeev Malhotra, CEO, Centre of Excellence, NASSCOM; Atul Govil, Chief Transformation Officer & Head (SAP & IT) at India Glycols; Parna Ghosh - Vice President & Group CIO at UNO MINDA Group; Bhaskar Maddala, CEO – Group digital, AI & Industry 4.0, ThirdEye AI, a JBM Group company, was moderated by Shekhar Jitkar, Publisher & Chief Editor, Publish Industry India. He observed that the pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital transformation technologies and these rapid disruptive technology changes will continue to challenge manufacturers up and down the manufacturing value chain. The conversation started with insights on new, game-changing disruptive technologies in manufacturing, during which Malhotra, highlighted the various technologies today that are gaining importance. “Starting from the confluence of various technologies, i.e., IoT, sensor-based technologies – which allow to collect data instead of manually doing it, analytics – which allows processing of data, Artificial Intelligence, and many more to intermediate technologies of communication, storage, computing, edge computing, etc. These technologies continue to take shape and become more widespread, easily available and customised,” he asserted. Further to Malhotra’s statement, Maddala, commented, “Technology that we see today is critical, and the future is going to be with AI, ML, deep learning, AR/VR, robotics, etc. The processes will be data-driven, and the role of data is going to become more critical for the transformations companies are aiming for.”

Though the destination is apparent, the journey is not going to be easy. There are various challenges in between for companies before becoming digital dependent. For example, there is a disconnect between the shop floor and top floor due to the lack of/slow information, inaccuracy of the data, lack of data channel, etc. A solution Mandala revealed was focusing on data visibility. “The crux of all the challenges will be the visibility of data and what one is going to do with the data. Here, all the ML algorithms and deep learning algorithms will play a critical role in getting the data, analysing the data and providing corrective/predictive actions,” he informed.

Strategising the adoption

Giving an opinion from a digital standpoint on the approach towards deployment of advanced technologies, Govil explained, “Given the growing nature of digitalisation, we need more data-based decision support. Plus, with the current remote working conditions, one needs data to be fed back on a real-time basis to make active decisions and equivalent/faster pace transactions.” In manufacturing parlance, the five key aspects for monitoring, i.e., yield, energy consumption, throughputs, quality and safety, will grow one’s manufacturing operations. It is essential to be cognisant to adopt technologies that add value and not just accumulate technology for its sake. Adding to it, Ghosh mentioned, “Today, we need to look at value creation, which includes employee experience, customer experience and most importantly, competitive advantage, which impacts the top line or the bottom line of one’s organisation’s manufacturing and supply chain transformation.”

Getting workforce ready for digital transformation

The workforce forms the foundation of any organisation, and diversifying, skilling and upskilling it has to be a focus. Accentuating the need for cultural change and aligning the perspective of technology with individuals, Govil ascertained, “It is important to ensure people the stand of technology and how it will not replace humans. For example, Artificial Intelligence is augmented intelligence because it is only augmenting human intelligence with machine learning. So, technology is only a supplementary tool and not a replacement tool, and it is important to establish this to avoid a pushback.” He also added that today, one needs to not just cater to the requirements of the top management but to all the resources in an organisation, which includes both humans and technologies. Analysing the key priorities while adopting technologies, Malhotra averred, “We need to speed up our journey towards technology, make it easy for people to bring it to the cost point, include everyone in the journey, mix tribes and put a joint effort on how we bring about the change.”

Building security & data

More than Indian manufacturing lines, employees have fallen victims to cyberattacks, like phishing ransomware, trojans, etc. “Organisations need to take a two-pronged approach of one, securing the perimeters of the organisation and as well as the employees’ desktops & laptops. The second is to ensure that the employee data, intellectual data and quality data is not leaked outside the organisation. It is important to have DLPs and other security in place to ensure that inside data is not leaked outside, and at the same time, outside attacks are also prevented,” highlighted Ghosh. Amidst ensuring security, to enable effective collaboration between IT & OT, Mandala cited, “To break the barriers between OT & IT, it is important to become data-driven. Data is available today, but companies need to analyse the validity, accuracy, the lag in procuring the data and then integrate the IT & OT. We need to focus on being digitally connected and reducing human intervention. Human intervention is needed from building and growing a relationship perspective, but it shouldn’t form the basis of data collection.”

Seeing & believing the change

The preparation required for the global changes and innovations cannot be overlooked. Ghosh, in his closing statement, mentioned, “There is no alternative for digital. If companies do not take the baby/large steps towards digitalisation, they will become obsolete, and their sustainability and credibility will cease. Also, there needs to be an 80:20 principle in place; areas with 80% impact on one’s business, which brings in significant and visible revenue, should have the major chunk of focus. Plus, initiatives like Aatmanirbhar Bharat and digital initiatives need to be looked at as not only use cases but also as business cases. Digital transformation needs to be coupled with business cases, and business transformation has to be driven.” Adding to the closing statement, Malhotra emphasised, “Companies will have to chart their way depending on the type of business they own. It is not just about IT but the competitiveness of our industry globally. Currently, we have the evermore emphasis on technology, both from the country’s side and industry’s side, and we should all take advantage of it.”

Customise and acclimatise to the change

With technology, one size will never fit all. Companies need to analyse their need and find technology/technologies that fit their bill. The technology in place can only be effective if companies invest in skilling, upskilling, reskilling and acclimatising their workforce for the changes due to technological intervention. Besides, efforts also need to be put into developing a strong, secure network inside and outside the company walls to de-risk the talent information & organisation integrity. Developing one’s organisation holistically for the growing technology prowess will be crucial to grow business in the Indian market, the speakers collectively concluded.

While uncertainties remain in the future, manufacturers should increase their operational resiliency and take a hard look at their current digital manufacturing and next-generation capabilities. This includes reviewing current supply chain networks and production operations to foster more agility throughout the business. It also includes adding digital manufacturing technology for intelligent insights and to drive increased ability to flex production and resources as needed. The post-pandemic environment will undoubtedly continue with disruptions and volatility. In order to survive and remain competitive, it is vital that digital manufacturing be incorporated into the business roadmap, Jitkar summed up the session.

Image Gallery

  • From top left to right: Parna Ghosh, Vice President & Group CIO, UNO MINDA Group; Bhaskar Maddala, CEO – Group digital, AI & Industry 4.0, ThirdEye AI, a JBM Group Company; Shekhar Jitkar, Publisher & Chief Editor, Publish Industry India; Atul Govil, Chief Transformation Officer & Head (SAP & IT), India Glycols and Sanjeev Malhotra, CEO, Centre of Excellence, NASSCOM

  • To break the barriers between OT & IT, it is important to become data-driven. Data is available today, but companies need to analyse the validity, accuracy, the lag in procuring the data and then integrate the IT & OT.

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