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Harish Mehra, Global Head—Plant Solutions, Tata Consultancy Services

Image: TCS

Manufacturing IT “Leveraging technology as an enabler”

Oct 3, 2017

Harish Mehra, Global Head—Plant Solutions, Tata Consultancy Services, in an interview with Megha Roy, highlights that adapting to latest automation and digital technologies is a big game changer for most manufacturers today. He further believes that the advances will increase in the coming years – both replacing mundane human jobs & robots co-working with humans.

What is your opinion on the growing concern over the transmission and storage of data in a secured manner? How does the overall industry address such challenges?

In today’s hyper-connected world, it will not suffice to have passive policies and guidelines for data and information security; neither will add-on approach to security be a reliable approach. We need to look at security holistically across all aspects of the product lifecycle. We call this security by design. A major fraction of organisations today are unaware of the loopholes existing in their enterprise architecture, which makes them vulnerable to security risks. We are working with a few such customers today, where we are helping them conduct a comprehensive audit of their install base.

What are the major technological advancements witnessed globally, given that the factories and energy systems are representing Integrated Industry?

At TCS, we refer to the current wave of manufacturing transformation, due to digital disruption as ‘Connected Digital Enterprise’. This includes three levels of closed-loop integration — horizontal integration, vertical integration and engineering integration.

In a connected digital enterprise, there will be secured & transparent exchange of real-time data across Machine-to-Machine (M2M), Machine-to-Humans (M2H) and Human-to-Human (H2H) to enable timely decision-making across the enterprise. While advanced automation and robotics, smart sensors, Additive Manufacturing are the major focus areas when it comes to M2M communication, mobility, Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR/VR), edge and cloud adoption, AI-based cognitive agents and smart workflows are some leading trends across M2H & H2H respectively.

How is Predictive Maintenance beneficial in your industry or application areas?

Asset performance and asset reliability are the focus areas for adoption of technology in this era of ‘Intelligent Machines’. Using a machine digital twin, we can now simulate the physical and physics-based behaviour of the asset with real-time feeds from sensors on the physical machine.

Based on the predictive insights that can be generated from these techniques, organisations can improve asset reliability, thereby, increasing the asset availability, which can be leveraged to increase throughput, leading to improved inventory turns and ultimately, higher profits.

With the evolution of cobots today, humans and robots are working hand-in-hand in a safe and efficient manner. What is your opinion about the future of such technologies in countries like India?

Today, robots are increasingly replacing human jobs – especially jobs which are repetitive, routine & predictable in nature, for instance, assembly line operations and material handling & transfers across the shopfloor. With the growing rate of increase in dexterity & decrease in per robot cost and in skilled manpower availability, we believe adoption of advanced automation techniques will increase in the coming years – both replacing mundane human jobs & robots co-working with humans.

How is the progress of Industry 4.0 or IIoT globally, and in India? How ready is Indian industry to adopt these new technology concepts?

Overall, the pace of adoption of I4.0/IIoT is slightly slower than projected. Primarily, while customers are fascinated with the technology disruptions, the ones who have focused on identifying and solving the business problem by leveraging technology as an enabler have gained benefits.

With a stable government at the centre, there are longterm strategies and policies now in place, which is encouraging adoption of digital practices within India. As part of ‘Make in India’ initiative, the Government is not only encouraging local manufacturing, but is also investing in setting up CoE and collaborating with industries to re-define the ITI courses to have a future-ready workforce.

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