“There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen.” The rapidly changing dynamics of manufacturing due to COVID is a testament to Vladimir Ilyich Lenin’s this quote. Due to lack of capital investments and parts of manufacturing relying on old technologies, Indian manufacturing set-ups were mostly obsolete and incapable to adjust to the rapidly changing demand graphs. The low rates of technology adoption, high dependency on the workforce, lack of data-driven decision making and lack of real-time end-to-end visibility of the value chain has hurt manufacturing functioning during COVID-19. Alakesh Roy, Chairman, CII Pune Zonal Council & Managing Director, Zamil Steel India and General Director, Zamil Steel Vietnam, mentioned, “The Indian manufacturing fixtures have a growing gap between industry digital ‘haves’, ‘have-nots’ and ‘have mores’. While some are boldly setting trends, too many hesitated and took a ‘wait-and-see approach’ towards digitalisation.”
Today demands like accelerated delivery, accurate fulfilment and superior experiences are expected at no extra cost. This is where the journey to smart manufacturing comes into play; smart manufacturing, facilitated by IIoT – including the use AI techniques, such as Machine Learning (ML) – allows real-time decision-making via data analytics. Avnish Kumar, Founder & CEO, LivNSense Technologies, opined, “All the analysis done on historic data by operators can be eliminated through AI. It can become one’s cognitive operator. All one would have to do is look into the analysis & recommendation and take actions accordingly.”
Fighting competition & setting trends
With India trying to grow its GDP from the present 16% to 25% in the coming two to three years, the situation is a major challenge as well as an opportunity for manufacturing – a major contributor of the Indian GDP. Considering digitalisation is the only thing that will drive and grow the manufacturing base in India, Deepak Garg, Vice-Chairman, CII Pune Zonal Council & Managing Director – India & South Asia, Sany Heavy Industry India, asserted, “While we will see many global organisations in India, we will also have to fight them across the globe in terms of competitiveness in delivery, quality, productivity and cost. The entire value chain, from the customer side to upstream supply chains, will have to gear up and enhance their efficiencies.”
Becoming a ‘trendsetter’ should certainly be a priority for manufacturing; companies must focus on a linear speed of change and leverage state-of-the-art industrial hardware and increasingly sophisticate the industrial software with smart manufacturing. “Earlier, service was dominant for supply. But today, in addition, to increase customer satisfaction, virtual platforms giving real-time details need to be of focus for industries,” advised Dipankar Dey, Director – Project Management, Zamil Steel Buildings India.
Championing the digital future
According to a report by PWC on ‘The transformation journey to smart factory’, there are four stages of maturity for digital manufacturing for organisations –
Digital novice – Organisations that have implemented silo solutions
Digital followers – Organisations which have minimum one function working on a platform and have a smooth flow of information but are restricted to only that one function
Digital innovators – Organisations that are connected horizontally using integrated platforms for information exchange and are limited to the immediate supply chain
Digital champions – Organisations that have implemented real-time end-to-end integration & connectivity of their value chains across internal & external networks and leverage technology to connect to customers, partners, operations & people
‘Benefits of investing in digital technologies & solutions’, a PWC survey, highlights that digital champions will witness a digital revenue increase and experience efficiency gains/cost reduction of 25% & 21% respectively, between 2018-2022. In comparison, digital novices will experience a growth of 9% & 7% respectively for the same period. Ulhas Deshpande, Partner and Leader, Digital Operations, PWC India, averred, “Digital/smart manufacturing is about people, process and technology. Unless organisations don’t make sure that all the three aspects are touched upon, one will not be able to reap the maximum from their digital initiatives.”
Today, organisations will have to focus on not just being the digital champions but also on being resilient digital enterprise. Enterprises need to establish pillars of network automation across IT & OT, centralised & uniform policies, secure networks that encompass IT, OT & remote workforce and collaboration solutions which bind it all. “Today, due to dynamic market conditions, companies need to plan in advance. Organisations need to take the right steps at the right time to ensure that one has the right infrastructure, which is optimised to support one’s business to build resilience,” suggested, Vinay Inamdar, Head - Strategic Enterprise Accounts, Cisco Systems India.
Connect, reframe & change
Connected infrastructure cannot be built by reasoning out its benefits alone; it has to be a management mindset, too. “There is no way that the management & industries can neglect the need for connected infrastructure or take a backstep/delayed decision. The decisions have to happen, and this is the right time to evolve. The management needs to invest & choose the correct technology,” advised Bishwaroop Halder, Vice President - Group IT, RSB Transmission India. Being digitally enabled, right from the shop floor to the customers, is crucial even for small scale industries. A digitally mature leadership, which can convince the stakeholders in being part of the digital journey, will hold an organisation together, making a difference. “Market size may be different, and pockets may not be as deep, but at the end of the day, it is thoughts, leadership skills and commitment that make a difference. Plan top-down and implement bottoms-up is the mantra management/CEOs should adopt,” asserted Dr Arvind Tilak, Chief Executive Officer, Ascent Intellimation. “The journey & thought process towards digitalisation has started. But to grow, it is important that those who have good experience contribute to small scale production businesses and digitally upgrade together,” emphasised Binita Prasad, Head IT, Sany Heavy Industry India.
Infrastructure as a service and network as a service are pivotal now from a CAPEX to OPEX model shift perspective. Companies need to relook into them and reframe every application keeping the framework intact to make it more efficient, acclimatising it to changes. Nilesh Sahasrabudhe, Convenor CII – Pune IT Panel & Founder, NordicMojo LLP, accentuated, “COVID has proven to be an excellent opportunity in disguise. Right from customer experience to people’s mindsets to operational efficiency, at every level, the usage of technology is going to increase. The sooner we adopt & consume digitalisation, the better chance we have at dealing with uncertainty in a resilient way.”
While discussing digitalisation, an important and rather unaddressed aspect is cybersecurity. India is presently amongst the countries most prone to cyber-attacks. According to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, in 2020, nearly seven lakh commercial & legal entities faced cyber-attacks till August this year. Hemant Mathur, Deputy General Manager - Product Expert, Tata Teleservices Maharashtra, recommended, “Today, the boundaries of using devices for personal and official use have blurred. Now, we are always connected but with an unsecured shared connection. In such conditions, having good end-point security, education, multi-factor authentication, web security and virtual firewall helps against malware.”
Adapting & pioneering
From here on, restoring normalcy would mean adapting to the new normal. Enabling this would mean possessing not just a resilient manufacturing supply chain but a digitally resilient, interconnected manufacturing supply chain. The future of Indian manufacturing is bright, especially with China losing its status quo in the global market. The industries would simply require building an efficient roadmap, which is digitally sound & secure and monetise on the opportunities that come into play with time.