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Getting India ready for Industry 4.0

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India and China have been competing for the lion’s share of global investment and manufacturing. There is, however, an opportunity to turn the tide in India’s favour.

By Mehul Lanvers Shah

India and China have been competing for the lion’s share of global investment and manufacturing. There is, however, an opportunity to turn the tide in India’s favour. India’s advantage lies in its ample supply of skilled technical labour, although infrastructure issues, policy impediments and unreliable supplies of resources are a roadblock. India has a huge task ahead in its ambitious national program of ‘Make in India’ and becoming the world’s preferred manufacturing destination. To win the race against China, India will have to get ready for global market realities and address global supply chain challenges. The time is ripe for India to not imitate but instead keep its eyes on the trends and changes that are shaping the industry while playing on key strength of engineering skill and know-how.

Industry 4.0: Future of manufacturing

Industry 4.0 is a meeting of real and virtual worlds in manufacturing and involves the full integration of manufacturing technologies and systems to make a “smart factory”. The term Industry 4.0 refers to the 4th Industrial Revolution, much like what the world saw first with the Steam Engine, then with the introduction of Electricity in the manufacturing process and later by the IT revolution. The latest industrial revolution, termed Industry 4.0, is about the integration of the Internet of Things into the manufacturing industry. Perhaps the biggest change that the internet will bring to business is yet to be witnessed. In about 10 to 20 years, Industry 4.0 is set to become a reality, transforming radically the way industries work and do business today. India’s thrust towards “Make in India” and should keep in cognizance Industry 4.0 and begin its positioning in this space. We have seen that each industrial revolution has happened faster than last, so if India acts soon it can surpass all of China’s work in the last 20 years to become one of the manufacturing leaders of the world.

First conceived by the German government, industry leaders and researchers in the hope to encourage the use of technology in traditional industries like manufacturing, the idea behind Industry 4.0 is to achieve the goals of greater customization in mass production. With Industry 4.0 comes the ‘smart factory’ with a connected, intelligent manufacturing systems facilitating more flexibility, and end-to-end process automation. According to industry experts, though Industry 4.0 is still in its infancy, it can become the future of the manufacturing sector where factories will be connected directly to customers, retailers, and even with other factories in different geographies.

‘Make in India’ shouldn’t be just about manufacturing but should also be about making products. Over the last 15-20 years, while India focused on “services”, China though started with “manufacturing” but extended its focus to building actual products. It is time for India to take advantage of IoT wave and add both manufacturing and product capabilities in addition to services. In order to ensure IoT is effective in India, we need a strong collaboration and coordination between government and the industry to provide IoT products, solutions and services without compromising privacy, security and safety of people.

What will Drive Industry 4.0?

This next wave of manufacturing systems is built with the new generation of Cyber Physical Systems (CPS). Cyber physical systems represent the next evolutionary step from existing embedded systems. CPS will enable technologies which bring the virtual and physical worlds together where smart objects will communicate with each other. To define it further, CPS are the “enabling technologies” which creates several applications and services that would amalgamate the real and the virtual world.

At present, CPS is progressively becoming a critical element in the formation of Industry 4.0 as it will be instrumental in automating the manufacturing industry, developing intelligent monitoring and autonomous decision making systems which will further help the industry to gain greater business agility. Smart factory will primarily focus on human-machine interaction and usage of 3D technology in every industrial applications.

Develop a robust data security environment

While the IoT forms the backbone of Industry 4.0, without a robust security infrastructure there can be no practical application of the Smart Factory. From protection of intellectual property, IT networks in manufacturing systems, company and customer communications, security needs to be imbibed into the factory’s architecture. Steps towards building a more conducive environment have to be two-fold, with more stringent government regulations for data protection and security, backed by a developed Security Services industry with the ability to manage advanced targeted cyber-security threats and attacks.

Skill development

Implementation of educational structures and didactic approaches from corporations will form an important aspect in preparing India for leadership in Industry 4.0. Several areas where India has not made too much progress yet, such as cognitive robotics, advanced automation, Industrial ICT, automation bionics and other streams of qualitative skills will now need to be developed. Safety-related capabilities also come into play with more human-machine-cooperation and engagement. While vocational training from corporations can be adopted to some extent, training at grassroots in universities through specialised curriculums and master programmes in “Industrial Cognitive Sciences” will become imperative. The Skill India initiative is thus closely linked with the success of Industry 4.0 in India.

Challenges Ahead

As machines, objects and workplaces start communicating and sharing data with each other, it will lead to a massive creation of data. Therefore, in order to make sense of these data being created, there would be a need for an IT system which will analyse the data and leverage it for business value. The Industry 4.0 is yet to be developed into maturity, there are challenges that are far from being resolved:

Uniformity in Standardization – The idea behind bringing this revolution is to encompass various organizations through value networks and this collaborative alliance can only be possible if uniformity across standards are maintained.

Environment and People Safety – While setting up a smart factory, there are few key safety points that need to be kept in mind. It is imperative to ensure that production facilities and the products are environment-friendly and do not pose a threat to people or the environment.

Data Security – How safe is the data that these new systems have access to and can they be compromised? At a time when the entire industry is still grappling with the newness of big data and mobility, can industries ensure the safety of their proprietary information?

Managing intricate systems – In order to deal with the increasing complexity in manufacturing and products systems, a proper and detailed planning of models is must. Also, it is imperative for the organization to have updated and adequate tools and equipment to develop such models, when needed.

Proper training for employees – As the nature of work would change radically, it is important for the organization to implement relevant training modules for its employees. This would help them foster a lifetime learning.

The journey of setting up “Smart” factories will be a complicated and evolutionary process. Requirements and need for innovation are manifold as these will play an instrumental role in implementing Industry 4.0. The whole world of manufacturing is going to transform and become entirely networked with machines analysing almost every aspect of the manufacturing process. With Industry 4.0 commencing, the next-gen manufacturers will look completely different from what we see today and we can envisage a smart world with a smart industry helping nations to gain global competitiveness.

The author is Managing Director, HMFI (Organisers of CeBIT and WIN India)


If you have an interesting article / experience / case study to share, please get in touch with us at editors@expresscomputeronline.com

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