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Smart factories are strategic investments to innovate & gain competitive advantage

For enterprises, industrial automation brings in new growth opportunities. The rapid adoption of cutting-edge technologies, including advanced machine analytics, the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, robotics, machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) among others, is paving way for rapid digitisation, says Manish Misra, Chief Innovation Officer, Panasonic India Innovation Center, Panasonic India

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By Manish Misra

Circa 1990’s, smart factories and automated homes were a sci-fi movie concept in which individuals operated their gadgets and devices from home or work, remotely via a unified interface. However, with the adoption of new-age technologies at a faster pace, within decades, these concepts have become a reality. Accelerated further by the pandemic, it has now changed the way we work and operate today. There is a heightened need to work remotely, shop online and monitor shop-floor through industrial automation across sectors.

Even, consumer behaviour has been significantly impacted due to the pandemic. Confined within homes consumers have now realised the importance of ‘smart appliances’ and thus, are opting for home automation, contactless technologies, and connected/IoT-enabled spaces to multitask. They are looking at upgrading their lifestyle to ‘Smart/Connected Living’ and are opting for value proposition appliances that not only are connected, but also offer comfort, convenience and safety. Consumers have evolved to adapt to IoT-based solutions in the house with a single point of access to appliances, lights, smart doors, switches, fans, TVs, etc. Services like home/ work automation have provided an opportunity for enterprises to provide clients with a comprehensive smart spaces experience, offering them comfort (safe), convenience, and connectivity.

A similar phenomenon is now observed across manufacturing functions germinating the concept of “intelligent factories”. Here, monitoring and operation of machines, analysing the optimum OEE, taking decentralised production and maintenance decisions to name a few, are being done remotely through a connected ecosystem.

Smart factories today have become strategic investments to innovate and increase overall efficiencies to gain competitive advantage. These new age technologies help improve the overall decision-making, resulting in an increased production efficiency, enhanced quality, reduce downtime costs, lessen waste – all aimed at streamlining the operations of the factory and thus, create economies of scale.

For enterprises, industrial automation brings in new growth opportunities. The rapid adoption of cutting-edge technologies, including advanced machine analytics, the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, robotics, machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) among others, is paving way for rapid digitisation. Businesses today are restructuring their factories and manufacturing units in India to replace their archaic way of operating manufacturing facilities with new-age technologies such as IIoT, cognitive automation, VR/AR, Robotics among others.

Currently, the adoption of IoT stands at 35 per cent amongst large enterprises, having a focussed 20-25 per cent of investments towards the two most important categories – Smart Manufacturing and Connected Assets. According to Zinnov, India had 200-250 million connected devices in 2019, and this figure is expected to rise tenfold to reach 2 billion devices by 2021, indicating substantial growth prospects in the following years. In order to reach the Trillion Dollar Digital Economy, we must harness the cutting-edge technologies in India.

Additionally, factors like 5G, GoI’s intent towards digitisation, diverse startup ecosystem, robust Indian IT/ITeS talent, the availability of digital infrastructure, and IoT Centres of Excellences (COEs) will hasten the adoption of digital solutions. However, a synergised effort between the government and industry will be crucial in tackling challenges such as cybersecurity, IoT device standardisation, high-speed connectivity, and a well-skilled workforce to mention a few, that will eventually help reap benefits of the connected ecosystem, sustainably.

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