Digital Future

The Indian Manufacturing Industry Needs to Get ‘Smart’

We are just days away from the India Economic Summit, and as I prepare to be a panelist for the discussion on ‘Future of Production in India’, I cannot help but dwell on the Indian manufacturing sector and how it needs to prepare to integrate emerging technologies, especially Industry 4.0 into its DNA.

In FY 2017, the manufacturing sector in the country grew by 7.7 percent, and by any economic standard, such growth is significant. Yet the Government of India is determined to step up the pace, and expand the share of manufacturing to 25 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) by 2022. How will they make this ambitious plan a reality considering the diversity, legacy, and scale, of the sector?

The Government has responded by launching the ‘Make in India’ initiative – an effort to transform the country into a global design and manufacturing hub. As such, the government has implemented policies and offered tax sops to encourage industries – Indian and foreign – to manufacture and export globally. But beyond policies, that which will truly jettison the ‘Make in India’ initiative into the realm of global competitiveness will be ‘smart manufacturing’ or Industry 4.0 – the automation and data exchange between cyber-physical systems, IoT, artificial intelligence, and cloud computing – to generate knowledge and make manufacturing intelligent and more cost-effective.

Brown-field industries which are in existence for over five or six decades can harness the technological advantages of Industry 4.0, to go digital, re-orient production, and arrive at substantial operational efficiency. Existing legacy infrastructure need not be replaced, and alternate technology options can be accessed to make the enterprise 4.0 enabled. Meanwhile, green-field industries can deploy best of Industry 4.0 technologies to reduce energy consumption, automate manufacturing processes, streamline inventory, improve logistics, gain competitiveness, and more.

Industry 4.0 is exactly the direction toward which the global manufacturing sector is moving, and India had better move quickly or lose out on an opportunity that has been essentially handed over to the nation on a platter.

Why India has the potential to become a manufacturing powerhouse

Though the county’s GDP grew by a remarkable 7.1 percent in 2017, it is still considered conservative, and in the years ahead, we can expect even higher growth rates propelled by increasing consumer demand.

Moreover, half of India’s 1.2 billion citizens are under the age of 26. By 2020, the median age is expected to be 29 years, making it the youngest country in the world. Thus the manufacturing sector can expect to access all the vitality of youth, diversity of skillsets, innovation of sharp minds, and a massive consumer base. As a leader in IT, the country also has significant exposure to emerging technologies, such as IoT, AI, and robotics.

One example is India Stack – a set of APIs that enable governments, enterprises, and developers to utilize unique digital infrastructure to create innovative products. Projects that harnessed the India Stack framework include the electronic Know Your Customer (eKYC), Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), the Unified Payment Interface (UPI) that facilitates digital money transfers, and a Digital Locker facility for secure issuing and verification of digital documents. It is about time the manufacturing sector leveraged India Stack or a similar platform to create a product that can better guide its growth trajectory and technology implementation in Industry 4.0.

Is your manufacturing enterprise ready to implement Industry 4.0?

This is a question that usually leaves even high-level executives and decision-makers tongue-tied, if not confused. Industry 4.0 does not offer a one-size-fits-all solution/protocol. It need to be custom configured to each enterprise and industry based on their challenges and priorities. To simplify the process and enable enterprises to access a benchmark, Infosys and Acatech, also known as the German Academy of Science and Engineering, developed an Industry 4.0 Maturity Assessment Index. It helps enterprises evaluate themselves across six maturity levels and create a roadmap for successful adoption. These six maturity levels are:

  1. Computerization: Are tasks in your manufacturing enterprise supported by data processing systems or robotic process automation? Automation could relieve employees from repetitive manual tasks and enable them to focus on analytical and creative activity instead.
  2. Connectivity: Are the data processing systems at your enterprise structured and linked, and are core business processes reflected in IT systems?
  3. Visibility: Does your enterprise have a digital shadow which enables it to take data-based decisions?
  4. Transparency: Does your enterprise access analytics to understand why events happen? Doing so will enable you to recognize and discover knowledge pools.
  5. Predictability: Does your enterprise have visibility into the future which enables it to make informed decisions?
  6. Adaptability: Does your enterprise react autonomously, in that, does the system control itself and is it fully viable?

Responses to these queries require significant expertise both in business and technology, and Infosys has guided numerous enterprises through this evaluation process.

In conclusion, I think the Indian manufacturing sector has the unique opportunity to leverage the country’s IT and Operational Technology (OT) expertise, innovatively gear up for Industry 4.0, and become locally and globally competitive. But the billion-dollar question is, can it do so fast enough?