Why 2021 is the Year of Smart Manufacturing in India

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic plunged the industrial and manufacturing sector into the web of strict safety protocols, reduced workforce, and forced lockdowns. The disruption of the supply chain, owing to the overdependence on an economy that was also the epicenter of the pandemic, forced a reorganization and a subsequent shift of the supply chain to other countries, India being one of them.

The ferocity of the pandemic might have reduced but it has brought with it the new norms and rules of engagement. The struggles of the past year have highlighted the need for heightened automation, increased efficiencies, optimized performance and agility, and data-driven decision making. 

The rise of smart manufacturing as a response to the needs of the business landscape is gaining traction, especially as the manufacturing sector contributes heavily to the GDP of any country.

In India’s context, smart manufacturing seems like a natural and organic next step to move along the path of becoming the manufacturing hub of the world. 

Here are a few reasons why

Faster Delivery and Customized Products

While shop floor automation was projected for quite some time, the time to fruition has been slower because of the challenges confronting this industry. Supply chain disruption, restricted production adaptability, data security concerns, outdated machinery, maintenance downtime, etc. were some pressing long-standing issues.

However, to recover from the impact of COVID-19, manufacturing companies will have to look towards advanced automation and IIoT solutions to boost efficiency, reliability, and productivity. These new technologies will also give organizations increased competitiveness by driving customization, enabling flexible production, and also ensuring faster delivery of products. This is a business imperative today and impacts the success of any business.

While the lights might have stayed on during the crisis, the processes designed over the years need to be replaced with those that drive efficiencies and enable organizations to meet customer needs at scale. This is only possible using smart technologies now.

Digitalization Acceleration

The “Make in India” initiative and the subsequent digitalization push have accelerated the adoption of digital technologies. Complemented with several other government initiatives to foster best-in-class manufacturing infrastructure in India the dawn of Industry 4.0 and smart manufacturing is finally upon us.

The Department of Heavy Industry with its Smart Advanced Manufacturing and Rapid Transformation Hub (SAMARTH) – Udyog Bharat 4.0 initiatives further act as drivers of Industry 4.0. Government initiatives to popularize and demonstrate practical industry 4.0 solutions. These initiatives are helping businesses recognize the importance of digital capabilities and technologies such as IoT and AI to expand competence in the manufacturing sector. 

These advanced digital capabilities will separate the wheat from the chaff in the years to come. 2021 is the tipping point that shows that advanced digital capabilities are essential to create new products, and new services and also identify new markets. 

The Indian interest 

Companies such as GE and Bosch have marched ahead with smart manufacturing in most of their India centers. GE invested over $200 million in a flexible advanced manufacturing plant to produce diverse products, from jet engine parts to locomotive components. 

Bosch invested 31 million euros (Rs 240 crore) to expand their smart factory further. 

We are now seeing increased interest in India as a manufacturing hub. Apple, for example, is examining the possibility to shift one-fifth of its production to India. India is also on EV giant Tesla’s wish list to meet their global ambition of launching 20 million vehicles by 2030.   

The global interest in India’s manufacturing abilities comes with the consistent progress of this industry and its willingness to adopt new technologies such as Industry 4.0 to improve outcomes while improving profitability. 

The Growing EV Conversation 

Increasing production capacity and accelerating modern technology adoption becomes all the more crucial as the conversation around electric vehicles grows louder. Reports suggest that electric cars will constitute a third of new-car sales by the end of the next decade. 

To increase our competitiveness in a global market and get the lion’s share means 

  • Increasing our capacity to drive highly configurable production
  • Enabling real-time production optimization
  • Using predictive analytics and predictive maintenance to reduce downtime
  • Driving automatic capturing, modeling, and optimizing of production systems

Given the nuances of the EV, having a connected environment and a smart shop floor is essential to deliver profitability. 

If India has to bid for its share in the EV pie, it has to increase the technology footprint in the manufacturing sector and employ new-age technologies to make new-age solutions. 

The Right Technological Vocabulary 

Transitioning legacy systems into intelligent and connected systems will add advanced manufacturing capabilities to drive efficiency, quality, and sustainability. With the eyes of the world on India and its manufacturing prowess, giving the shop floor the technology face-lift is necessary to build confidence in India’s manufacturing capabilities. 

Over the years, rapid developments in the field of hardware and information technology have already put India in a technologically advantageous spot. India is known for its intellectual capital, has a large workforce of IT professionals, and is an IT hub. With the talent and solutions readily available at hand, the coming of age of smart manufacturing initiatives in India this year seems inevitable, especially as we are now well aware of the need for agile, technology-driven systems to ensure business continuity. 

Smart manufacturing is all set to make the shop floor and the disparate systems more cohesive. 

If we look closely, smart manufacturing eliminates silos and makes sure that the entire unit works towards a common goal – one where efficiencies are elevated, processes are less wasteful, human effort is valued and directed towards strategic interest, production lines are more flexible while productivity is heightened. 

Better business outcomes become an organic outcome of enabled collaboration that comes from this connected enterprise. Given that the march towards smart manufacturing has begun, this year will be about cementing the efforts and moving ahead. 

The writing is on the wall – we need to be agile, flexible, and responsive to thrive in this complex market. And only a smart manufacturing unit can help organizations achieve this. 

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