Why India needs to Invest Heavily in Industry 4.0

ELE Times Bureau

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The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has successfully launched multiple space initiatives in recent times—including the country’s heaviest rocket on 5 June and a record 104 satellites in a single mission on 15 February. Yes, we are so proud. These and other feats such as Mangalyaan (the Mars Orbiter Mission, or MOM) are proof points of India’s fantastic engineering and technical talent and expertise.

But this also gets us thinking. Despite all these feats, ISRO and India still wouldn’t feature on the list of leaders and innovators in space missions. Reliable, yes. Commendable, yes. Inspirational, not yet.

Why? Because we didn’t do it first. We never seem to—when it comes to actually making or building things. The Germans led the last Industrial Revolution—and are today the doyens of precision engineering along with the Swiss. The Chinese, too, are world leaders in other kinds of manufacturing.

That said, India is unarguably the back office of the world—a software economy, after an agricultural one. Information technology/IT-enabled services is the biggest source of foreign exchange income for India and it is difficult to find a major consulting or software firm without a strong base in the country. But signs for IT have been flat for a few years now. With the uncertain international environment, pegging our continued hopes on foreign income from that quadrant would be a risky bet. Besides, if all that talent (Indian scientists and researchers are considered Silicon Valley’s biggest assets) were to come back to the country, would we have enough jobs for those bright minds?

We need a new growth engine—a revival battle cry—now more than ever. My argument is that we should build on the success of our technical firepower and talent, and transition into a product economy from one relying solely on software. This means we need to make finished products. Every export and GDP (gross domestic product) statistic in the world points to the economic advantages of a country adept at making finished products.

Is this even possible? Yes, it is. First, because we are a country of 1.3 billion people which gives us immediate capitalistic motivation to produce end products and not just raw materials. Second, the efforts and liberalization in the past few years have allowed India to be considered Asia’s Silicon Valley ahead of the manufacturing mecca, China. Third, courtesy the “Make in India” campaign, India is fast becoming one of the largest recipients of foreign direct investment: at an annual rate of $75 billion, India is perhaps poised to be the world’s favourite manufacturing investment destination. I believe we have the opportunity to lead the world. The time is right, but we need one more thing.

Need to embrace automation

The world is at the cusp of the fourth Industrial Revolution—fondly called Industry 4.0—which envisages smart factories in which cyber-physical systems will monitor the physical processes of the factory and make decentralized decisions. The physical systems will become the Internet of Things, communicating and cooperating both with each other and with humans in real time via the wireless Web. Fact-based decision-making, peak productivity and clear understanding of commercial impacts are just a few of the central factors that will underline the concept.Industry 4.0Industry 4.0, in its very construct, envisages that both hardware and software will work hand in hand, stitched together seamlessly and powered by analytics. We are good at software and analytics. We know how to stitch up technology—thanks to our system integrators. With this “unfair advantage”, we already have half the mission accomplished.

Besides, world-class manufacturing using advanced technology and robotics is not a virgin territory for us. The Indian automotive sector has caught the world’s attention and has attracted many global brands to set up manufacturing units here. The automotive sector alone contributes more than 45% to the country’s manufacturing GDP (and about 7.1% to India’s GDP) and employs 19 million people.

Clearly, there is opportunity for India to move from a lethargic manufacturing outfit stuck somewhere between Industry 1.0 and 2.0 to Industry 4.0 and beyond.

The country is recognized as the breeding ground of some of the most sought-after technology start-ups and visionaries, developing solutions in the industrial automation space. We have the wherewithal to transition into a modern, connected industrial economy, curtailing the technology adoption life cycle.

Can India undergo this ambitious sea change? Yes, I believe so. India has the uncanny knack of surprising the world in terms of technology adoption. We leapfrogged generations in telephony—moving straight from fixed line to 2G/2.5G to 4G/LTE (long-term evolution). Today, besides being the biggest market for smartphones, we are also having serious discussions on the introduction of 5G, ahead of many other countries.

India needs to swiftly but convincingly invest in the right infrastructure to adopt Industry 4.0—the most tectonic shift in industrial production—to be able to manufacture everything from a pen to an airplane at global quality standards.

Case Study: Bosch and its Contributions towards Industry 4.0 in India

In a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world, technology needs to keep pace with the changing requirements of the customer. It is akin to boarding a moving bus! The basic challenges the manufacturing sector in India face are: lack of agility, low productivity, quality and qualification. If there is a single element that acts as a common solution to all of the listed challenges, it is connected industry famously otherwise referred to as Industry 4.0 (I4.0). Connectivity is swift, disruptive and the ramifications are visible through the entire industry. In a nutshell, it is a revolution that is changing the way ‘we’ do things – be it from communication, to working and living our daily lives.

Industry 4.0 is the advanced development of sensor systems, robotics, microelectronics, and information technology. The special feature of Industry 4.0 is networked manufacturing, i.e. the further development of digitisation through the Internet of Things (IoT) and machines. Connected industry offers today’s shop floor professional the opportunity to focus on strategic topics, as intelligent application of technology would allow for the reduction of workload. It offers opportunities for workload reduction by the intelligent application of technology and job enrichment. Developed economies view connected industry as an opportunity to regain the manufacturing dominance by realigning goals to improved competitiveness therein paving way for improved business and growth.

There are various theories about the impact of Industry 4.0 on the job sector. As of now the implications are obfuscated, while some studies estimate close to 50 percent job cuts, others suggest it would significantly improve the economy of the country. However, one thing is for sure – Workplaces will be modified and look very different from what they are today!

Developments in the manufacturing industry is intrinsically linked to the changing roles of the shop floor professional. The mid of 1970s, which was an era of Industry 2.0, the operator was the commander. Solely relying on his skills and aptitude, the operator created value by using machine tools.

Then came the period of Industry 3.0, which was round the early 1990s. The associate was the so to speak captain, for he would program the machines or robots, apart from maintaining the machine’s availability.

In a distinct departure from the previous two developments, professionals in the Industry 4.0 period will be the play the role of a facilitator, who interacts with machines and robots, while continuously aiming to optimise performance. In the midst of such developments, associate’s tasks will change from what they used to be: Networked systems and intelligent machines will produce, while the human mind will program and maintain these machines. In an Industry 4.0 environment, humans are the central players and shapers.

Connected industry requires more flexible working models and workmanship. No economy has successfully adapted their labor laws to connected industry. That said, most countries have begun to see the far-reaching improvements of connected industry and have thus initiated amendments. For such amendments to be realized, it is crucial for all relevant to come to a common understanding, and these conditions are applicable to India as well.

Looking into the future, value streams will become more agile. Through adaptive manufacturing, in other words extensive utilization of 3D-printing, value streams will change to be more software oriented. Shop floor associates will be required to acquire new skills such as software programming, apart from having a deeper understanding of processes. Reputed as a hotbed for IT talent, India is well-prepared to meet the demands of the future manufacturing sector. Indian IT-companies and regional based subsidies of global IT-players produce smart software solutions for the world, which can improve the competitiveness of the Indian manufacturing industry. With such talent availability, it is only makes pragmatic business sense to use this knowledge to develop India’s manufacturing sector, especially factors such as, quality and productivity. Aligning this with the ’value for money’ approach India can develop smart and affordable Industry 4.0 solutions. There are many best practices that have already been put into practice, such as, manufacturing execution system or energy management systems. These case studies have been shared with users outside of India as well.

The implementation of Industry 4.0 can ensure the progression of an organization or have dire consequences. The result depends on effective leadership, one that is defined by top down and leaders must drive the revolution.

The approach to accepting and adopting industry 4.0 cannot be determined by factors such as budget, technology and tenure of machines. An I4.0 curriculum driven academy for managers, engineers, planners, technologists and logistic providers is the need of the hour.

Before we arrive at the phase of machine-to-machine communication it is imperative for people to collaborate effectively. Partnership of IT-technicians, technology experts and other people can help realise and deliver the right solution, for that leaders must support, empower and enable teams. Only an effective collaboration of the cost of risk cannot be overlooked, especially in the scenario of security breaches. The quantum of sensitive data handling calls for the implementation of improved data security solutions. By providing the desired attention this risk can be mitigated to a large possible extent.

At Bosch, we strive to realize Industry 4.0 globally and our dual strategy: to be a leading solution provider and a leading user, has given us immense advantage. In India, we have the largest R&D-hub outside of Bosch Germany. Moreover spread across 18 manufacturing plants, at Bosch India we implement our very own technology. This approach, of developing the maturity level across the entire company and not to focus on pilots, has served as a tremendous learning curve. In an Industry 4.0 environment copy, co-create and connACT is the need of the hour. We need to be quick to learn from others and ‘copy with pride’.

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