Post covid-19 adoption of AI, IoT, Blockchain expected to accelerate in manufacturing sector


As the lockdown lifts and factories are starting to open, manufacturing sector in India will face mounting pressure to cut costs, increase efficiency in processes, reduce dependence on humans and become more resilient to future exigencies. This will drive companies to scale up adoption of smarter manufacturing processes powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) and Blockchain, industry experts feel.

“Resistance to change is very high in manufacturing sector in India. However, of late there are tailwinds working in their favour. Many organisations want to divest in China and are looking at India as a potential destination. Manufacturing sector will look at it as an opportunity. That will call for tremendous amount of adoption of automation in manufacturing. This will do what industry 4.0 has not been able to do in last few years,” said Arup Roy, research vice president, Gartner.

Governments, world over, want companies to reduce dependence on China for imports of finished products or parts. Japan has set aside an economic stimulus package of $2.2 billion to help its manufacturers shift production out of China. Indian cabinet has also announced a production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme with an allocation of over 40,000 crore for electronics sector.

China already has a lead in terms of spending on AI in manufacturing sector. The market size of AI in the manufacturing sector in China is expected to exceed $ 2 billion by 2025 growing by 40% since 2019, states a 2019 Deloitte report.

Mayur Danait, CIO, Pidilite notes, “post covid-19, manufacturing sector will have to reinvent to enable a seamless partner ecosystem. Use of IoT to drive shop floor efficiencies and the use of digital collaboration, predictive analytics, bots and gamification of experience to drive engagement with end-users and channel partners are likely to be the norm going forward.”

Currently AI is being used in manufacturing for predictive maintenance –identifying and reporting fault in parts, machines or manufacturing process and reporting them in real time. AI can also help in optimisation of supply chain by forecasting demand and returns. The data fed to AI models comes from the industrial IOT network deployed on the manufacturing floor. This network is made of sensors installed on machines to collect real time information on their functioning and efficiency.

“Covid-19 is actually going to precipitate the whole move towards industry 4.0. There is a lot of interest in what can be done to build resilience. Indian manufactures will now have to start taking automation seriously. We are already seeing interest in predictive analytics essentially modelling that shows trends and pattern of failure in machines. Heartening thing is that mid market segment has started looking at it seriously. Automotive segment is looking at it in a big way,” said Lux Rao, director –solutions and consulting, NTT India.

The pandemic has also exposed the vulnerabilities in supply chain networks. Blockchain can help companies identify the point of disruption by connecting all stakeholders in the long network, enabling them to prepare for any future challenges. “A sophisticated RPA bot could collect information across manufacturing ecosystems including inventory, warehousing, logistics, suppliers and vendors systems and use the cognition capabilities in the tool to initiate actions that increase the overall efficiencies of the entire ecosystem,” said R. Venkateswaran, senior vice president, Industrial and IoT Solutions, Persistent Systems.

Blue Star, TVS Motor Company, JK Tyre & Industries and Asian Paints are some of the companies which are already using AI-based solutions and analytics platforms in their manufacturing units in India.

“As we come out of the current situation we realise that the homogeneity of a uniform market is shaken up, and may take months before we become a connected, homogenous market, it in these areas that tech like AI can become powerful tools to create an integrated holistic view. These will get baked in very quickly in the overall harmony of manufacturing companies,” said Rajesh Rege, executive director – Technology, Cloud & Solution Sales, Microsoft.

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