By Nirmal Minda:
From the first industrial revolution that was ushered in with the invention of the steam engine, through the second and the third ones that came by due to invention of electricity and with the onset of the digital era respectively, the fourth industrial revolution with the Internet of Things (IoT) and Industry 4.0 is now beckoning us to move ahead on the path of progress or be left behind.
The wheels of evolution are once again in rapid motion; a combination of data, computational power, and connectivity is driving the world, the industry in particular, at a much faster pace than ever before. Analytics and intelligence where breakthroughs like machine learning and Artificial Intelligence are taking place, human-machine interaction is making it easier for mankind to interact with machines through touch and voice interfaces, while augmented and virtual reality are redefining manufacturing processes. That apart, digital-physical conversion, which allows for creation of personalised products quickly, such as multi-material 3D printing, is redefining the entire spectrum of manufacturing and staying relevant to what the customers want.
With the fourth industry revolution at play, in the context of the automotive industry, not only the manufacturing process but also the products are undergoing rapid transformation. By the integration of ICT with focus on cleaner, greener and efficient technologies, the vehicles of not too distant a future and their manufacturing processes will undergo a metamorphosis. In a way, mechanical technologies and processes will give way to those that will be a combination of electronics, mechanical and software fused with the science of robotics and communications.
In India, disruptive concepts like IoT and Industry 4.0 are still at a nascent stage, however, with a connected world, sooner rather than later, this revolution will be staring at us. Apart from access to and deployment of requisite affordable technologies, one of the major challenges that is looking us in the eye is that of building a skilled workforce that will allow for the change to succeed. The transition to adapt to the new industry environment will also bring forth issues such as data protection and security, knowledge about proprietary production, high degree of reliability and stability, which is required for successful cyber-physical communication. Moreover, avoiding technical problems that could cause expensive production outages will need to be addressed.
For the Indian manufacturing to win against global competition, there is no escape but to integrate principles of Industry 4.0 with the ‘Make in India’ initiative. In fact, India has a unique opportunity to innovatively pave its own road to Smart Manufacturing. It can skip several steps that other countries adopted in their evolution from an agrarian society to their current stage of development. Industry 4.0 is expected to transform manufacturing in India by bringing operational efficiencies to manufacturing industries especially the automotive.
IIOT (Industrial Internet of Things), 3DP (3-dimensional printing), 3D sensors, social software, augmented reality, and location awareness will usher in the next era of smart production; these automation technologies collectively are moving the manufacturing industry towards the next phase of technological advancement.
Start-ups also play a key role in the current technology-driven economy. Bangalore, Mumbai, Pune and Hyderabad are the four major cities where start-ups are making breakthroughs. These are silently disrupting and innovating thereby breaking and creating newer realms each day within the IoT space.
Looking at the brighter side, despite challenges, more opportunities would come our way that will help leapfrog many stages of development, accelerating our journey towards becoming a truly global industry. With the introduction of these new technologies, new skill sets would be required in the field of design, operations as well as other elements of the auto value chain in the next few years; low-skilled labour jobs which mostly include repetitive routine jobs such as painting, welding etc. will give way to higher skills such as supervising, designing, robotics, programming and maintenance etc. The human resource industry will have to play the crucial role of enabling the entire revolution to upscale workforce to stay relevant. Enabling and equipping the workforce with appropriate skills will further increase their efficiency with the added benefit of increased revenues, market share and profits.
India is making quick progress and we have exciting years ahead; the synergistic working of Government, Industry and Start-ups will drive the automotive eco-system in the country to newer heights.
(Nirmal K Minda is the President of ACMA, the Automotive Component Manufacturers Association of India)