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From conventional to smart: here's how digital technology is transforming manufacturing landscape

By Nisha Shukla,

Added 22 August 2023

Digital manufacturing is revolutionising the production landscape and fostering substantial growth across industries. By leveraging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT), and Advanced data analytics, manufacturers are optimising processes, enhancing their product quality, and streamlining their operations. As digital manufacturing continues to evolve, it surely promises to reshape the industry, and propel businesses towards growth in the modern era of Industry 4.0.

India's manufacturing sector is undergoing a profound transformation with the advent of smart and digital manufacturing technologies. As the country aims to become a global manufacturing hub, these advanced technologies are playing a pivotal role in revolutionising traditional manufacturing practices, enhancing productivity, and driving economic growth.

Digital technologies such as automation, robotics, IoT and artificial intelligence (AI) are transforming the manufacturing landscape and are now making inroads into the once conventional facilities. According to Rockwell Automation's 8th annual ‘State of Smart Manufacturing Report,' India boasts the largest number of manufacturing organisations making substantial investments in technology. The study also highlighted that 57 per cent of companies are using smart manufacturing solutions, while 59 per cent of companies intend to adopt digital technologies within the next year. Besides, several companies in India are embracing digital technologies to make their manufacturing more productive and efficient.

Furthermore, the report also delved into the top five technologies the manufacturers invested in and yielded the highest returns over the past year. While process automation secured a remarkable 33 per cent return on investment; cloud computing and software as a service (SaaS), on the other hand, stood strong with a solid 30 per cent return on investment (ROI). Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)/ Internet of Things (IoT) delivered 25 per cent ROI; machine integration garnered 24 per cent, whereas Machine learning/ artificial intelligence delivered 23 per cent ROI.

While these new-age technologies are revolutionising production processes and garnering ROIs, we also look at how these technologies are disrupting the manufacturing industry.

What's disrupting the manufacturing industry?

Digital transformation in manufacturing presents a plethora of opportunities for manufacturers to thrive in the modern landscape. Several factors such as changing customer preferences, emerging distribution methods, geopolitical uncertainties, supply chain challenges, and the implementation of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) regulations has led to emergence of new opportunities for the manufacturing sector in terms of revamping and introducing innovative business models.

According to the PwC India's Reimagining Digital Factories of Tomorrow survey, manufacturing companies are now adopting one standardised digital solution across plants.

The survey also highlighted that, on basis of the global trends, several Indian manufacturing firms are now implementing advanced technology solutions such as additive manufacturing, analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR)/ virtual reality (VR), and smart devices.

Given the demand for digital technologies is accelerating, we spoke to industry leaders and asked them about how these digital technologies are disrupting the manufacturing sector:

Artificial Intelligence/ Machine Learning: According to PwC India's recent survey, there is a noticeable upward trend among Indian companies in embracing analytics and artificial intelligence (AI), with the current adoption rate reaching 54 per cent. When asked about how AI is transforming the manufacturing industry, Nitin Bakshi, Vice President, Global Supply Chain- India, MEA, SAM & Pacific, Schneider Electric said, "Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are playing vital roles in analysing data to optimise processes, predict outcomes, and enable autonomous decision-making." He further noted that manufacturers are employing these technologies for quality control, predictive maintenance, and supply chain optimisation.

According to Nitin Kalla, Founder and MD, EXZOD India, the biggest asset for a company going digital is the trove of information that they possess and it's difficult for humans to decode them easily and accurately. "Data quantity and Computing power are thus the two significant reasons why manufacturers should deploy AI-led technologies," he added.

Ranjit Patil, COE Head - Manufacturing Operations Management, Tata Technologies shared his perspective on how AI is helping in optimising supply chains. According to him, "digital technologies are enabling in improved supply chain management through enhanced visibility, demand forecasting, and inventory optimisation, resulting in reduced costs and improved customer satisfaction." He also noted that manufacturers are now leveraging data analytics and machine learning algorithms to gain valuable insights and make data-driven decisions, optimising production processes and minimising waste.

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