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At the Heart of Intelligent Transformation

By kruti bharadva,

Added 05 October 2021

The implied effects of the pandemic in the manufacturing sector has led to an exploration of how to use robotics, 3D printing, and AI to improve the R&D process and reduce uncertainty when launching production. Vivek Sharma, MD – India, Lenovo ISG, discusses in detail the potential of emerging technologies in the manufacturing sector and how ‘Smart Factories’ are beginning to make inroads across myriad industrial sectors


Please tell us a bit about Lenovo ISG and the sectors in India you cater to. What is the portfolio/solutions that you provide?

 As an organisation that has an offering spanning pocket devices to data centers, we have a complete suite of solutions that address the technology needs of businesses across a range of industries including automotive, healthcare, manufacturing, government, retail, BFSI, etc.

 Storage: Customers continue to face challenges implementing a cohesive data management system to analyse and process data more efficiently. Lenovo ISG’s unique state-of-the-art data management architecture, in combination with the industry’s most reliable ThinkSystem servers, enables customers to accelerate analytics and AI within a single platform.

 The ThinkSystem DM series delivers a portfolio of enterprise-grade, multiprotocol storage systems that increases performance and capacity. Our second portfolio, the ThinkSystem DE series, is designed for mid-sized IT environments and supports block storage protocols.

 Edge Computing/ IoT: Today, you need computing resources, and therefore servers, almost everywhere — not just in the data center, but also remotely. However, for performance reasons, remote data-generating devices must be close to computing and storage resources.

 The Lenovo ThinkSystem SE350 Edge server’s small footprint and power efficiency allow for reliable server-class performance at many Edge locations. The rugged SE350 can handle temperatures from 0° to 55°C, as well as tolerate locations with high-dust and vibration—such as construction site trailers and manufacturing floors.

 HPC and AI: Our HPC and AI powered solutions look beyond breaking known barriers of performance and efficiency to solve humanity’s greatest challenges. From cancer research to supercomputing that helps met departments predict the weather, we have an answer.

 One such solution is GOAST. Traditionally, genome processing requires days (150 hrs) to complete, but with Lenovo’s GOAST system, results can be delivered in under an hour (48 - 53 mins) using standard x86 hardware built on high-performance, high-reliability Lenovo ThinkSystem servers.

 Lenovo is a global industry leader in supercomputing with 180+ systems across 20 markets, and the largest global provider of TOP500 installations. Seventeen out of twenty-five top research universities are powered by Lenovo.

 We are unique in our ability to unify and offer a wide portfolio of cutting-edge solutions and continue to invest in key technologies such as IoT, Edge Computing, Cloud, 5G and AI, and will ride on their capabilities to lead the era of ‘smart normal’ after COVID-19.


 How has the market for data center solutions evolved in India in recent times?

 The data center space has witnessed explosive growth over the last few years. More so, growth reached a new high once the pandemic hit, as businesses and people across the world headed online for work, entertainment, and education. The data center market in Asia Pacific is forecasted to reach US$32 billion by 2023, and India stands as one of the fastest growing data center markets in the APAC region with a market size that is expected to cross US$4.5 billion by 2025.

 As we inch closer to a post-COVID world, we are seeing verticals like education, BFSI, retail and even hospitality increasingly adopt technologies like AI, IoT and edge computing, to support business growth. Increasing digitisation across sectors is creating growth opportunities for hybrid cloud solutions as organisations look to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and focus on business continuity while ensuring data privacy and security.

 The two most powerful trends in our industry are the advent of cloud computing and the desire to digitise entire businesses to make them more agile – how does ISG fit into this trend?

 At Lenovo, Intelligent Transformation is at the heart of everything we do. Extending this belief as a value proposition to our customers and partners, we focus on three key building blocks for enabling Intelligent Transformation: data, computing power and algorithms:

Data fuels all possibilities and smart devices play an important role in generating and connecting this data

Computing power is the engine that turns this fuel into power

Advanced algorithms combined with Big Data and industry know-how produce valuable insights that create value for every industry

Technology will underpin the transition to remote working with greater demand for both IT services and devices. Cloud and Software-Defined Infrastructure (SDI) will be a huge focus, with everyone having moved quickly to the public cloud in the wake of the pandemic, but now looking at SDI to build longer-term solutions. For example, when it comes to remote working, Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) solutions are already resonating as it offers a good balance between security and accessibility, without burning through capital expenditure.

We have always worked with a 3S strategy – Smart IoT, Smart Infrastructure and Smart Vertical. Smart IoT becomes the essential tissue for the connected world. With Smart Infrastructure, Lenovo ISG comes in providing computing, storage, networking, software power to support this intelligence. Lastly, Smart Verticals are those that can be customised with Smart IoT and powered with Smart infrastructure. This takes us towards an intelligent transformation where devices and data center infrastructure work together to create a holistic solution.

 All of this, offered with Lenovo’s TruScale subscription-based offering provides flexibility to scale up and down as needed and can help address CapEx/OpEx concerns amidst this uncertain market environment so that businesses, especially SMEs with smaller budgets can better prioritise their spends and get on the digital transformation bandwagon.

What is the difference between Industry 4.0 and 5.0?

 Innovations in the last one decade are proof that we have progressed in many ways and leveraged technology to its full potential. Industry 4.0 combines IoT, AI, cyber-physical systems, Cloud, and cognitive computing. It has brought automation to the manufacturing industry, enabling businesses to adopt smart technologies for advanced capabilities. It has always been a one-sided approach - we relied on technology and process automation was a priority.

Industry 5.0 has taken this to the next step. Now, we are leveraging smart technology and our intelligence to make accurate decisions. Instead of terming industry 5.0 as different from 4.0, we can say that it is a progressive way to drive transformation in production and customer experience.

Industry 4.0 technology allows production processes to be more flexible, and robots are already a standard in the industry. Industry 5.0 combines the speed, productivity, and consistency of robotics with human innovation and skill. It improves personalisation and creativity, and emergence of sustainable policies are driving greener technology at optimised costs.

We have been talking about industry 4.0 for some years and continue to do so, in terms of being 4.0 ready in India – is the country ready for the next level? Please answer this in terms of infrastructure, readiness, and willingness to adapt, technology available, training, etc.

As we head into industry 5.0, the pandemic has impacted India in different ways, such as potential delays to 5G rollout in India to more long-lasting changes in the economy.

 Things will never be the way they were before - and we strongly believe that companies in India will no longer work in the same capacity with regards to their workforce distribution. In industry 5.0, the smart normal asks businesses of all sizes to rethink where their employees need to be to deliver value, which will impact the relationship between companies and traditional office space.

 My advice to businesses is to ask where they see themselves in the scale of 0-100 per cent economy? Instead of just being reactive to the situation around us, companies need to ask themselves where they want to be - whether it’s 60, 70 or 90. Accept the changes and use them to your advantage - your workforce will be virtual so why not capitalise on your new options for increasing talent diversity?

 In addition, the tech that powers industry 5.0 will be different. Lenovo sees the data center evolving from the “core-centric” data center of today, to the “edge-to-core” data center in the near future. This has two parts:

Distributed Edge IT – Where the ‘local’ work happens - where the worlds will meet most of the time – innovation will be focused on the enabling infrastructure (5G), and new data center designs customised for any environment (ruggedized, unique shapes and sizes, etc.)

Core IT – Where the majority of business operations work happens - not just limited to the data center, it also encompasses how an IT organisation leverages private, multi-and hybrid cloud

Lenovo believes eventually everything will become software-defined – including both in the edge and in the cloud.

Why is data important to the manufacturing sector in India, and how does Lenovo ISG help channelize its importance?

Data is the new currency and IT decision-makers are the new bankers – making it important for organisations to manage their data to not just survive but thrive. Our strategy in India and worldwide focuses on enabling the ‘Data-Centered’: businesses and people who leverage data to better cater to their customer bases.

An EY survey revealed that big data and predictive analytics ranked as the top investment priority in technology by 66 per cent manufacturing firms in India. This clearly indicates that manufacturers are in a better position to leverage data and gain maximum benefit of digital manufacturing to monitor and visualize key performance indicators (KPIs). This can be seen across automotive, textiles, pharmaceutical, electrical, etc. industries.

Please tell us about industrial 5G and its integration into existing technologies.

As 5G becomes more widely available, it will be the key driver of IoT and other intelligent automation applications. Edge Computing, IoT, AI, blockchain, etc. will all benefit from 5G's lightning-fast connection and low-latency.

5G can help shape the future of IoT by allowing billions of smart devices to communicate and share data autonomously. Especially in the auto sector, manufacturers are racing to perfect the technology that will power self-driving vehicles. Smart automobiles consume a lot of bandwidth, demand faster network responses, and require constant network connectivity. Smart Cars can operate more efficiently with 5G's increased bandwidth and lower latencies.

5G and IoT play a significant role in the manufacturing sector by advancing technologies like robotics, warehouse automation, smart factories, and flexible manufacturing that improve efficiency and reduce costs. It will enable manufacturers to develop smart facilities and fully utilise technologies like automation, AI, AR, etc. for troubleshooting.

5G will transform the way industries’ function, businesses operate and how a consumer reacts to the changing environments.

Please share with us actual case studies, wherein a manufacturing company has applied your solutions successfully.

In a data-driven market, the most effective method to increase efficiency, quality, and production is to turn data into actionable insights. Manufacturers are using Internet of Things (IoT) and the generated streaming data to better industrial operations.

For example, Hero MotoCorp, the world’s largest two-wheeler manufacturer, manufactures over 9 million bikes and scooters a year. Demand continues to grow, and they rely on an automated system operating 24/7 to control the hundreds of robotic crane arms that handle more than 12000 spare parts every day. However, their previous legacy server infrastructure kept crashing — wiping out the cranes’ instructions every time and halting operations. Lenovo ISG was engaged to design and deploy a high-availability technology solution which comprised the Lenovo ThinkSystem SR650. In addition to being built on robust, highly reliable Lenovo systems, the active configuration means that the memory content of the robotic arms is protected even in the unlikely event of unplanned downtime.

Any innovations/ new launches coming up in the near future?

 We see ourselves as a service-oriented partner to organisations and not a hardware supplier, recently introducing a range of new and updated hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) solutions and cloud-based services to enable customers to keep pace with evolving business needs in the new ‘Smart Normal’.

The Lenovo ThinkSystem DM Series Storage Manager OS allows customers of all sizes to harness data more securely and efficiently, from edge to core to cloud, with a single set of tools and capabilities for a smarter way forward

In collaboration with Microsoft, our new Lenovo ThinkAgile MX Azure Stack HCI Edge and Data Center Solutions enables customers to rapidly deploy a hybrid cloud infrastructure

The Lenovo ThinkAgile VX HCI Solutions improve agility and reliability for SAP HANA database deployments, launched in collaboration with VMware

Additionally, our Desktop-as-a-service solution provides a more secure remote work solution, with cloud-like simplicity and on-premise performance, with the convenience of a single monthly payment and single point of contact for support. We are also continuing to invest in key technologies such as IoT, Edge Computing, Cloud, 5G and AI, and will ride on their capabilities to lead the era of ‘new normal’ after COVID-19.

How has the pandemic changed the way manufacturing sectors function and how has Lenovo ISG facilitated this change?

As virtual, decentralised and smart workplaces become the norm, this transformation to a data-driven environment will mean bigger workloads need to be processed in shorter timeframes at the edge and in the cloud. The manufacturing sector will benefit from data analytics, driving higher productivity through integrated planning, and superior product quality. From analytics to collaboration and communications, manufacturers require cutting-edge computing devices, from the plant floor to the corner office, to enable digital transformation. Key technologies such as IoT, Edge Computing, Cloud, 5G and AI, will be critical to ensure the manufacturing sector continues to lead the smart normal era.

Lenovo ISG’s strategy focuses on enabling the ‘Data-Centered’ - businesses and people who leverage data to better equip themselves to cater to their customer bases. Recognising their cost concerns, as well as data security fears in a remote work environment, we have been advising a more strategic and long-term approach.

With consumption-based models like TruScale, customers never take capital ownership of the hardware or other IT assets and only pay for what they use each month. As thought partners, our emphasis is on developing solutions that solve problems and create impact. We are optimistic that the future of manufacturing lies in automation, innovation, and smart technology adoption to increase productivity, performance, and profitability.

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