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In which way do you think future manufacturing will be different from now in the light of Industry 4.0 trends that are driven by robotics innovation and disruptive technologies?

I believe that manufacturing has always been the most affected industry due to the advent of industrial revolutions. For example, during the third industrial revolution, manufacturing was integrated with computers and resulted in computer-aided technologies (CAx) like CAD, CAM, and CIM.

During Industry 4.0, products will be highly customized and connected. I believe that we are still going towards Industry 4.0, and we are not yet there. Here is my vision of future manufacturing in the era of Industry 4.0:

• Traditional manufacturing operations like casting and machining will be replaced by additive manufacturing. Thus, additive manufacturing will completely change the dynamics of the operations in manufacturing industries.

• Blue collar jobs involving -mechanics, carpenters, and machinists would also be able to work remotely like the white collar jobs.

• Manufacturers will orient themselves towards providing services. For example, automobile sellers will design their business models towards selling mobility, and the customers will be charged based on the output or use (number of hours, number of miles) of the service.

• Manufacturing industries will become self-sustainable as they will be able to recycle and reuse their own manufactured products. Therefore, future manufacturing may not be consuming natural resources anymore.

In the emerging business environment of hyper-competition, how can existing industries switch to smart manufacturing in order to press down costs, boost productivity and ensure consistent quality through widespread use of robots and digitization of enterprises?

Smart manufacturing focuses on improving the operational performance of SMEs. Therefore, the existing industries need to assess their current readiness for adopting smart manufacturing. Based on their readiness, they need to develop their own smart manufacturing vision and then identify the appropriate sets of tools and practices that will guide them towards smart manufacturing. In this regard, data will play a significant role. Manufacturing industries have been generating data since long. Typically this data has been related to their organizational dimensions like finance, people, process, and product. Traditionally, they have been analyzing finance data only. However, due to the recent advances in manufacturing and economic availability of the tools, this seems to be the right time for the manufacturing industries to orient themselves towards data-driven decision-making across all the organizational dimensions. The existing industries will need to employ sensors, wireless networks, and clouds to transmit, save, and analyze the generated data. The results from analyzed data will help them in making better decisions. Thus, optimizing the overall production, productivity, and quality and reducing the costs of production.

How important is digitization and cloud computing to speed up manufacturing innovation through smart factories?

In my opinion, digitization and cloud computing can play an essential role in innovation in manufacturing industries. We are already converging towards an era, where the products are sold online. Moreover, there are industries, for example, shoe manufacturing that provide interfaces and configurators to allow the customers to select from the different available options. However, digitization is still rare. I believe in future manufacturing industries will need to be highly digitized and include customers during the product design phase.

Cloud computing helps in faster data transmission, saving, and analytics. Employees can visualize, operate, and modify the data present in the cloud. I believe that due to its enormous capacity, cloud computing has more advantages for large enterprises as compared to the benefits it has for the small and medium-sized enterprises. Both digitization and cloud computing allow an interconnected network. Thus, the products that earlier waited for design approval from another employee working in a different country can be done by sharing and modifying the design using the cloud in real time. Similarly, the time required in compliance and reporting will be saved.

How could existing industries switch to smart manufacturing as their legacy systems were established after heavy capital-intensive investments?

I consider that smart manufacturing is more of an evolution rather than a revolution. Smart manufacturing focuses on improving the existing systems. There are demonstrations of machines like traditional machines that have been made ‘smart’ with the help of sensors. Similarly, integrating IoT (Internet of Things) has assisted industries in monitoring their products and processes. Therefore, the transition towards smart manufacturing is not just about huge investments. This transition will need appropriate directions and guidance. It will also require a positive organizational culture and trust from all the levels of hierarchy.

Do you think there is a decline in competitive advantage that calls for the industry to look at reimagining competitiveness through smart manufacturing by widely deploying robots?

Earlier manufacturing industries provided competitive advantages via differentiation, low cost, and response time of the product. However, with the rise of ‘mass customization’, all the three competitive strategies have become urgent. I believe data-driven decision making will play a central role in ‘mass customization’. As a result, the smart manufacturing technologies that can assist in data acquisition, transmission or analysis will prosper. Such technologies will be able to customize a product without compromising on the quality of the product and the time to market.

How important is innovation and talent/creative-driven management to sustain profitability through lean and green manufacturing?

I believe that industries have a strong responsibility for being sustainable. Besides, with the advent of the Internet and social media, today’s customer is a lot more aware as compared to the customer in the past. She does not mind paying extra for a sustainable product. It can be observed that with the developments in robotics and artificial intelligence, the role of the human is being reduced to decision-making, data interpretation, critical thinking, and idea creation. As a result, the management in industries needs to acknowledge that the employees have more to offer as compared to performing the repetitive tasks. Therefore, involving employees in the decision-making and educating them with the lean and green manufacturing practices will help organizations in sustaining profitability.

What are the major trends in digitization, modelling and simulation in the manufacturing process and acceleration of innovation in global supply chains?

Digitization, modelling, and simulation have improved the overall interaction with the product, and it has also changed the way the manufacturing industries perceived the ‘design’ and ‘quality’. Now a customer can assemble the final product using different combinations. The design software allows manufacturers to make changes in the timeline of the product design. Thus, any changes in the initial designs are comparatively easy to incorporate. Some design software can also make use of artificial intelligence to suggest the most optimized design for the given set of parameters. Similarly, the designs in CAM can be simulated to check the feasibility of the machining. High resolutions scanners are being employed to scan a product. Thus, avoiding the complicated steps followed during reverse engineering. Overall, I believe that global supply chains have become more responsive in the presence of digitization.

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