COVID-19 is accelerating Industry 4.0 adoption


Ruchi Mathur, Head – Commercial Marketing, Rockwell Automation India Pvt. Ltd., talks about the importance of technology roadmap in tiding over the crisis. In this interview, she talks about how COVID-19 is providing a strong incentive to move toward smart manufacturing. Excerpts:

Stoppage in production due to coronavirus lockdown has brought in severe losses for the manufacturing industry. What is your view on the present situation, and how quick the recovery would be for the manufacturing industry?

The current situation is one that has a deep impact on key segments of the economy and is unlike anything we have seen in recent times. The global nature of the pandemic, coupled with its high intensity and long duration, will fundamentally alter the business landscape through changing trade flows, asset prices and consumption patterns. The manufacturing sector, too, has suffered. Production shutdowns, labour and supply chain disruptions has severely challenged the business Continuity – especially for companies meeting the frontline needs and international trade. The need of the hour is to put in place a comprehensive action plan that addresses potential impact, from short-term cash flow concerns to longer term balance sheet adjustments. Technology roadmap for manufacturing will be the key resilience. The Digital Manufacturing Transformation has been put to the real test by the crisis and the enterprises have no choice but to Connect their enterprises to be better prepared to deal with the Black Swan Crisis like these. Looking at the crisis from the lens of Global opportunity, it’s our expectation at this time that the course of economic recovery in India will be smoother & faster than that of any other advanced countries.

Without time for extensive planning and pilots, how can manufacturing and technology leaders move quickly in the current situation while being confident they are implementing the right approach to advanced technologies? How do you plan on helping your end-users in implementing the best practices in the current situation?

While the world is rapidly changing every day to mitigate risk associated with the COVID-19 virus, we know many of our customers operations need to continue, and we are committed to being with them every step of the way. During this time, it is critical they have the support they need, in a way that maximizes productivity and minimizes risk.
We are here to help. Here are a few ways we are helping right now:

Technical Support: Our TechConnect remote support team is capable to remotely coach and resolve many complex issues via phone, in a safe and timely manner, often with the help of video and other virtual support technologies. Our Remote support engineers and Domain experts are tirelessly involved to support the frontline needs industries worldwide.

Collaborative Remote Assistance: With varying travel restrictions and social distancing measures in place, we understand that getting expertise where you need it be can be challenging right now. This is where Collaborative Remote Technologies come into play. For example, augmented reality (AR) provides machine operators with step-by-step instructions direct to smartphones and wearable devices such as smart glasses.
This also enables remote engineers to provide guidance to site-based operations staff even when they are not on-site – vital to ensuring social distance while maintaining operations and adapting production lines. It also allows technical specialists from essential equipment suppliers to remotely troubleshoot and support manufacturing operations.

India has been lagging to a certain extent in adopting digitalisation and to be fair, we are still at a nascent stage. How do you think the industries can speed up with the best practices and adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies during this crisis and adjust operations in real-time?

The after-effects on industry are impossible to forecast at this point. But there are some indications that the pandemic could be a turning point in the digital transformation. COVID-19 is accelerating Industry 4.0 adoption, leading companies across industries into a more mature state of IoT technology and workflow. Although businesses have had reason to embrace digital workflows in the past, COVID-19 has provided another strong incentive to move toward a smart factory, complete with smart manufacturing. Fastest approach could be to identify immediate use cases and scale up.