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Case studies of how Industry 4.0 is changing the country

30 November 2017

There was a time when an established system would be more than reluctant to change its ways. It all changed with the dot com boom. Now the reality is a new innovative system and everyone is set to ride the bandwagon. There is an inherent danger to this attitude. The great example is how the dom com bubble burst and a lot of blue chip names went out of business. The recent buzzword is the Fourth Industrial Revolution or Industry 4.0, as the industry leaders from the printing and packaging sector is using the term. Every major machine manufacturer or service provider has used this concept in some form or other. In fact, the last edition of Interpack was all about Industry 4.0.

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It all sounds futuristic and really cool. But what are real usages of Industry 4.0 for a business? Especially, in the Indian context? Before that what exactly is this Fourth Industrial Revolution? Now, we have a handy answer to both in Pranjal Sharma’s immensely readable Kranti Nation: India and the Forth Industrial Revolution. In the book Sharma not only explains the different components that make up Industry 4.0, he also collects a range of case studies from India-based companies from diverse sectors who are using the Industry 4.0 to change their way of working or innovate their product range.

The First Industrial Revolution took place from the 18th to 19th centuries in Europe and America. It was a period when mostly agrarian, rural societies became industrial and urban. The Second Industrial Revolution took place between 1870 and 1914, just before WWI. It was a period of growth for pre-existing industries and expansion of new ones, such as steel, oil and electricity, and used electric power to create mass production. The Third Industrial Revolution or the Digital Revolution refers to the advancement of technology from analogue electronic and mechanical devices to the digital technology available today. It started during the 1980s and is ongoing.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution builds on the digital revolution, representing new ways in which technology becomes embedded within societies and even the human body. It is marked by emerging technology breakthroughs in a number of fields, including robotics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, quantum computing, biotechnology, The Internet of Things, 3D printing and autonomous vehicles. In his book, The Fourth Industrial Revolution, Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, (who introduces Kranti Nation) describes how this fourth revolution is fundamentally different from the previous three, which were characterised mainly by advances in technology. ‘Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution’ was the theme of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2016 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland.

So for all intent and purposes, Industry 4.0 is a real deal. Introducing Kranti Nation, Schwab writes, “The term Fourth Industrial Revolution is an umbrella concept that includes several emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, big data, cloud, 3D printing or additive manufacturing, and Internet of Things (IoT), among others. Although many of these technologies have been underway for several decades, they are now consolidating and converging. Machines may be seamlessly connected to each other in a factory unit. Consumers too are more connected to the internet through different devices and use a wide range of applications for different purposes. Even governments are deploying big data to understand the trends and calibrate their policy responses.”

In this context, Kranti Nation reveals how these processes are gaining traction across several major sectors. While some are using 3D printing to meet customer needs, others are using machine intelligence to make their production more efficient. In all, the book focuses on 10 different processes — manufacturing, logistics and services, consumer and retail, transportation and retail, transportation and mobility, healthcare and diagnostics, hospitality and travel, banking and finance, agriculture and food, education and training, and energy: old and new — and zeroes in on companies within these processes who are using aspects of Industry 4.0 to transform their business.

Though the book may not have a direct relevance to the packaging sector, we would certainly recommend that it’s time the packaging sector keeps itself abreast with the changing processes sweeping businesses. After all, packaging is a part and parcel of all businesses and when a business process changes, it will also affect the packaging industry.  

According to Sharma, broadly speaking, there are three types of technological developments taking place in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The first consists of innovations that are happening in the West but are being deployed or have the potential to be deployed across the word. These include the sharing economy initiatives, led by Uber and Airbnb. The second comprises solutions meant only for local needs. These are low-tech and affordable solutions that work in emerging markets. The third is being created in immerging markets but it has the potential to be scaled up across the world. Oyo Hotels is an example.

In manufacturing, Sharma gives the example, how Raymond has turned its dying process fully automatic, because, if you want consistency in quality, machine is more reliable than human.

Sharma says GE India is leading the most exciting usages of Industry 4.0. GE Digital is playing an integral role in GE’s quest to become the world’s best digital industrial company. There are three elements to this strategy which involves the entire GE organisation. From being a manufacturing company, GE is now as much a software company, given its focus on the industrial internet. Since 2012, GE has invested more than USD 1 million in software. By 2020, GE expects to among the top ten software companies and have more than USD 15 billion in software and solution.

In logistics and services, the latest technology being deployed by companies like DHL is augmented reality (AR). To make it easy to pick products from its large warehouses, DHL workers are given AR headsets that have the entire warehouse mapped visible on the screen. Armed with this headset, the workers knows exactly where to go, what to pick, scan and even how and when to access the inventory.

In consumer and retail, SpiceJet is deploying near-field communication technology for passenger check-in, all via a mobile app. At the same time, marketing agencies like Autumn Worldwide is using the concept of ‘social media listening’ to gauge at the changing trends.

In all, Kranti India explores how Industry 4.0 has spread across all industry segments. It may be a new concept for many of us, but its time we updated ourselves about its endless possibilities, because sooner, rather than later, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is going to change the way we do business.  

Kranti Nation: India and the Forth Industrial Revolution

By Pranjal Sharma

Macmillan, 2017

Pages 261

Price 599

Printed at Gopsons Papers

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