Technology without built-in safety is like driving a car without brakes
Published by : Industrial Automation
G Ganapathiraman, Country Manager, ARC Advisory Group, India.
Mainstream technologies such as AI and data analytics are present leaders. Or will newer forms of technology dominate 2021? Will 5G become real in 2021?
Although industry will continue using AI and data analytics, 2021 is likely to see the emergence of a new leader – 5G technology. 5G is the first wireless technology likely to have a large impact on the industrial world. While Wi-Fi and 4G are already used in some industrial applications, their value-add is limited by the fact that they were never designed specifically to meet industrial requirements and, as a result, have been adapted for specific purposes along the way. 5G, on the other hand, is designed to meet industrial requirements with ultra-low latency, high network availability, and high device density capabilities. Looking at the big picture, 5G is a key enabler for initiatives, such as Industrial IoT and Industry 4.0, as it supports connectivity of a large number of devices and allows large quantities of data to be aggregated and delivered from shop floors to remote data centres and cloud-based systems.
What will be the wish list of the manufacturing industry in the new normal?
A sense of uncertainty has affected the business sentiment. Because of the pandemic many manufacturing facilities were temporarily closed. As green shoots appear in an economy which had come to a grinding halt, the dialogue is now about the immediate steps needed to sustain the recovery. The wish list of the manufacturing sector will be long involving all stakeholders – the government, industry leaders, investors, and logistics providers. Besides fiscal stimulus and incentives (such as defer EMIs, remove GST, etc.), suppliers must work closely with manufacturers and educate them about how the new technologies will benefit their work processes and enhance productivity. The wish list will also include:
• Collaborative efforts to overcome the challenging disruptions to supply and demand
• Become more flexible and have a market orientation strategy
• Improve ease of doing business to attract investments.
What could be the ideal plan of action to face the challenges and adopt a safe and stable Covid-19 survival strategy?
In my opinion, there’s no one size fits all plan of action or ideal strategy to survive the challenges of the pandemic. The way we think about business challenges will be different – it all boils down to adaptability. It is driving how businesses are managing technology and accelerating the pace of change. Digitalisation is an imperative now.
Broadly, businesses could:
• Enable a flexible product flow and ensure that inventories are aligned with consumer demand
• Improve online presence and maintain close contact with customers
• Manage cash flow and have a sustainable business model.
When the pandemic ends restructured business models will emerge and the entire landscape will change. So, businesses must be agile and ride the crest of the wave.
The challenges in WFH culture for the manufacturing sector and steps to be future ready?
The work from home culture for the manufacturing sector is a tough proposition because the work of the production team is hands-on. Manufacturing is intrinsically about the physical world: raw material is purchased and converted by machines and humans into products. This requires the presence of human beings in contact with each other and that increases the risk of spreading Covid-19. While many manufacturers may have automated parts of their process, the vast majority will still depend on the physical presence of humans to some extent. Manufacturing often involves complex technical processes and materials, and are managed by different teams who meet for status updates and reviews.
Steps to be future ready:
• Revival of domestic manufacturing and reducing dependence on China
• Reskilling of workforce
• Digitalisation of processes and adopting remote management, diagnostic and collaborative tools.
The role of technology in catering to the demand for basic daily life solutions for safety at work and home?
Technology without built-in safety is like driving a car without brakes. Technology plays a major role in our daily lives, both at home and the workplace. At home we are so used to gadgets like the dishwasher, washing machine, mixie/blender, remote controls and so on. On the shop floor there are machines, cutters and other equipment; and white collar workers are digitally connected. So whether you’re at home or at the workplace the safety angle is extremely important.
At home if the electrical wiring is shoddy there could be a short circuit or a fire. In a plant if safety protocols are flouted it could result in unplanned downtime or loss of lives. For those who are digitally savvy and connected, the fear of cyberattacks looms large. Technology has made our lives easier, but unless safety measures are in place we are vulnerable and exposed.
The Covid-19 impact on campaigns like Aatmanirbhar Bharat, Startup India and the path ahead in 2021?
Campaigns like Aatmanirbhar Bharat were launched in the midst of the lockdown – so it would be right to say that the Covid-19 pandemic accelerated these programmes. In these unprecedented times, India is working to structure a balanced strategy between saving lives and restoring economic activity. The outbreak of Covid-19 and government-mandated social distancing norms have impacted various sectors and while short-term repercussions are likely to be seen, India’s long-term vision is laudable. This movement of becoming self-reliant is what will charter the next course of growth for the country.
Startup India has borne the brunt of the Covid-19 impact; funds have dried up and many have shut down. The adverse impact is being felt in the form of disrupted supply chains, depleted cash flows and steep fall in revenues. To help startups weather the storm, the government must provide fiscal incentives and rebates.
The path ahead in 2021 will be about rebuilding a resilient and self-reliant India through collaboration.
Are we doing enough in areas like employee wellness, social support, occupational safety and infection prevention?
In my opinion, a lot is being done, but a lot more needs to be done; and for this all stakeholders must be proactive. The government is taking measures to ensure that the pandemic comes under control and doesn’t spread further. Gauging the situation, state governments can take decisions about night curfew, etc. There are apps like Aarogya Setu that alert the public about proximity to infected persons. Citizens are expected to follow the rules, such as wearing masks, social distancing and maintaining high levels of hygiene. The government introduced the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2019 in Parliament, but the coverage is narrow. Public healthcare providers and doctors are risking their lives to save infected patients; but who ensures their safety and the uninterrupted availability of personal protective equipment (PPE)?
Some companies in India advise employees to maintain good habits and alter their lifestyle to remain physically and mentally upbeat. A few offer counselling and virtual workouts. Finally, it’s up to the employees to adopt good practices and remain healthy.
What are the trends that will shape the way people live and work in the near future?
Post-pandemic the workplace rules will change. No longer will the 9-5 workday rule exist as many will prefer to continue working from home. A shift to remote working ensures flexibility. Previously, if your boss couldn’t see you it meant you weren’t working. But now, as long as you deliver, where you work from is secondary.
The pace of technology adoption is going to accelerate, and at the employee level, digital dexterity and digital collaboration skills will become more important than ever. How teams are organised, mentored, and led will be the deciding factors in enhancing innovation and output.
When it comes to homes, people are now eyeing larger ones. The lines between home and office are blurring due to Work from Home (WFH) and online schooling. Demand for bigger houses is rising so that the extra space can be converted into a makeshift workspace. There is a requirement for functional and flexible homes that can accommodate working/study areas. Interiors will require soundproofing, greenery, and easy-to-clean/sanitise surfaces.
(The views expressed in interviews are personal, not necessarily of the organisations represented)
G Ganapathiraman is responsible for managing ARC Advisory Group’s operations in India. His range of responsibilities at ARC includes supporting the global offices in preparation of market research reports (worldwide, regional, and India specific), organising ARC India forums, and sales/technical promotion in the areas of automation and enterprise. He handles and nurtures analyst relationships with domestic and global clients.