Every crisis serves as a learning opportunity
Published by : Industrial Automation
Gangadhar Krishnamoorthy, Advisory Services, Ernst & Young LLP.
How uniform is the Smart trend in India given the wide disparity?
True to its nature of unity in diversity, India has adopted to digital and smart products/services with growth that is three times as compared to 2015. Around 1.2 billion have either a smart phone or feature phone (wireless), with around 15 billion Apps downloaded last year, and 600 million internet subscribers. As digital capabilities improve and connectivity becomes omnipresent, being ‘Smart’ is poised to quickly and radically changing nearly every sector of India's economy. That is likely to both create significant economic value and change the way we work, for tens of millions of Indians. It was estimated (before Covid19) to create around 50 million jobs by 2025. Though the slowdown caused by Covid is a concern, the way the average Indian has dealt with his daily life, emphasises on ‘Being Smart’ is going to be the new normal.
What are the sectors that are best prepared for the Smart revolution – transportation, energy, healthcare, etc?
Core sectors involved directly in ‘being Smart’ like the electronics, telecommunications, etc., would grow fast, at least two folds by 2025. Sectors like agriculture, education, energy, financial services, healthcare, and logistics would be the ones to watch as they are compelled to adopt digital to reduce cost (to the extent of 20%) to stay competitive. A major shift is expected in the government led sector, if the present policies and learning from the Covid crisis continue. Direct payment and subsidy transfers, e-procurement, and other online business activities will enhance efficiency and productivity. While private sector readiness is high and adoption could reach up to 80%, government sector will require significant effort to ‘be Smart’ and adoption could reach up to 50% if an earnest effort is made. Five technologies that will transform India would be – Mobile internet, cloud, digital payments, internet of things and e-learning.
Smart Everything, but still the world appears unprepared for pandemics like Covid-19. Time to factor in contingencies?
While cities across the globe have made investments in digital and technology infrastructure with business continuity plans to safeguard against natural calamities, like floods, earthquakes, tsunami, pandemics like Covid have shown that we are not yet ready to stay connected and have access to society, something that is important to handle such biological disasters. The basic requirement at the time of a biological pandemic, is to have a reliable and robust digital infrastructure to track and trace pockets of epidemic, quarantine and social control, map various stages of the public health response, and epidemic forecasting and decision-making. Technologies like Artificial Intelligence, surveillance analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT) could be the tools to keep this new virus within reasonable limits.
Given the shortages of essentials like masks and ventilators, is it possible to have Smart Factories that can at short notice switch over to manufacture something else?
In fact the way some of the manufacturers have quickly transformed their manufacturing facilities to produce masks and ventilators is worth mentioning. Sugar factories, automotive assembly lines have used their basic infrastructure to take a paradigm shift from normal and quickly respond to the demands. That is innovation. The way railways transformed their coaches to isolation wards is another example. Of course, technologies like 3D printing and special material to enable 3D printing would have been very useful in setting up off-factory production units and reach the mass. 3D printing could have made life easier to make masks and valves for ventilator on demand.
Will the Covid-19 crisis prove a boon to make a really Smart World?
The Covid-19 crisis means a huge downturn in economic activity. A few sectors are growing, as people use more technology, but most organisations of all shapes and sizes are taking a massive hit. We seem to be heading inevitably into a deep global recession for now. French Economy and Finance Minister Le Maire pathetically referred to the disease as a 'game- changer for globalisation. On the other hand this situation will hopefully also open up unexpected opportunities – for new suppliers, new customers and new contracts. Technocrats aren't panicking but looking for solutions, even if the mood is tense and the economic consequences are still unclear. In fact they can even see the crisis having certain positive effects: they've learned to adopt technology to plan better, to react flexibly to last-minute changes and to adapt to circumstances as they develop. Every crisis serves as a learning opportunity for organisations, and this pandemic is proving to be quite the lesson.
A clear example is digital payment making every transaction smarter. While the switch to digital payments during the demonetisation period was sudden, the current shift appears to be more gradual and permanent. The coronavirus outbreak could provide a bright spot for one another sector of the health industry that has struggled to gain widespread acceptance: Telemedicine. Virtual services, like online symptom-checking tools and remote consults with doctors, could keep the so-called ‘worried well’ from flooding hospitals. If the healthiest people don't show up in emergency rooms that could mean that more resources are available to treat the sickest and most vulnerable patients.
Gangadhar Krishnamoorthy, Advisory Services, Ernst & Young LLP has been consulting in the field of the Digital Manufacturing – IIoT & Industry 4.0 for the past five years. He started his career with SAIL, in 1990, as a process automation engineer with hands on experienc with erection, commissioning and maintenance of automation systems, instrumentation systems and electrical equipment in steel industry. He joined IT service industry in 2007 and was leading the MES Practice for Metal and Mining sector. He is Bachelors in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from College of Engineering Trivandrum and Masters in Software Engineering, BITS, Pilani.