There will definitely be a change towards a Smart World
Published on : Saturday 09-05-2020
Rajesh Nath, Managing Director, VDMA India Services Private Limited, German Engineering Federation (VDMA).
How uniform is the Smart trend in India given the wide disparity?
Particularly in densely populated cities, clear signs of progress can be seen: no cash is needed to do the simplest business, large production companies are investing in a networked infrastructure and start-ups are working on intelligent answers to current problems. In addition, the country currently provides the third largest start-up ecosystem in the world. It is the progress in technology that attracts the vast majority of Indians (65% of the population is under 25 years old) to start their own technology companies, move from the countryside to urban areas and be part of the progress. Here the disparities in the country become clear: while progress is visible in everyday situations from both the entrepreneurial and consumer perspective, in rural areas people are struggling to obtain water and electricity. Nevertheless, measured by the number of smartphone users, India is the second most networked country in the world after China.
What are the sectors that are best prepared for the Smart revolution – transportation, energy, healthcare, etc?
Due to the different priorities worldwide, it is not possible to define fixed trends that are fixed for all sectors and all areas of life.
Smart Manufacturing: Already 3 years ago companies in India started to incorporate parts of Industry 4.0 into their production chain. This involves digital interlinked supply chains, distributions networks and servicing. In addition, companies in India recognized early on the importance of production key figures, which can only be fully recorded by networked machines (IoT). The collection and further processing of data plays a central role in this context.
Transportation (people): India's densely populated cities in particular have to cope with crowded roads. Up to now, only individual local passenger transport and ridesharing services have provided answers. Since the problem is enormous, this is also where the greatest potential can be found.
Data analysis: India's expertise in IT-relevant problems and the relatively early recording of data has created a foundation that offers enormous potential in terms of IoT and Industry 4.0.
Smart Everything, but still the world appears unprepared for pandemics like Covid-19. Time to factor in contingencies?
First and foremost, smart does not mean making unavoidable problems suddenly avoidable, but being able to adapt quickly to the circumstances, increase opportunities and minimize risks. Yes, unforeseen events should always be part of process, project, innovation and crisis management. However, as previously indicated, certain factors can only be minimized to a certain residual risk.
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 the United States in particular, it is currently being examined whether perhaps even automobile manufacturers could not meet the increased demand for vital products such as fans and masks by changing their production lines in the current crisis situation. Of course, the idea of being able to react quickly to current events seems attractive for the time being, as both the demand and the supply side benefit from it. But how useful are flexible production lines if they do not fit the vision or mission of a company? To what extent do you determine the flexibility and agility of these lines, and should companies be able to produce everything necessary in case of doubt? The idea is nice, but the additional flexibility naturally comes at a price, which is gladly paid in times of crisis, but otherwise by nobody.
Will the Covid-19 crisis prove a boon to make a really Smart World?
Especially now, due to the necessity of finding fast and sustainable solutions to issues such as shutdowns and social distancing. There will definitely be a change towards a Smart World. However, it remains to be seen whether this necessity will be seen in the long term, both privately and by companies. The question is also which development is ultimately attributable to Covid-19, for which Covid-19 was an incubator and which have nothing to do with the virus.
Rajesh Nath, a graduate Mechanical Engineer followed by International Business Program from IIM Kolkata, has 30 years of experience in Indo-German trade working with several reputed German and Indian companies in various sectors. Since 1999 he has been working with the German Engineering Federation (VDMA), which he is heading as Managing Director, India. He has played a pivotal role in promoting and strengthening the business and economic ties between India and Germany. In 2017 Rajesh Nath was conferred the ‘Cross of the Order of Merit’, Germany’s highest civilian honour awarded to individuals for their services to Germany. It is Germany’s only honour that is awarded to both Germans and foreigners in all fields of endeavour. It is the highest tribute paid to individuals for achievements in economic, social, political or intellectual realm.