For the most part, manufacturing in India has been really about the “real” world. But if a concept paper floated by the department of industrial policy and promotion (DIPP) materialises, a greater confluence of the real and the virtual isn’t far away.
DIPP has come up with the paper called Industry 4.0 to usher in the fourth industrial revolution, which will be driven by an amalgamation of emerging technologies like data volume, computational power, internet, business analytics, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, elemental design and advanced robotics.
Industry 4.0 is the next phase in “bringing together conventional and modern technologies in manufacturing”. It’s envisaged as the process of creating “smart factories”. Such factories consist of machines (in the entire production chain) that are digitally connected and can learn from the large amount of data generated and then make autonomous decisions.
“To achieve the ambitious target of making India a global hub for manufacturing, design and innovation, and augmenting the share of manufacturing in GDP from the current 16% to 25% by 2022, the adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies becomes imperative to increase competitiveness and build efficient value chains,” said the concept paper.
Usually, physical systems in any industry go through a technology ladder — from electrification, automation to digitisation and then “smart factories”. Most parts of the manufacturing sector in the country are still in the post-electrification rungs of the ladder. A sizeable chunk of it falls in the lower rungs of automation and a tiny segment moves up this ladder.
Similarly, the use of IT in manufacturing is dominated by embedded systems in machine units that operate independently of each other. The integration of physical systems on cyber platforms, too, is at a very nascent stage. Also, a huge number of MSMEs have just started to enter the automation phase. “(So) An assessment of industry on parameters of willingness and prerequisites to adopt Industry 4.0 will be required to ascertain preparedness,” said the concept note. The paper pitches for public-private partnerships to achieve this goal.
However, the paper acknowledges that the fear of job losses due to more automation, especially for low-skilled staff, is often cited to argue against the suitability of Industry 4.0 to India. In that context, the paper calls for large-scaling re-skilling of workers to adjust to the new reality, as the world increasingly moves towards “digital labour”.
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Last year, a report by advisory analyst firm HfS Research said the maximum impact of the emergence of intelligent automation will be felt on the global industry of 15 million IT services and BPO workers, which will see about 1.4 million job losses — a net decrease of 9% — by 2021. In India, the services industry workforce could dwindle by 4.8 lakh by 2021. Even Gartner had predicted in 2015 that one in three jobs will be converted to software, robots and smart machines by 2025.
– By Surbhi Prasad and Banikinkar Pattanayak