Ankit Jain is a seasoned IT professional with over two decades of experience across diverse technology functions. Before joining WIKA Group in 2019, he successfully handled critical roles across various companies such as Sandhar Technologies, Ginni International, IndiaCan, MBC India, and Essel Shyam Technologies. In a recent conversation with Thiruamuthan, a correspondent from Industry Outlook, Ankit shared his insights on the current tech advancements in the manufacturing sector and many other exciting aspects.
Tell us about the impact of IoT and Industry 4.0 technologies into the manufacturing process.
Today, most manufacturing setups across the globe comprise a variety of interconnected machines. As a result, companies face the challenge of gathering and analyzing data about various parameters from all machines & systems. Earlier, the machine operators used to record machines' performance and many other critical aspects manually. However, with the advent of Industrial IoT, companies can now capture real-time data from a wide variety of devices on a real-time basis, analyze it to derive meaningful insights, and accordingly make critical decisions. Additionally, by further integrating Industry 4.0 technologies, companies can automate the entire production cycle, facilitate seamless communication between devices and achieve real-time data collection across all systems & applications. This has significantly improved overall equipment efficiency throughout the manufacturing setup.
Furthermore, integrating technologies such as AI and ML has enabled manufacturers to produce intelligent products with built-in capabilities to capture customer experiences. Companies can also gather customer feedback about their products, feed them into their database, use ML algorithms to analyze them, understand customer expectations, and create tailor-made products. Leveraging IoT and other advanced technologies has also enabled manufacturers to implement predictive maintenance techniques, saving resources, especially in maintenance costs, and ensuring zero downtime.
Suggest a few practical measures for companies to ensure the security of IoT devices and data in manufacturing setup.
With a constant increase in interconnected devices within a manufacturing setup, the concerns about data security are at an all-time high. To ensure data security, organizations must maintain a proper inventory of all the devices that are part of their manufacturing setup, along with detailed information about the IP addresses, firmware versions, patch details, and other critical factors for each device. Secondly, companies should implement network segmentation practices in place, configuring network switches to ensure each department has a separate network. This prevents bugs or viruses from infecting other networks, significantly reducing their impact and easing the troubleshooting process. Additionally, implementing advanced firewalls and conducting periodic vulnerability assessments & penetration tests are crucial for ensuring data security across the organization.
Briefly explain the importance of employee training or skill development programs in today's Industry 4.0 era.
Industry 4.0 is a blend of next-generation technologies such as AI, ML, IoT, cloud computing, big data analytics, automation, and many others. While most organizations easily integrate these tech advancements, the major challenge they face is the skill gap among their existing workforce to operate the new systems & applications. This is because only if the employees possess the necessary technical skills to work on the newly upgraded systems can the organization reap maximum benefits from these cutting-edge technologies and realize their ROI quickly. As a result, training and upskilling of employees is paramount for any organization integrating these Industry 4.0 technologies into their processes. However, given the vast array of tech areas that Industry 4.0 comprises, every business must ensure separate training and upskilling programs for each department, including specific programs on each technology.
How do you expect the role of Industry 4.0 in the manufacturing space to evolve shortly?
Manufacturing companies in India have recently started adopting Industry 4.0 technologies & practices. However, the manufacturing sector is evolving rapidly, driven by recent tech advancements. In the next 5-10 years, there will be no human intervention in manufacturing. Also, since all the machines in a manufacturing setup are interconnected and communicate, I expect the machines to become more intelligent and capable of identifying which processes are currently running in which machine/system and accordingly take decisions. For instance, if process-A runs on machine-A and process-B runs on machine-B, machine-C will wait for the two processes to be completed and only then begin its process. Similarly, since the machines will also have access to the product inventory, they will decide on their production plan for the next day. However, AI and ML technologies will play a massive role in making machines intelligent enough to carry out all these functions in an optimized and hassle-free way.