The COVID-19 pandemic has expedited the transformation in the manufacturing sector. Innovation and evolution are the backbones of the manufacturing process having a big impact on jobs, livelihood as well as the economy. As an industry, manufacturing per se has primarily relied on physical space; the workflow was highly disrupted due to the pandemic. But it has helped the industry to be future-ready and manufacturers are focusing on technology by adapting quickly to newer demands. 

Manufacturing has always embraced futuristic technologies and it is on the cusp of radical change driven by tech advancement from 3D printing to AI, AR and Robotics. 

The 4th industrial revolution or Industry 4.0 has brought varied changes driven by IoT, AR, VR and Real-Time Intelligence and has not only completely transformed the way we work but has also altered the way manufacturing works. As part of Industry 4.0, the robots when backed with AI and IoT are more flexible and helps make a decision in a factory environment. AR (Augmented Reality) technology is a step ahead of the popular Virtual Reality (VR) technique. It is a combination of both, the real world and the digital world brought together to enhance its virtual world applicability.

Today, smart manufacturing is indeed taking the advantage of advanced information and upgraded technologies to enable flexibility in physical processes to address a dynamic and global market. 

During the pandemic, the companies having specialization in automation and robotics saw an increase in demand as many factories looked for alternatives to keep assembly lines moving. To improve efficiency and productivity, companies adopted digitalization- because it was seen as the best solution to keep the work going. Additional factors like work from home, access to documents, data stored on clouds assisted in the functioning of the businesses. Organizations quickly realised that without the use of technology businesses can’t succeed, hence, many swiftly adopted the technology model. 

If you see from a larger perspective, manufacturers are focusing on four parameters with regards to digital investments, IT/data center, supply chain with the help of technology, product/customer growth, efficiency improvements and collaboration. COVID-19 has shown companies that they need to move towards more flexible manufacturing and supply chain models that are equipped with state-of-the-art digital technologies. Diverse sourcing and digitization will be the key to building stronger, smarter supply chains and ensuring lasting recovery. 

Companies now understood the importance of computer literacy at the workplace, hence, many are adopting the same route. Having continual training for workers steadily increases the professional competencies and experience of an employee which ultimately help the business. Other than this, the adoption of cloud data is helping manufacturers aggregate data that helps them get real-time information for remote oversight.

With Industry 4.0, robotics and industrial automation will heavily influence job opportunities; In India, we must look at low cost and people-oriented automation, which will drive the companies to execute their work seamlessly. Illustrating an example, We at Bry-Air also adopted the route of digitization for efficient manufacturing, we now have a paperless shop floor where we use tablets to view manufacturing drawing, production reporting, and tracking. The Enterprise Resource Planning Software is deployed for manufacturing, purchase, sales, planning, warehouse, and finance. It records data in real-time and helps managers keep track of various operations by sending real-time updates for material, invoicing, sales orders, and inventory monitoring. The day-to-day workflows are approved using automation and are directly connected to employees’ mobile devise ad mails.

For engineering efficiency, we have deployed Siemens PLM (Product Life cycle Management) software which helps us make unified, information-driven decisions at every stage of the product life cycle also automate the engineering process by using workflows. Digital library of components including datasheets and drawings in Engineering server and Digital drawings/specification sheet of component linked in ERP. The manufacturing drawings can be released on the server and available on TAB at different work stations in production. For all the employees working from home, for their convenience, we have provided engineering team connectivity to engineering server from Remote location. We have fully implemented HRMS internally in Pahwa Group which facilitates the Payroll Management, Employee database Management, PMS, Training process. Employee’s queries are also getting handled through the feature of Help desk in HRMS.

The other biggest learning manufacturers have learned from the pandemic is that they can’t be dependent on a single vendor for all supply needs. For instance, when the pandemic halted everyone around the world, the industry faced challenges in procuring raw materials from China. However, at the same time it presented an opportunity to build a self- sufficient and self- reliant India. By being self-reliant we will see local manufacturers yielding globally competitive quality products and at the same time boost India's GDP growth.

The last one and half years have made all of us realise that the future belongs to people who can multitask, adapt, reskill, and be productive. It is necessary is to orient ourselves to the new reality and adapt accordingly.