Business, Economy, Government

The Rise of the Digital Factory

CHENNAI: At a time when fears of automation is gripping industries worldwide, three experts from diverse areas – digital, automotive, and petroleum – discussed ‘the rise of digital factory’ at an event here on Thursday.

Automation is disrupting business models. A Canadian company has five engineers monitoring seven data centres located in different parts of the world. Robotic process automation – automating a process to a way a human does it manually – is attacking all enterprises, said S Madhavan, Director, Green Quotient Systems, a company that provides cloud computing and automation framework services.

The fear of a rapid fall in unemployment due to automation has been troubling governments, especially, in developed countries. But, Ford Motor hired nearly a 1000 employees last year which was a 10 per cent increase in its workforce in India, said Michael Brielmaier, Managing Director, Ford Motor Private Limited, India.

Ford’s employees in India, mostly engineers, are performing complex research and development work in laboratories to devise systems that integrate software, Internet-of-Things (IOT), and machines. They are working with global teams for optimal utilisation of what India has to offer, said Brielmaier.

The digital factory that Brielmaier talked about brings together automation and artificial intelligence to drive up manufacturing – where factories will function with less humans and more robots. It will capture the intelligence of products, even after it leaves the factory, sending back information critical for improving standards and quality, said Madhavan.

The intelligence put into products rolling out of factories, in case of cars, can be used for pollution control and reduction of hazards using better instrumentation, according to KRSR Krishna, Vice President (Engg.), Petrofac International Limited, Sharjah, UAE.

Madhavan agreed to this argument and said that cruise automated technology improves fuel efficiency. Nearly 10-12 per cent of a modern car is electronic. The percentage will only go up leading us to the autonomic car, he said.

Krishna referred to the off-shore installations of petroleum companies and recalled oil-rig blasts – Flixborough disaster, Mexico City (1994) incident, and Piper Alpha (1988) fire – and said that automation and artificial intelligence has “induced a degree of freedom from hazards”.

The “fusion powered future” and the disruption caused or to be caused thereafter is nearly $3 trillion to $6 trillion dollars by 2025, said Madhavan.

The speakers were all on the dais for the Madras Institute of Technology Alumni Association’s event organised on Founder’s Day. It was also the Alumni and Institute Day.

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