COVID-19: AI, IoT, and Blockchain to Accelerate Manufacturing Sector

When the lockdown ends and factories begin to operate, India’s manufacturing sector is going to face increased pressure to cut costs, enhance process efficiency, reduce human dependence and to be more resilient to future needs. This will drive companies to adopt smarter manufacturing processes that are powered by the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Blockchain.

Currently, many companies are looking at India as a potential destination and want to divest in China. The manufacturing industry looks at the current situation as an opportunity. Also, the manufacturing sector has to be ready to adopt a tremendous amount of automation.

Governments around the world asked firms to cut the dependency on China for imports of finished parts or products. Japan has set down a $2.2-billion economic stimulus package to enable its manufacturers to shift their production out of China. The Indian cabinet has released a production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme for the electronics sector with an allocation of over Rs 40,000 crore.

China already is in a leading position in the manufacturing sector in terms of AI investment. AI’s market size in China’s manufacturing sector is projected to reach $2 billion by 2025, increasing by 40% since 2019.

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AI is currently being utilised in manufacturing concerning predictive maintenance – recognising and tracking faults in parts, machinery or manufacturing processes and reporting them on a real-time basis. AI can also assist in supply chain optimisation by forecasting demand as well as returns. The data fed to an AI model comes via the network of industrial IOTs deployed on the production floor.  This network is composed of sensors mounted on devices to collect information about their functioning and performance in real-time.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also revealed supply chain network vulnerabilities.  Blockchain can assist businesses to recognise the point of disruption by linking all stakeholders in an extended network, allowing them to plan for potential challenges which may arise in the future. A sophisticated RPA bot could gather information across manufacturing ecosystems such as warehousing, inventory, suppliers, logistics, vendor systems and use the cognitive capabilities in the tool to implement actions that improve the overall efficiencies of the complete ecosystem.

The COVID-19 pandemic would precipitate the entire push towards Industry 4.0. There is immense interest in what can be done for building resilience. Going forward, the Indian manufacturing industry will need to take automation seriously.

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