UNIDO 50th Anniversary Events - Industry 4.0 Panel Discussion
"Industry 4.0 or the 4th industrial revolution is a recent trend in advanced manufacturing. UNIDO has been running projects, in order to understand adoption trends on a global scale. The UNIDO panel discussion was aimed to explore the opportunities and challenges for developing countries and economies that are in transition."
UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organization) had organized its 50th anniversary as a week-long event from Nov 21st to 25th at its Vienna headquarters. UNIDO is the specialized agency of the United Nations that promotes industrial development for poverty reduction, inclusive globalization and environmental stability, established in 1966. UNIDO has a 2030 mandate for sustainable development. That includes SDG 9 (Sustainable Development Goals) which calls to "build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation".
Industry 4.0 or the 4th industrial revolution is a recent trend in advanced manufacturing that organizations across the world are adopting, at different levels of maturity. A panel discussion was organized by UNIDO on 23rd Nov to discuss the "opportunities and challenges for developing countries and economies in transition" in the SDG 9 context. UNIDO has been running projects across the world to understand the adoption trends of Industry 4.0, the road blocks faced and how it can offer support to increase its adoption for better industrial output and inclusiveness.
The panel consisted of a moderator and 5 members from diverse streams and regions from academia to industry. Ramachandran S (Ram), Principal Consultant from the Solution Design team for Manufacturing, Infosys BPO was invited as one of the panelists to share his perspectives from a developing country/India point of view. Industry 4.0 is one of the proactive points-of-view developed by the Solution Design team to extend the work we do in this area for more clients and to expand the offering. Link: https://50.unido.org/news-events/programme.html
Mr. Bernardo Calzadilla, Director TII (Trade, Investment and Innovation) in UNIDO started the event by setting the context for Industry 4.0 and its global implications. The discussion was broadly split into three topics in which each participant shared their opinions - i) challenges faced in Industry 4.0 adoption, ii) opportunities it provides for manufacturing enterprises, iii) implications for the community and how UNIDO can support wider adoption. The discussion was concluded with a summary and followed by a question & answer session for the audience.
Ram spoke about the challenges faced by developing countries in Industry 4.0 adoption - i) skill set to look at the big picture and orchestrating a coherent Industry 4.0 implementation by understanding and integrating multiple technologies, ii) scalability beyond one factory, few use cases to a wider enterprise foot print, considering the diversity of hardware, software and automation adopted over the years, iii) funding beyond just the dollars to leadership buy-in for the technology. There is significant awareness on Industry 4.0 among senior management and business leadership on what it offers. The challenge is in the "how" part in conceptualizing a solution, defining a road map, selection of technology and partners for an impactful implementation. According to Ram, that is where UNIDO can play a significant role in publishing case studies, best practices and lessons learnt from the early adopters.
The implications of Industry 4.0 are that it will help developing countries that have missed earlier waves of technology to leap-frog and adopt the latest proven areas for their manufacturing. Robots for example have been used in the automotive segment in India as generic configurations for hazardous operations such as welding, painting and heavy assembly. Application specific, indigenized, low cost robots of smaller size - with ease of programming can now be adopted by smaller enterprises for appropriate automation.
Some other key points that came up in the discussion were the yawning gap between advanced countries in automation and developing countries. According to a panelist, Germany, Japan and USA are introducing robotics even to school going children leading to a "robot native" generation that is comfortable with programming and using robots and other evolving technologies such as artificial intelligence from their childhood. At the same time, "democratizing of technology" is happening from the open-source availability of technology, tools to online courses for education. Anyone with a basic computer, network connectivity and a zeal for learning can work on these emerging areas. Robots are also available as-a-service and in smaller desk top versions for learners and the Small & Medium enterprise segment.
Developed countries need to un-learn earlier concepts and get used to the new norm, sometimes involving a cultural transformation. For example, humans may end up in situations where they need to work in collaboration with a robot or even take instructions from a machine. But in developing countries, there is still the skill gap in programming, operating and maintaining modern machinery. Governments have been taking initiatives like "Make in India" to grow manufacturing and "Skill India" to close the skill gap. Organizations like UNIDO can partner with the government and private organizations for training of the workforce.
In summary, every one acknowledged the emergence of Industry 4.0 as a key driver of productivity and efficient manufacturing. Innovation is a key characteristic that needs to be imbibed in the DNA of organizations to learn and adopt new technologies. Social media and the internet is making it possible for organizations to connect with each other and collaborate. Industry 4.0 will encourage competition and create a level play field. It would also enable manufacturing organizations- regardless of their size or industry presence - leverage emerging technologies and digitally transform for efficient manufacturing practices.