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Data-driven decision making is one of the biggest trends emerging in the manufacturing sector post the pandemic. As businesses have data available on their fingertips, leaders are using digital tools to analyse this information to bring about efficiency in supply chains and create intelligent factories that can be operated remotely.

The latest episode of Mint CXO Dialogues, a virtual panel discussion powered by Microsoft and Livemint, titled ‘Factories of the Future’, looks at reimagining the manufacturing value chain with digitization and the role of digital tools that can help create agile supply chains, intelligent factories, and ultimately future forward businesses.

As production optimization became one of the key KPIs, digitalization was used to make an immense impact.

“Covid has made us realise that something like this which is an extended impact beyond 2-3 days can happen again any time in the future. I think the areas that go into making a resilient supply chain are visibility through the supply chain, making agile processes and planning mechanisms that adapt to the technologies adopted by the business, and optimizing uptime for your assets," said Siddharth Idnani, Sales Director, Microsoft India.

Microsoft offers a suite of softwares on the dynamic portfolio and supply chain side; and also with Azure on the intelligent Cloud side, with tools like IoT and ML.

Business transformation is synonymous with digital solutions today. The pandemic has taught us how to think out of the box. “The Covid-19 pandemic has forced us to think laterally and we are looking at technologies used in medical labs like CT scans to solve our issues in the glass industry," said Sudip Mazumder, Group CDO, Piramal Glass Ltd.

From manpower to machinery, digitization has revolutionised all functions of the manufacturing value chain.

“Digitization has added a layer over your assets where its starting working outside of its closed loop system into an open loop system to drive efficiencies. A big component of that is visibility – you can see a whole plant and its running sitting at your home. One of our main efficiencies has been preventive maintenance," said Amit Verma, Senior Vice President, Digital Transformation, Reliance Group of Companies.

For sectors such as Oil and Gas, building a digitalization roadmap became all the more imperative, especially in the upstream sector.

“When we think about the upstream sector of Oil and Gas, exploration is the key process where we find new resources and reserves. Digitalization is a very important aspect to reduce the first time to oil. With cloud computing technologies, as well as AI and ML assisted workflows, it is very easy to reduce the time for the first oil," said Indradyumna Datta, Chief Digital Officer (Dy), Cairn Oil and Gas, Vedanta Limited.

Digitization can offer growth in not just one area but in all aspects of the supply chain by just optimizing the available resources. “Going digital is something that is inevitable today. When we started looking at plants, they are in the rural areas and the frontline workers need to go there and deliver. We saw that there was a big challenge of information leakage which leads to further more leakages in revenues, margins, availability of resources, etc. How technology can be used to optimize growth is really impeccable," said Anirudh Kala, Co-Founder, Celebal Tech.

Sectors such as dairy, which started their digitization journeys ahead of the times, reaped the benefits offered by technology.

“Over the last 60 years, the entire green revolution started from addressing only one part of the supply chain – the seed and its growing. After that, it didn’t move to other parts of the supply chain and that is where we failed. About 40 per cent of our produce today gets wasted and never reaches the table," said Sanjay Singal, Chief Operating Officer - Dairy and Beverages, ITC Limited, that runs 80 factories across the country churning out different product lines.

“In the dairy sector, on the contrary, technology has been used to address the entire supply chain right from getting the right cows to collecting milk, processing it in factories and right to the consumer. That is why the variability in an average farmer’s income in Punjab or Andhra is much lesser in dairy than in agriculture over the past 10-20 years. Dairy prices don’t go up and down like onion prices do," he added.

But while factories of the future will deploy digital technologies to allow for remote operations, ensuing safety of data as well as people becomes all the more critical.

“The plant operations in many good factories are already using digital technologies, making them self-sufficient. But they have to be supervised. People are gearing up for the future, but having safe operations is critical," said RN Mohanty, President IT, Pidilite Industries Limited.

Key stakeholders need to approach workforce transformation to build factories of the future and digital tools can serve as a starting point for that.

“The pandemic has opened up a couple of behavior possibilities. It is here to expedite the process of technological adoption. So how do we reimagine the workplace of the future instead of reengineer the workplace of the past," said Sarajit Jha, Chief Business Transformation and Digital Solutions, Tata Steel.


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