As a proven solution globally, Industry 4.0 is the future of manufacturing to achieve sustainable growth, control process costs, improve efficiency, better insights, and bring environmental sustainability. The technology provides complete plantwide operations insight, connects multiple manufacturing units in one place, and gives real-time visibility. Better visibility leads to process optimization, which leads to better growth and efficiency in the system.

In an interview with Success Insights India magazine, Swati Sharma, the Co-Founder of AiKairos Pvt Ltd, shared her tremendous work and personal experience in industry 4.0-

Swati Sharma, Co-Founder of AiKairos Pvt Ltd

Ms. Swati, how did you start your journey in this segment? What difficulties did you face while accomplishing your goals?

After my post-graduation in IT, I got an opportunity to work on niche naval R&D projects related to real-time mission-critical systems. Having worked for about 06 years, the next opportunity I saw was in the evolving role of IT in cyber-physical systems, which had started gaining prominence in everyday life with techniques like Big Data and Artificial Intelligence. To slightly touch upon the technical aspect for general information, Industry 4.0 is a real-time system predominantly popular in the manufacturing industry, more like a transition through digital transformation. The cyber-physical implementation of solutions over a cloud network assists in tracking the minute-to-minute progress of the manufacturing activities from end to end, viz up to the customer premises through an integrated Supply Chain technology. Technology today is narrowing down the virtual and the real world. Industry 4.0 utilises the cyber-physical domains and the latest technologies like Industrial IoT, AI, Cloud networking, Augmented Reality, 3D printing, etc., to improve productivity. My observation is that the traditional Indian manufacturing processes are highly dependent on a manual workforce, making us not even Industry 3.0 ready, let alone Industry 4.0. The challenge I personally faced was the onset of a pandemic, which ultimately restricted my shop floor interaction with Production Managers, Workers. Still, also mostly all the MSMEs were non-functional for a long time. Even though automation emerges as a natural solution, due to a lack of awareness of modern techniques, the mindset transition remains a severe shortcoming for me. I wish to inform and educate as many people as possible to learn, adapt and exploit the benefits of Industry 4.0.

What was the most rigid domain of your learning process? How many years and hardships took you to reach this level?

To frankly share with you, unlike the traditional IT job role, which is more synonymous with air-conditioned offices, Industry 4.0 implementation is more on shop floors and the manufacturing industry. The whole topic is a digital translation of manual processes, focusing on automation. So, my challenge as a pure IT person was to understand and appreciate how things are manufactured, grasp the procedures, and insightfully create the digital transformation roadmap. This, I can say, was the most rigid domain of my learning, and I think I shall remain forever. This is a challenge that most everyone trying to pick up Industry 4.0 shall find herself into, as there are numerous means of making the same item, let alone the number of items manufactured for human consumption and sustenance. So, I may say the challenges are exciting and my motivation to remain anchored in the domain of Industry 4.0. I have excellent support from our Principal at Arcstone, Singapore, and CEO, Mr. Willson. He has supported my efforts to carry out Industry 4.0 education and awareness programs in India. 

How have your education and past experiences impacted your today's position?

I grew up visiting an insulator manufacturing plant where my father headed the production department; back then, industrial automation was not so handy, unlike today. I have seen him handling machine breakdowns and quality issues with the lot, etc. However, I never studied mechanical and other core manufacturing engineering subjects formally, but the childhood experience that I gained unknowingly helped pretty much in understanding the scenarios. 

Further, I feel I owe a lot to Banasthali Vidyapith, an institution explicitly created with a vision towards providing a holistic education experience to women. The education and the confidence to deal with challenges is something this institution has helped me with. The high standards of educational focus of Banasthali till today give me the impetus to take on the challenges of the real world.

Furthermore, the Naval R&D experience instilled a high level of discipline in my work culture. The experience with the work I did on Real-Time systems made it easy for me to understand the concepts involved in Industry 4.0. Still, it cannot be considered a restriction for anyone who does not have a previous background in IT. 

The Arcstone solution is highly ergonomic and easy to use even by college students. More than 50 college students from various backgrounds like IT, Mechanical Engineering, and other faculties have been able to get certifications.

Being a woman, how did you nurture your position throughout this industry? What is hard to seek help, if required?

Industry 4.0 is an emerging sector and is rapidly gaining popularity in the developed industrial basis around the World. India missed the previous three Industrial Revolutions due to technological gaps and needs to rapidly encourage Industry 4.0 to remain competitive in the global market. The strength I could bring with the Real-time system development experience gave me confidence in handling the challenges of Industry 4.0, which I saw from an integrated IT point of view. I can, however, confidently say that with the implementation of Industry 4.0, we may find more women in the manufacturing industry where automation and machines shall rule in place of muscle power. The Industry 4.0 implementation shall see the opening up of more jobs for women at all levels of the manufacturing process. I see Industry 4.0 as an IT revolution for women's employment in the industry. Advanced robotics and niche technologies like Industrial IoT, Augmented Reality, etc., may require new skill sets. Women would like to take the lead and do better with learning the technology today. Physical prowess will become a secondary factor when automated machines and robots do most of the physical labour-oriented work. The inbuilt predictive maintenance techniques based on AI shall reduce human dependency. I don't find many women in this sector, particularly in India Manufacturing sector has primarily been men-oriented. The change is coming into this sector slowly.

What would be your message to all those young ladies initially establishing their careers in this industry?

First, I request ladies to learn the Industry 4.0 technology at the earliest and be future-ready in the associated technologically evolved jobs. Specifically for the ladies in Managerial roles in the Manufacturing sector, Industry 4.0 is a transition that shall be happening in the next few years. Women must gear up today to keep themselves relevant for the changing future. An IT background is not mandatory to learn Industry 4.0. The world is soon changing, and women stand an equal chance of manufacturing work automated through machines rather than being dependent on physical stamina. I can indeed say that Industry 4.0 shall usher in the job role revolution for women, and the technology shall bring in the dignity of labour for all. To conclude, to be future job-ready in the manufacturing industry, I would like to encourage women to join the Industry 4.0 program. Being a women entrepreneur, I have created an offer to join me for Industry 4.0 with no charges.