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How Covid has turned into a driver of automation in Indian industries

Dheeraj Toshniwal, Partner - Digital Transformation
BDO Digital

26 October 2021

Industries can not only reduce operating costs, improve quality, and keep the workforce safer but also become the ‘factory of the world’ by adopting emerging technologies.


With continuous infrastructure improvement, the right population demographics to support the
industries, and policy support from the government, India is expected to be the next manufacturing hub in the post-pandemic world. The adoption of digital technologies and industrial automation will play a critical role in the country becoming the preferred manufacturing destination.

Industrial automation in Indian industries, especially in the small & medium enterprises, has been low, as companies always looked at the immediate return on investment, and given the cheap labour, expensive automation technologies and high cost of capital, the business case to automate was difficult to justify. The pandemic has changed the underlying operating models and has given new perspectives to the business case.

Talent: While the population demographics is one of India’s largest strengths, the industries are facing a skills shortage due to the pandemic-driven relocation and almost V-shape recovery in demand. The opportunity loss, talent training costs, and the increased expectations in quality are supporting the case for automation.

Technology: Digital and industrial automation technologies have been evolving at a rapid pace. The evolution in robotics has made several functions possible. Artificial Intelligene (AI) is empowering robots and digital technologies are helping connect digital & physical worlds better.

Today, industrial automation is easier and cost-effective to implement, and the ‘Everything as a service (XaaS)’ model is enabling these technologies to be an OpExthanCapEx, supporting the case for automation further.

Capital: With the expectation of India to be the fastest-growing economy, liquidity support from the government, and availability of innovative financing models from new-age players, investment appetite is returning. Ongoing tax reforms (e.g., GST) are expected to make data available for financing decisions, enabling financiers to model risks correctly and increase the supply of capital.
The business case for industrial automation has never been stronger. Industries must look at the cost and benefits holistically, factor in the anticipated growth rates and potential opportunity losses to evaluate the automation opportunity.

Undoubtedly, the pandemic accelerated the adoption of technology and is expected to help
industries recover faster in the post-pandemic world. Leveraging emerging automation technologies for better business results, Industry 4.0, Robotics, and Artificial Intelligence can assist in building a collaborative human-robot eco-system, to help tap into the full potential of technology and ready industries for the future.

Industry 4.0: Industrial production has come a long way from mechanised production in Industry 1.0 to today’s age of interconnected machines and autonomous factories. While the term Industry 4.0 started in 2011, visible changes in automation happened over the last 5 years.

From monitoring quality and managing inventory to tracking assets, he practical use cases are increasing daily.
Machine-to-machine communication, the Internet of things, and IT-OT synergies are expected to change the industrial automation landscape. 

Robotics: Advancements in robotics are further accelerating automation. The adoption of robots in the industries is helping improve quality, reduce cycle time, and above all improve workplace safety by taking over tasks that are dangerous for humans. Robots are seen as the future workforce and are expected to autonomously run future factories.

Artificial Intelligence: There are numerous use cases of how AI is helping, from increasing the
efficiency of the factories, improving the quality of products & design to reducing breakdown maintenance, etc. AI is helping improve human-robot interactions machines can have more autonomy From being a subject of science fiction movies, AI has come a long way and is now
readily available to address key business problems.

These technologies can help drive better business outcomes and prepare our industries for the future. Industries can not only reduce operating costs, improve quality, and keep the workforce safer but also become the ‘factory of the world’ by adopting these emerging technologies.