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The Daily Fix: India should be bothered by modern-day slavery – not those who document it

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The Big Story: Wool over eyes

For once, the government appears to be concerned with a genuine problem that affects millions of the most impoverished people in India. Except, typically, it views them as a public relations problem, not a source of shame for a country that remains deeply poor. The Indian Express revealed earlier this week that the Intelligence Bureau had prepared a secret note claiming that global documentation on slavery is “increasingly targeting India”, contending that the country is home to the highest number of slaves. The note recommends a campaign to discredit the information, using counter statistics and diplomatic channels.

Slavery here refers to people forced into human trafficking, bonded labour, child labour and other coercive work practices that affect vulnerable populations. Over the years, statistics have suggested that India is home to the world’s largest number of slaves, numbering in the millions. The Intelligence Bureau report, according to the Express, says European corporations are using the International Labour Organisation survey, conduced with the Australia-based Walk Free Foundation, “to fund NGOs to focus on alleged ‘slavery’ in South India’s textile industry (40% of India’s textile exports)”.

It recommends a three-pronged strategy: counter the advocacy with a different number, discredit the International Labour Organisation-Walk Free Foundation estimate with a rejoinder from the Indian Statistical Institute and use diplomacy to force the International Labour Organisation to dissociate itself from the Walk Free Foundation. Sure enough, on Friday, The Hindu reported that the government has written to the International Labour Organisation challenging its recent study on slavery in India.

This effort is of a piece with other moves by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, which picked battles with Non Governmental Organisations as soon as it came to power in 2014. Then too it used a questionable Intelligence Bureau report that suggested that protests organised by foreign-funded NGOs like Greenpeace were cutting India’s Gross Domestic Product down by a whopping 2%-3%.

Over its three-year tenure, the government has constantly scrutinised NGOs, sometimes through credible means like auditing their finances, but most often by alleging that they are all part of a global conspiracy to discredit India. In this case, it could not go after the United Nations-backed International Labour Organisation, so it has focused on the Walk Free Foundation. The irony here in particular is that this edition of the International Labour Organisation-Walk Free Foundation report, released in September, did not even name India, though the Intelligence Bureau assumes that India has a major chunk of the global estimate of 40 million modern-day slaves.

Since when did India’s Intelligence Bureau become its public relations agency? While it may be credible for the bureau to point out a potential dent to India’s image in upcoming reports and activism, its reported counter campaign is ludicrous. Most crucially, the three-pronged plan appears to miss what might be one rather useful response: actually working to reduce the number of people forced into labour or trafficked in the country. If anything, the Indian government should use opportunities like this to point out all it has done in attempting to eradicate this tragic phenomenon, and encourage organisations that study it to help be part of the process. Instead, if it sticks to the Intelligence Bureau’s response, it only confirms the criticism of those in the Modi government: Event managers, rather than implementers.

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Punditry

  1. Writing in the Indian Express, Himanshu contests the suggestion that demonetisation improved rural wages, showing instead that the note ban halted the recovery that had begun after the 2016 monsoon.
  2. TP Sreenivasan, in the Hindu, calls for a new architecture to be devised to involve states in foreign affairs, giving as an example Kerala’s recent success in reaching out to the emir of Sharjah.
  3. “I was a fervent supporter of the idea of the goods and services tax,” writes Indira Rajarajam in Mint. “I still am. But the manner in which it has been configured has thrown a satanic spanner into the Indian growth story.”

Giggle

Don’t miss

Sandhya Menon writes about how hard it was to raise children in a screen-free home, until she settled on a perfect compromise – podcasts.

“As a single mother, I run a tight schedule. School runs are timed to perfection. Snacks, playtime, shower, a little cuddling, dinner, and finally, all of this culminating in bedtime at about 7.30 pm. Even when I wasn’t driving, the podcast allowed me to get around the house and finish work without the dreariness of boredom seeping in. I would fold the laundry, make a snack or clean up shelves all the while listening to voices discuss several interesting facts or break a concept down.

Six months ago, the children and I were on a road trip and I downloaded a few podcasts for the way. I picked three podcasts that seemed promising – a science-themed one called Brains On, a history-based one called The Past and The Curious and one called The Alien Adventures of Finn Caspian. It was perfect, because podcasts engage a child’s imagination just like reading stories to them – children have to listen carefully to every word spoken and create the image in their heads. The road trip was the most peaceful one any one of us has ever had.”

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The next Industrial Revolution is here – driven by the digitalization of manufacturing processes

Technologies such as Industry 4.0, IoT, robotics and Big Data analytics are transforming the manufacturing industry in a big way.

The manufacturing industry across the world is seeing major changes, driven by globalization and increasing consumer demand. As per a report by the World Economic Forum and Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Ltd on the future of manufacturing, the ability to innovate at a quicker pace will be the major differentiating factor in the success of companies and countries.

This is substantiated by a PWC research which shows that across industries, the most innovative companies in the manufacturing sector grew 38% (2013 - 2016), about 11% year on year, while the least innovative manufacturers posted only a 10% growth over the same period.

Along with innovation in products, the transformation of manufacturing processes will also be essential for companies to remain competitive and maintain their profitability. This is where digital technologies can act as a potential game changer.

The digitalization of the manufacturing industry involves the integration of digital technologies in manufacturing processes across the value chain. Also referred to as Industry 4.0, digitalization is poised to reshape all aspects of the manufacturing industry and is being hailed as the next Industrial Revolution. Integral to Industry 4.0 is the ‘smart factory’, where devices are inter-connected, and processes are streamlined, thus ensuring greater productivity across the value chain, from design and development, to engineering and manufacturing and finally to service and logistics.

Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, artificial intelligence and Big Data analytics are some of the key technologies powering Industry 4.0. According to a report, Industry 4.0 will prompt manufacturers globally to invest $267 billion in technologies like IoT by 2020. Investments in digitalization can lead to excellent returns. Companies that have implemented digitalization solutions have almost halved their manufacturing cycle time through more efficient use of their production lines. With a single line now able to produce more than double the number of product variants as three lines in the conventional model, end to end digitalization has led to an almost 20% jump in productivity.

Digitalization and the Indian manufacturing industry

The Make in India program aims to increase the contribution of the manufacturing industry to the country’s GDP from 16% to 25% by 2022. India’s manufacturing sector could also potentially touch $1 trillion by 2025. However, to achieve these goals and for the industry to reach its potential, it must overcome the several internal and external obstacles that impede its growth. These include competition from other Asian countries, infrastructural deficiencies and lack of skilled manpower.

There is a common sentiment across big manufacturers that India lacks the eco-system for making sophisticated components. According to FICCI’s report on the readiness of Indian manufacturing to adopt advanced manufacturing trends, only 10% of companies have adopted new technologies for manufacturing, while 80% plan to adopt the same by 2020. This indicates a significant gap between the potential and the reality of India’s manufacturing industry.

The ‘Make in India’ vision of positioning India as a global manufacturing hub requires the industry to adopt innovative technologies. Digitalization can give the Indian industry an impetus to deliver products and services that match global standards, thereby getting access to global markets.

The policy, thus far, has received a favourable response as global tech giants have either set up or are in the process of setting up hi-tech manufacturing plants in India. Siemens, for instance, is helping companies in India gain a competitive advantage by integrating industry-specific software applications that optimise performance across the entire value chain.

The Digital Enterprise is Siemens’ solution portfolio for the digitalization of industries. It comprises of powerful software and future-proof automation solutions for industries and companies of all sizes. For the discrete industries, the Digital Enterprise Suite offers software and hardware solutions to seamlessly integrate and digitalize their entire value chain – including suppliers – from product design to service, all based on one data model. The result of this is a perfect digital copy of the value chain: the digital twin. This enables companies to perform simulation, testing, and optimization in a completely virtual environment.

The process industries benefit from Integrated Engineering to Integrated Operations by utilizing a continuous data model of the entire lifecycle of a plant that helps to increase flexibility and efficiency. Both offerings can be easily customized to meet the individual requirements of each sector and company, like specific simulation software for machines or entire plants.

Siemens has identified projects across industries and plans to upgrade these industries by connecting hardware, software and data. This seamless integration of state-of-the-art digital technologies to provide sustainable growth that benefits everyone is what Siemens calls ‘Ingenuity for Life’.

Case studies for technology-led changes

An example of the implementation of digitalization solutions from Siemens can be seen in the case of pharma major Cipla Ltd’s Kurkumbh factory.

Cipla needed a robust and flexible distributed control system to dispense and manage solvents for the manufacture of its APIs (active pharmaceutical ingredients used in many medicines). As part of the project, Siemens partnered with Cipla to install the DCS-SIMATIC PCS 7 control system and migrate from batch manufacturing to continuous manufacturing. By establishing the first ever flow Chemistry based API production system in India, Siemens has helped Cipla in significantly lowering floor space, time, wastage, energy and utility costs. This has also improved safety and product quality.

In yet another example, technology provided by Siemens helped a cement plant maximise its production capacity. Wonder Cement, a greenfield project set up by RK Marbles in Rajasthan, needed an automated system to improve productivity. Siemens’ solution called CEMAT used actual plant data to make precise predictions for quality parameters which were previously manually entered by operators. As a result, production efficiency was increased and operators were also freed up to work on other critical tasks. Additionally, emissions and energy consumption were lowered – a significant achievement for a typically energy intensive cement plant.

In the case of automobile major, Mahindra & Mahindra, Siemens’ involvement involved digitalizing the whole product development system. Siemens has partnered with the manufacturer to provide a holistic solution across the entire value chain, from design and planning to engineering and execution. This includes design and software solutions for Product Lifecycle Management, Siemens Technology for Powertrain (STP) and Integrated Automation. For Powertrain, the solutions include SINUMERIK, SINAMICS, SIMOTICS and SIMATIC controls and drives, besides CNC and PLC-controlled machines linked via the Profinet interface.

The above solutions helped the company puts its entire product lifecycle on a digital platform. This has led to multi-fold benefits – better time optimization, higher productivity, improved vehicle performance and quicker response to market requirements.

Siemens is using its global expertise to guide Indian industries through their digital transformation. With the right technologies in place, India can see a significant improvement in design and engineering, cutting product development time by as much as 30%. Besides, digital technologies driven by ‘Ingenuity for Life’ can help Indian manufacturers achieve energy efficiency and ensure variety and flexibility in their product offerings while maintaining quality.

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The above examples of successful implementation of digitalization are just some of the examples of ‘Ingenuity for Life’ in action. To learn more about Siemens’ push to digitalize India’s manufacturing sector, see here.

This article was produced on behalf of Siemens by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.