Vivek Sharma: Data is the new currency

  • Interviews
  • Jul 14,21
In this exclusive interview with Rakesh Rao, Vivek Sharma, MD-India, Lenovo ISG, explains the progression of manufacturing sector towards Industry 5.0 and how adoption of advanced analytics and AI solutions is augmenting faster decision-making.
Vivek Sharma: Data is the new currency

Big data and predictive analytics ranked as the top investment priority in technology by 66% manufacturing firms in India, according to an EY survey. Manufacturers today are in a better position to leverage data and gain maximum benefit of digital manufacturing to monitor and visualise key performance indicators (KPIs). In a data-driven market, the most effective method to increase efficiency, quality, and production is to turn data into actionable insights, says Vivek Sharma, MD-India, Lenovo ISG. In this exclusive interview with Rakesh Rao, Vivek Sharma explains the progression of manufacturing sector towards Industry 5.0 and how adoption of advanced analytics and AI solutions is augmenting faster decision-making.

Is data-driven decision making a new norm in Indian manufacturing sector? Which industries are quick to adopt this change?
Data is the new currency and IT decision-makers are the new bankers – making it important for organisations to manage their data to not just survive but thrive. Our strategy in India and worldwide focuses on enabling the ‘Data-Centered’: businesses and people who leverage data to better cater to their customer bases.

An EY survey revealed that big data and predictive analytics ranked as the top investment priority in technology by 66% manufacturing firms in India. This clearly indicates that manufacturers are in a better position to leverage data and gain maximum benefit of digital manufacturing to monitor and visualize key performance indicators (KPIs). This can be seen across automotive, textiles, pharmaceutical, electrical, etc.

In a data-driven market, the most effective method to increase efficiency, quality, and production is to turn data into actionable insights. Manufacturers are using Internet of Things (IoT) and the generated streaming data to better industrial operations. For example, Hero MotoCorp, the world’s largest two-wheeler manufacturer, manufactures over 9 million bikes and scooters a year. Demand continues to grow and they rely on an automated system operating 24/7 to control the hundreds of robotic crane arms that handle more than 12000 spare parts every day. Unfortunately, their legacy server infrastructure kept crashing — wiping out the cranes’ instructions every time and halting operations. Lenovo ISG was engaged to design and deploy a high-availability infrastructure. The solution provided was the Lenovo ThinkSystem SR650 — in addition to being built on robust, highly reliable Lenovo systems, the active configuration means that the memory content of the robotic arms is protected even in the unlikely event of unplanned downtime. 

This Lenovo ThinkSystem SR650 was also upgraded in April this year to a V2, and now leverages Intel’s 3rd Gen Intel Xeon Scalable processors to provide even stronger power, while ensuring the same flexibility and security. 

In India, SMEs (who often face the problem of finance and funding) contribute majorly to the manufacturing sector. Can AI-based solutions and technologies help them? 
Analytics has always been a progressive field and with more businesses realising the power of advanced analytics and AI, we are experiencing a revolution in this segment. Sectors like retail, BFSI and healthcare have experienced the next level of transformation. They are seeing wider adoption and creating more opportunities for AI & analytics to better understand consumer demands and facilitate faster decision making and response time to market. 

Adoption of advanced analytics and AI solutions has augmented faster decision-making, enabling SMEs to act quickly. AI-driven predictive and analytics tools will bring higher value especially in manufacturing as businesses are looking at AI to automate and simplify their processes to accelerate normalcy and cope with a no contact regime of the future. Use cases of AI in manufacturing range from quality checks, predicting failure of products & processes, predictive maintenance, design goals, etc. 

How is Lenovo ISG serving SMEs? 
Indian SMEs face multiple challenges in running seamless operations, ensuring data security, etc. While bigger IT companies were affected by the pandemic, SMEs saw a greater impact and required a contingency plan to recover and minimise further business damage. Effectively, they should look at the situation from two key perspectives – managing their technology & cashflow.

Managing Technology: To maintain business continuity, SMEs must identify and adopt solutions that enable them to operate virtually, enabling each employee to connect smoothly and securely. However, securing employees is one aspect of this. It is equally important to secure your data, the customers data that you own and the various public service data that many public entities own. Right investment in Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) solutions will enable SMEs to easily manage workload while providing secure and seamless work from home. In April, Lenovo revealed our first solution for Hosted Desktop with Nutanix, which provides companies a complete and more secure remote work solution. A choice of Lenovo client devices is offered, such as thin clients and PCs, choice of Citrix and other virtual desktop environments, and ThinkAgile HX Series (powered by Nutanix), all licensed to the end user and managed as-a-service. The complete Hosted Desktops solution provides cloud-like simplicity and on-premises performance, with the convenience of a single monthly payment and single point of contact for support. 

Managing Cashflow: Supply chains have been massively disrupted, impacting the payment cycle and creating continuity challenges for SMEs. We recommend that these small & medium enterprises invest in OPEX rather than CAPEX, thus opting for consumption-based models that allow flexibility to scale up and down, depending on the market requirements. 

Production cuts in the manufacturing sector have had a cascading negative effect on the component industries, especially SMEs that were largely engaged in small and spare parts production had to suspend operations. With our Software-Defined Infrastructure, Virtual Desktop Infrastructure & TruScale offerings, Lenovo ISG is helping businesses to find new ways to tackle the challenges of today’s disruptions while planning ahead to help them get their IT set up for future recovery and growth. Having a technology provider that enables you to scale up and down as per requirements saves on the CapEx/OpEx which empowers more sustainable business operations. 

What is Industry 5.0? How different is it from Industry 4.0?
Innovations in the last one decade are proof that we have progressed in many ways and leveraged technology to its full potential. Industry 4.0 combines IoT, AI, cyber-physical systems, Cloud, and cognitive computing. It has brought automation to the manufacturing industry, enabling businesses to adopt smart technologies for advanced capabilities. It has always been a one-sided approach where we relied on technology and process automation was on priority.

Industry 5.0 has taken this to the next step. Now, we are leveraging smart technology and our intelligence to make accurate and certain decisions. Instead of terming Industry 5.0 as different from 4.0, we can say that it is a progressive way to drive transformation in production and customer experience. 

Industry 4.0 technology allows production processes to be more flexible, and robots are already a standard in the industry. Industry 5.0 combines the speed, productivity, and consistency of robotics with human innovation and skill. It improves personalisation and creativity, and emergence of sustainable policies are driving greener technology at optimised costs.

Technology is accelerating rapidly and companies that do not tailor their production to the smart factory 5.0 will soon become obsolete. 

Could you please share with us some of the emerging technologies that will have a profound effect on the manufacturing sector in the coming years?  
As virtual, decentralised and smart workplaces become the norm, this transformation to a data-driven environment will mean bigger workloads need to be processed in shorter time-frames at the edge and in the cloud. The manufacturing sector will benefit from this data analytics, driving higher productivity through integrated planning, and superior product quality. From analytics to collaboration and communications, manufacturers require cutting-edge computing devices, from the plant floor to the corner office, to enable digital transformation. Key technologies such as IoT, Edge Computing, Cloud, 5G and AI, will be critical to ensure the manufacturing sector continues to lead the smart normal era. 

What are your growth plans for Lenovo ISG in India?
We see ourselves as a service-oriented partner to organisations and not a hardware supplier. 

We had recently introduced a range of new and updated hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) solutions and cloud-based services to enable customers to keep pace with evolving business needs in the new ‘Smart Normal’. 

The Lenovo ThinkSystem DM Series Storage Manager OS allows customers of all sizes to harness data more securely and efficiently, from edge to core to cloud, with a single set of tools and capabilities for a smarter way forward.

In collaboration with Microsoft, our new Lenovo ThinkAgile MX Azure Stack HCI Edge and Data Center Solutions enables customers to rapidly deploy a hybrid cloud infrastructure.

The Lenovo ThinkAgile VX HCI Solutions improve agility and reliability for SAP HANA database deployments, launched in collaboration with VMware.

We are also continuing to invest in key technologies such as IoT, Edge Computing, Cloud, 5G and AI, and will ride on their capabilities to lead the era of ‘new normal’ after COVID-19. 

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