Global design technology firm Autodesk is keeping a keen eye on how companies are adapting to the challenges posed by technology in a post-Covid world. Initiatives like 'vocal for local' could give the necessary push in driving India to become a manufacturing powerhouse. The company says it is betting big on the digitisation and localisation push that the pandemic has given to India's manufacturing sector and will find relevance in helping top companies in automating their engineering and manufacturing processes.
Fortune India spoke to Rajeev Mittal, managing director, India and SAARC, Autodesk India on the role of design, technology, and engineering in making India self dependent, and the digital future of manufacturing. Edited Excerpts:
How well is India equipped to deal with the challenges of the post-Covid world as far as design technology is concerned?
The economic impact of the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic in India has been largely disruptive. We all know that in times of change, big innovations happen, and they can reshape entire industries. India has been digitising for a long time, but this year we’ve seen a huge acceleration. Whether the work involves skyscrapers or smart cars, bridges or blockbusters, technology is something we’ve all had to embrace this year to reimagine the possible. An investment of about ₹2 lakh crore has been proposed by 99 cities under the Smart City initiative. The government aims to provide housing for all by 2022. Achieving such massive goals is impossible without technology, and the pandemic has been a catalyst for the adoption of new technology and tools. What’s making the digital transformation possible is automation and better use of data. Automation is what allows you to take weeks and months off schedules, and its data that gives you insights into what performs best. As a long-time design partner to our customers, we’re evolving beyond design and changing how things are manufactured and constructed.
We believe the road to digital transformation begins with the convergence of industries, puts data at the center, and ultimately unlocks the power of automation. Digital transformation isn’t just a technology journey, it equally depends on transformation of people. Covid-19 has created an opportunity for upskilling to help build resilience in careers. We need to bridge the innovation gap, but we also need to bridge the skills gap. We need to train ourselves, and the next generation on new tools, new ways of working, and new ways of thinking.
When we talk about data connected design, it’s an acknowledgement that design doesn’t happen in a vacuum. There are numerous stakeholders working together, each adding their part and their data, to make sure design meets expectations. And the better connected these project team members and stakeholders are, the more efficient and less error-prone the process.Rajeev Mittal, managing director, India and SAARC, Autodesk India
What will the future of tech look like?
In this ‘new normal’ of remote working, the cloud has become a necessity for collaboration. It’s no longer an option, but rather a critical component to stay connected and keep the business operational. Autodesk is working with an entire ecosystem of construction and manufacturing partners to help in their journey of digital transformation and help them deliver the innovation and productivity that will propel their business into the future. Our strategy is to help accelerate digital transformation with data— helping our customers collaborate, automate, and realise new possibilities with it.
When we talk about data connected design, it’s an acknowledgement that design doesn’t happen in a vacuum. There are numerous stakeholders working together, each adding their part and their data, to make sure design meets expectations. And the better connected these project team members and stakeholders are, the more efficient and less error-prone the process. For example, the Bangalore International Airport and the new Terminal 2. From day one the project was created in the cloud, using our design software. With so much data involved, and a team of thousands across the globe, a virtual model was vital to success. When Covid hit, the team jumped right in to 100% virtual site management without losing a single hour and keeping this project on track.
In response to the Covid-19 outbreak, Autodesk announced several initiatives to better support customers, employees and communities. Through the Extended Access Program, we enabled free commercial use of our flagship cloud collaboration products. With the digitalisation of construction and manufacturing industries, companies are also supporting remote working infrastructure to make distance working seamless. The future of tech is data and we are committed to making data interoperable, accessible and open which will allow businesses to start digital and stay digital.
Is 'vocal for local' push a good opportunity for India to finally step up its manufacturing game?
The manufacturing industry has been hit in many ways due to the pandemic, exposing the fragility of the world’s supply chain. It has led to a fall-off in production for everything, from phones to cars. However, a push towards regional manufacturing may have benefits. The concept of a self-reliant, or ‘Aatmanirbhar’, India, initiated by our government, focuses on making Indian economy stronger by promoting local brands, manufacturing, and supply chain.
This is similar to the ‘Make in India’ initiative that targets 25 sectors of the economy with the aim to make India a global manufacturing hub. Today, as the demand slowly returns, supply chains will be more distributed and more resilient only with the help of technology. When it comes to manufacturing, automation eliminates the delays of working manually and can exponentially accelerate product development across all departments, which is why it’s our mission to make automation accessible to everyone.
The amount of work getting done away from traditional workstations is rapidly accelerating. We are working to keep the most valuable assets, people and data, connected. Technology, like generative design, uses artificial intelligence to automate the design in the manufacturing process.
It’s a new way of thinking and it is how next generation manufacturing will be done. As design and manufacturing converge, people will be able to make and build things that are more sustainable and better fit customers’ wants and needs. We are convinced that the product development and manufacturing of tomorrow is not about just painting pixels on the screen. It's about enabling you to make products that compete more effectively in the market. Data is the digital thread that ties it all together and drives this convergence.
What are some of the areas where Autodesk's generative design can make a difference, especially in the Indian context?
Generative design has created a whole new world of design possibilities for our customers. It helps tackle complex problems that would take somebody a lot more time to solve manually. It is like a mind multiplier. You can tell the software the results you want. With your guidance it arrives at the optimal design along with the data to prove which design performs best. The promise of true generative design might sound a little far-fetched, but companies are already adopting this technology for everything, from design exploration to parts consolidation across various industries.
To give you an example, Indian prosthetics start-up Social Hardware works toward outfitting amputees in rural India with prosthetic devices. The team created the Avocado Wrist Connector, an assistive device that can attach agricultural and construction tools to prosthetics. Using generative design, the weight of the connector was reduced from 300 grams to 96 grams while maintaining the durability.
Another company that’s preparing for the opportunities of tomorrow with this technology is Decathlon, the world’s largest sporting goods retailer. With the ambition to reduce the carbon footprint of the billion pieces of equipment it produces each year, the company is transforming its product design process to create a stronger, lighter, and sustainable bicycle. Imagine the number of problems designers and engineers could solve with the computer as a partner and not just a tool. But we don’t have to imagine, because generative design is here today. All we need to do is to leverage its potential.
As design and manufacturing converge, people will be able to make and build things that are more sustainable and better fit customers’ wants and needs. We are convinced that the product development and manufacturing of tomorrow is not about just painting pixels on the screen. It's about enabling you to make products that compete more effectively in the market. Data is the digital thread that ties it all together and drives this convergence.Rajeev Mittal, managing director, India and SAARC, Autodesk India
How is the Indian market different from Autodesk's other global markets when it comes to reimagining the future of work and moving towards Industry 4.0?
Autodesk aims to create and nurture a holistic design ecosystem that uses ‘Design First’ as the core approach to Make Anything—using less resources, less time and with lesser impact on environment. However, the skills gap is something that exists across all industries we serve, both at a local and global scale. People are working remotely; in some cases, they require increased safety in the physical workspace which will continue to accelerate the use of digital tools and automation. Along with digitisation, reskilling and upskilling plays a critical role in the success of any economy.
Government initiatives aim to place India on the world map as a manufacturing hub; the sector is expected to reach $1 trillion by 2025, creating 100 million new jobs by 2022. Without long-term strategic plans and adoption of technology, it is impossible to meet these demands.
Digital manufacturing revolves around smart technologies, data security, and a thriving workforce for a maturing Industry 4.0. This implies there is a strong need to demystify the core skill requirements of Industry 4.0 through education and enablement. We are committed to putting people at the center of this future of work transformation and help workers adapt.
We are investing in our customers, communities, and employees to help them navigate and thrive in this changing landscape. Technological change is essential to accelerate the future of work. Lastly, the emergence of automation is not taking away jobs, instead, it increases the need to develop new skills. There’s still a need for the human eye in everything we do because technology automates tasks, not jobs.