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Driving AI Adoption in the Manufacturing Industry

Aditya Karnani, Lead, Factory Performance & Reliability, Colgate Palmolive | Ronobijay Bhaumik, Director, Digital Consulting, Intelligent Operations, BRIDGEi2i


Tune in to listen to Ronobijay Bhaumik and Aditya Karnani as they engage in a conversation about how empowering workers with decision-making skills can lead to accelerated adoption of AI in the manufacturing industry.

[3:40] What are the key enablers to secure a buy-in from management to attempt an AI led solution that solves for shop floor challenges?

[5:08] Tell us about working through multiple departments and stakeholders, each of whom have their own sets of problems, challenges and priorities. How do you get them to align?

[7:52] How do you see AI solutions replacing some of the more traditional ways of working? Can you give us some examples of such initiatives?

[10:17] There are many companies who are ahead of the curve such as yourselves and then there are companies that are dipping their feet into the water. What advice would you give these companies when it comes to adopting AI solutions with an ROI lens?

[12:57] Aditya is known to contribute to society in many ways. Could we hear a brief insight into your associations in this light?

Ronnie: Welcome to a brand-new episode of the AI to Impact podcast series, where we’ve had the opportunity to hear from several thought leaders from across the industry and from BRIDGEi2i as well. We have covered a whole range of topics across how enterprises are adopting AI and what it means for them in the context of digital transformation. I’m your host for today, Ronobijay Bhaumik. I’m a director at BRIDGEi2i, and I lead the intelligent operations practice, where we focus on reimagining processes and business models through innovative AI-enabled solutions across manufacturing, supply chain, and services automation. This is done across financial services and insurance, consumer packaged goods and manufacturing industries. Today, I’m very pleased to be hosting Aditya Karnani from the factory performance and reliability practice at Colgate Palmolive. He’s based out of their cutting-edge plant in Sanand, in Gujarat. He’s an experienced manufacturing and operations excellence professional with a fine balance and interest in the supply chain. During his 10+ years of professional experience, he has developed a deep interest in digital, analytics, and AI for the manufacturing industry.

For those of you who have tuned in to our previous episode of the series, we chatted with Aditya and discussed some of the key challenges faced by the manufacturing function in this industry along with different use cases where AI can play a big role in driving digital transformation. In this episode of AI to Impact, we’ll look at some of the best practices to get a buy-in to drive digital AI projects and make change real for all stakeholders. Welcome back, Aditya.

Ronnie: Aditya, before we jump into what we can do to get a buy-in for digital transformation, we’ve all seen the impact of COVID on our lives. What has helped you stay positive during this time?

Aditya: Yes, after COVID period, I’ve realized that we all need to spend time with our families. I have a five-year-old daughter. And she’s in a very curious phase of her life. She wants to know about many of the things. She builds up some case scenario that, what if this happens, and then what we will do? And then what are the responses? And what are the things she wanted to know everything in a nutshell. So a lot of questions – I keep on talking to her, and it’s quite fun for me. In terms of, , personal interest in hobbies, if you’d ask, I’d say that, , for the COVID reasons, sports is something difficult to continue. But I’m an avid reader. And I’d also recommend two books to all of our readers.

One is Atomic Habits, and another is IKIGAI. I’d also , take some time to quote, one favourite quote of mine from the book of the atomic habit, “Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement. IKIGAI is in another book. I’d say, that really touches upon how to culminate in , what you love, what the world needs, and what you’re good at, and what you can be paid for. So I’d advise everyone to, , go through this book.

Ronnie: They’re both very, very nice books. And, and you mentioned having a five-year-old daughter. Well, I have a three-year-old son. I know you’ve, you’ve seen him as well. I mean, sometimes answering their questions is tougher than answering the questions at the office. At least during my meetings, I find those questions much easier to answer than the challenging ones that he puts forward. The most challenging one was, ‘Do mosquitoes have teeth?’ It’s quite an interesting question, trust me, when you want to explore. But, so let’s move on, I think, to an easier question than what our children will pose to us?

I know you’re involved actively in driving a number of key programs at Colgate Palmolive. What are the key enablers you look at to secure a buy in from your management team to attempt an AI led solution that solves for shop floor challenges?

Aditya: Ronnie typically, what management asks is basically that, , what are the key benefits out of this technological solution. They also understand that technology is important and onboarding to the newest technology will help us inch towards a smart factory future.

One thing would be that, , how it can remove the drudgery from the system, the another is dependence that how it relieves us to the dependence. How it can improve on decision-making – that is one big factor, which everyone looks into. And then, digitization is the theme in the manufacturing segment, because we realize that, , digitization is the first step, and then we will go to the digitalization, and then AI, , journey will walk upon that. So, these are the couple of things, which they look into while we are assessing any of the solutions. The first and foremost thing for us to basically think about any solution is how it impacts our operations. Sustainability is one key area where we are looking into, that , how it can help in, , getting us a more sustainable and greener future.

Ronnie: It’s great, and I know that you’ve also been driving these technology led changes in your organization for a few years now. What can you tell some of our listeners about working through multiple departments and stakeholders, each of whom have their own sets of problems and challenges and, , priorities? How do you get them to align?

Aditya: Aligning has become very easy, Ronnie. What we have seen is that we have adopted a fit-to-purpose teams model. Now, everyone realizes that silo working is clearly a waste of the resources, as well as the time and efforts also. And then everybody wants to get onboard into these solutions. Not just the onboard, but they want to accrue the benefits coming out of these solutions. With the help of technology also, it has become very easy that all the teams can work remotely. Like we have a diversified team, who can work very easily remotely with each other. So, it becomes very easy to align the things, to get the buy-in from the different stakeholders has become very easy now that we can immediately connect with them, we can discuss the solutions, and we can collaboratively work along with them on these areas.

Ronnie: And you’re not seeing people hold on to their fiefdoms, if you will, much longer, right? I mean, I think that’s one of the bigger changes we’re seeing with the formation of these new age teams.

Aditya: True. Because, , when you have a handful of teams who are completely empowered. So empowerment is the theme in the organization. Everyone is empowered to make the right decision for the organization. And when you’re completely empowered, you feel ownership of that initiative. And each and every member in the team has the same set of feelings towards those initiatives, and it becomes very easy to sail through. Disagreements are one thing, it happens with every team and it is very constructive in nature. So disagreement brings out more solutions, and then , it inches us towards thinking very differently from what we have been thinking. So , disagreements are welcome. We discuss, debate, disagree with the thought processes, we challenge them very constructively, and we come out with a solution. And that’s what we have been doing for some time in Colgate. We have been doing this, , for always, like, , Colgate always believed in empowering their teams so that they can make the decisions on the behalf of the management and empowerment has been provided to all the sections in all the areas in the manufacturing.

Ronnie: It’s great to hear and I think empowerment is the key word over there. Making people feel the ownership, I think, is so critical to the success of driving these initiatives. That brings me to my next question. So, what role do you see for these solutions, , on the shop floor or in your operations, now that we’re seeing a lot more companies coming to the market, you did mention earlier that, that they were , that they’re in pockets. But we do see some of these solutions becoming more and more prevalent, how do you see these replacing some of the more traditional ways of working, I mean. I know you mentioned getting away from , getting to a paperless office earlier, paperless shop floor earlier. Can you give us some more examples?

Aditya: If I have to quote some of the examples, I’ll start from, , energy management systems. That is the one area where sustainability helps in sustainability. It helps in, , reducing the wastages also, in terms of energy and in terms of production material, also. We have seen that digital twins are coming into India. The adoption of digital twins will be able to know that, , product quality in advance, and we’ll be able to make the decisions, whatever the failures happen, those failures can be simulated, and those can be implemented. So , whatever the problems are there, what we used to face earlier is that whatever the solution is there, we cannot visualize those solutions , how these solutions will basically look like when they have been implemented into the shop floor. With the simulations and all sorts of such technologies, it has become very easy for everyone to visualize those solutions in front of them. And then , it is very easy for us also to make the decisions on the basis of the simulation because we get very precise and accurate results. And that also, , is one of the applications coming from AI. Another solution which I already spoke about is in video analytics. I see video analytics solving a lot of problems. There’s a lot of drudgery of supervision, which happens in every corner of the industry. So video analytics is the one like, – day in, day out life, also, we see a lot of solutions coming from the video analytics. And I’m seeing that, , in the manufacturing segment also, video analytics will play a very big role in upcoming years coupled with some of the solutions like predictive maintenance, and some of the other technologies.

Ronnie: Great, absolutely agree with you. I think these are emerging , solution areas , across the world, and in so many of our conversations with different individuals, such as yourself, we have seen absolutely, these three, come out, come out on top. So for those who are embarking on this journey today, I mean, there are many companies who are ahead of the curve such as yourselves. There are companies that are dipping their feet into the water. What advice would you give them?

Aditya: If I have to advise the companies about the technological solution, I’d advise, , one thumb rule that do not look at the solution from the typical ROI lens. If you’re getting through the ROI lens, definitely you will not be able to make the right decision. Think from a longer future, longer perspective that, , these technological solutions will help you in one or another day. And since volatility has increased, it has become very important that you will never know when these solutions will help you out. And, , I’m not saying it as a very vague statement but I know I’ve also experienced some of the use cases coming out of that. I’ll tell you, I, we had one device, which used to help us out in the remote working. And, that device was kept with me for a year or so and I never used it. But when the pandemic hit us, we thought that why not use that device, that’s some sort of VR application. And we started using that VR application, and we got a lot of benefits coming out of that VR application. And I tell you that , now most of the functions, and most of the plants have bought that technology, because they saw immense benefit coming out of that VR solution. Similarly , these technological solutions will help you out in some other day, definitely that would happen. But looking into typically from the ROI lens will divide you or will discourage you to onboard those solutions into your manufacturing domain. And , though customization is required, I think , demos can be done for those technological solutions. Think from a longer perspective that how it will help out, and companies would be able to make the right decisions.

Ronnie: That’s absolutely brilliant insights on that, Aditya. I think taking that long term view, a holistic approach, not looking at it from a very short term scene that what am I going to get from this implementation today/tomorrow, but how does it really , help me transform my function over the course of the next , three to five years, setting us up for the future. I think that’s really the way we also would like to encourage our clients/ to our other clients as well, to think about their, , their implementations and their transformation journeys.

Ronnie: Well, all of us have been hearing from Aditya for a while now, and it might appear that he’s all work and, and nothing else. And then I can tell you for a fact that you can’t be more wrong. He contributes back to society in many, many different ways. And I request Aditya to kind of give us a brief insight / a brief input into what he does over there.

Aditya: Yes, Ronnie, we spoke about that earlier. So I remember our conversation, and then you have some common and mutual interest in the same domain. Malnutrition is one in children. My belief is that , in the absence of the right nutrition, their mental development will not happen, and generation upon generation will keep on submerged into the same vicious cycle of poverty. So until and unless they get the right nutrition, their mental development happens, they’ll not be able to basically walk into their life with a very confident nature. So, that’s the one area where I am very much passionate about and interested. I keep on working with one NGO in Agra and one NGO nearby in Madhya Pradesh, a place called Shivpuri. I was also involved in some of the other initiatives related to sustainability. I was very passionate about water saving. Water is a scarce resource and we think that nothing can replace the water. We have seen that , without water, there is no life. And that’s not just saying it but each and every one will have to contribute towards that. So these are the two areas where I’m very passionate about, and I devoted some of my time in contributing, , towards these initiatives on how we can help the society to basically and especially to the young childrens, who doesn’t have the access to, , all the facilities, and luxuries, what we have. I’ll say, having a basic life is also a luxury, for some segments. So these are the two initiatives where I’m very passionate about, and I keep on thinking about that, and maybe later on in life, I’ll take a break, and then probably, , do some full time work over there, not for now, but maybe in some time.

Ronnie: Thank you so much for these insights. I think it’s brilliant that you explore and are able to contribute back to society in such a meaningful manner. It’s an inspiration for all of our listeners. And I hope that at least a few of them are able to follow your lead on that. So thank you again, so much for sharing that. Thanks for making time for this interaction. It was absolutely fantastic speaking to you today, and I definitely look forward to catching up again very soon.

Aditya: Thank you so much Ronnie for inviting me for the session. It was a wonderful interaction. We touched upon a couple of the topics we share the same kind of interest, whether it’s in technology or whether it is contributing towards society. But it’s always a pleasure having any conversation with you. Each time when I converse with you I see a sort of very different vibe from your smile. Thank you so much for that.

Ronnie: Thanks, Aditya, thank you for these kind words.

Well, thank you, dear listeners for listening to this episode of the AI to Impact podcast. It’s been a wonderful and insightful discussion with Aditya as always. Today we heard about some of the best practices to get a buy-in to drive AI projects and make this change real for all stakeholders. Please subscribe to our podcast if you wish to listen to more interesting topics in the future. You can write to us in the comment section with your suggestions on topics that you want to hear more about. Until next time. Stay safe. Bye bye.

Meet the Speakers

Aditya Karnani

Aditya Karnani – Lead, Factory Performance & Reliability, Colgate Palmolive

Aditya Karnani is an experienced manufacturing and operational excellence professional with a keen interest in supply chains. A mechanical engineer, Aditya has over a decade’s worth of professional experience, and has developed a deep interest in the adoption of digital, analytics, and AI technologies for the manufacturing industry.

Ronobijay Bhaumik

Ronobijay Bhaumik – Director, Digital Consulting, Intelligent Operations, BRIDGEi2i

Ronobijay Bhaumik is responsible for driving the organization strategy for the Intelligent Operations functions which includes AI program evangelizing and design across services, Industry 4.0 and data strategy. With over 15 years of experience, he currently leads several strategic digital workstreams at BRIDGEi2i. Ronobijay holds an MBA from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras and an Engineering degree in Electronics & Telecommunications from the University of Pune.

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