TCS, Airtel take a step towards human-less factories

Tata Consultancy Services and Bharti Airtel said they tested a 5G-enabled and automated manufacturing set-up using the trial 5G spectrum allocated by Department of Telecom.

Called ‘Neural Manufacturing Suite’, the technology aims to implement a ‘lights out’ factory set-up, in which the factory produces everything by itself without human or worker supervision or intervention.

This is achieved by connecting all the machines and input and output items to sophisticated computers either at the same location or at a remote location, such as the company’s headquarters.

TCS said the solution is based on technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, computer vision (visual inspection of products using computers), virtual reality and industrial automation or robotics.

The IT company has already incorporated elements of this vision in product suites such as TCS Autoscape, TCS Equiptix, Digital Manufacturing Platform, Intelligent Power Plant and so on.

The move towards complete automation of factories is considered the next step in industrial revolution. This is seen as the logical culmination of a trend that started in industrial revolution of the 19th century, when steam and electricity powered machines started being used to help workers increase their output and speed.

TCS said its aim is to help companies achieve an “autonomous or lights-out” factory vision, particularly in sectors such as manufacturing, consumer packaged goods, automotive, aerospace, energy, utilities, healthcare, life science and hi-tech.

Even though this can also be achieved using traditional, local wireless network technologies such as Wifi, local networks fail to work when the product or raw material is on the move, such as from the factory to the distribution center.

However, with 5G, the products can remain connected to the overall network irrespective of the location.

TCS said it tested two use cases on Airtel’s 5G test network – remote manufacturing operations using robotics, and vision-based quality inspection.

Remote manufacturing refers to the control of manufacturing operations taking place in a factory using a high-powered computer at a different location, such as the corporate office. Vision-based quality inspection too is similar, in that it uses a high-power computer at a different location to monitor the quality of the final output using high-resolution cameras, high-bandwidth wireless networks and machine learning.

TCS said the technologies can transform plant operations, and significantly boost quality, productivity, and safety.

“We will continue to build new, differentiated capabilities into TCS’ Neural Manufacturing suite of solutions, harnessing the power of machine vision, machine intelligence and 5G to reimagine and redefine the way smart factories operate. Our partnership with Airtel to deploy and validate these innovative use cases on their 5G network serves as a proof point of the transformative power of these technologies,” TCS said.