Where is manufacturing headed next? Whatever the end destination, technology will have a role to do. Image Credit: IANS

In the Gulf, manufacturing has proven critical in nation-building. It has brought vital infrastructure, jobs and economic growth and been a source of innovation, even serving as a catalyst for economic recovery in leaner times.

Today, in the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we see spikes in demand and a growing need to align with international standards along the entire length of the value chain. Innovation – in the form of new automation options and technologies such as Building Information Modelling (BIM) and modular housing – is to be welcomed.

Still, the presence of new technologies requires a response from industry decision-makers to ensure their organisations do not become obsolete. For those who get the balance right between technology adoption and business realities, opportunities are plenty – building new capacities, future-proofing operations, upskilling the workforce and designing and implementing new hybrid workspaces.

Digital transformation has been a strong driving force for positive change in many industries and use cases across the nation. The UAE has been a pioneer in 5G, which is expected to accelerate the implementation of Internet of Things, making it a potent catalyst for innovation in construction, where a range of M2M use cases can be found.

The ‘Operation 300bn’, announced in March 2021, is another example of the UAE’s ambition. Launched by the Ministry of Industry and Advanced Technology, the initiative calls for doubling the industrial sector’s contribution to GDP by 2031 by embracing digitalisation.

Decade of action

While we embark on a decade of action, we must ensure that our efforts in digital transformation do not have environmental side effects. Manufacturers are now dedicating themselves to reducing their carbon footprints and operating within circular value chains. 4IR technologies such as cloud, AI, and machine learning can accelerate the delivery of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

We created Microsoft for Manufacturing to allow our customers to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2030. We plan to be carbon-negative by then, and Microsoft for Manufacturing will help our customers optimise energy consumption and improve water and waste management.

Need for collaboration

Our actions cannot achieve sustainable impact if we operate alone. Greater collaboration across governments, enterprises, and civil society are essential to guarantee global results. We must enable manufacturers to drive business transformation, achieve growth, and become more socially responsible through digital technology.

Our recent participation at the fourth edition of the Global Manufacturing and Industrialisation Summit proved invaluable in nurturing further cross-sectoral collaboration. Robust debates took place on topics such as dark and smart factories, quantum machine learning, 5G, cloud, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), digital twins, and the blue economy.

As digital innovation continues to skyrocket, reskilling workers will be critical to harnessing emerging technologies and enjoying the opportunities they present. AI can empower every individual and organisation to be more efficient and productive, freeing workers from mundane tasks and allowing them to be more creative.

Working with our partners, we have helped customers double down on smart manufacturing, digitising their processes by enabling autonomous supply chains, lights-out factories, digital twins, and control towers. The potential benefits of accelerating and broadening the adoption of digital technologies are significant.

But we must remember that without global collaboration, we cannot unleash the full potential of the technologies that are at our fingertips and accelerate the enhancement of our workplaces, our environment, and our lives.