COVID-19 accelerates innovation and automation in manufacturing industry


COVID-19 will bring much more change to business beyond the shift to remote work and online sales. The manufacturing industry is expected to undergo profound transformation with the use of artificial intelligence and internet of things to increase automation, according to Justin Hotard (pictured), corporate senior vice president and president of HPE Japan.

“I don’t think the factory that will be built tomorrow is going to start off with a traditional labor view,” Hotard said. “In fact, it is going to start very organized against robotics, [artificial intelligence], using [internet of things], using sensors to drive greater levels of automation.”

Hotard spoke with John Furrier, host of theCUBE, SiliconANGLE Media’s livestreaming studio, during the HPE Discover Virtual Experience event. They discussed how the pandemic brought opportunities for innovation, the expected response from the manufacturing sector, and Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co.’s solutions to market challenges. (* Disclosure below.)

Stimulus programs are an opportunity

The effects of the pandemic have challenged the traditional way of doing business in recent months. But it’s also created numerous opportunities for innovation, according to Hotard. For the manufacturing sector, governments are likely to create new investments with stimulus programs, and that environment will provide a chance for companies to innovate.

“I think this event just creates more opportunity for an acceleration, particularly in greenfield. So, we’re having conversations with customers around all those areas right now,” Hotard said.

Automation is a way to mitigate risks related, for example, to supply chain disruptions, social distance on assembly lines, and limited ability to travel. Although the path to innovation is clear, there are cultural challenges to overcome. In Japan, culture and economy depend heavily on face-to-face relationship, in addition to having many traditional paper-based activities, according to Hotard.

“This is really a big inflection point in terms of how people work. All of that is actually under a great wave of change, and … it’s really forcing people to rethink workflows,” he stated. “It’s across many, many vertical markets — education, manufacturing, obviously traditional enterprise.”

Helping customers to modernize

To drive customers on this innovation journey, HPE has solutions in three main areas. One involves the virtual desktop infrastructure, which addresses the huge increase in remote work amid the pandemic. “We built [solutions with] partners so that customers that are small, medium or large that want something standard, they can just take and deploy quickly,” Hotard explained.

Another area leverages platforms from HPE’s company Aruba — such as software-defined wide area networking, designed to help customers modernize branch networks to evolve cloud, IoT and mobility requirements.

“We’re seeing significant growth there,” Hotard said. “And I’m expecting to see even more growth … as many of our customers come back to the office and bring employees back in. And you can’t have a traditional just density of desks. You’ve really got to think about how people have mobility and have flexibility to maintain distancing.”

A third area of solutions involves computing consumption-as-a-service. “We’re seeing new interest in that as a way to build things, to scale things, to create flexibility for future growth,” Hotard pointed out. “And it’s not just public cloud; it’s public cloud and on-premise applications. It’s integration into the virtualization stack, obviously, with players like VMware and Nutanix and Red Hat. It’s with OpenShift and containers.”

Partnerships provide complete solutions

To provide more complete solutions, HPE seeks to strengthen relationships with its partner ecosystem.

“We have close relationship with VMware, the Nutanix relationship, Red Hat; others that were standing up solutions,” Hotard stated. “And some of the things … like [virtual desktop infrastructure], literally packaged out-of-the box experience with a complete turnkey solution, so our partners don’t even have to optimize it. They can just deploy and enable their customers.”

In Japan, the ecosystem is even more important, according to Hotard. That’s because most HPE customers depend on their vendors to do much of their IT work.

“It’s a little bit unique in Japan versus the rest of the world. And so this is a place too where we’re spending a lot of time with our partners, with our entire partner ecosystem to make sure they are ready,” he concluded.

Watch the complete video interview below, and be sure to check out more of SiliconANGLE’s and theCUBE’s coverage of the HPE Discover Virtual Experience event. (* Disclosure: TheCUBE is a paid media partner for the HPE Discover Virtual Experience. Neither Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co., the sponsor for theCUBE’s event coverage, nor other sponsors have editorial control over content on theCUBE or SiliconANGLE.)

Photo: SiliconANGLE

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