Thought Leaders in Automation
LEADING THE WAY IN INNOVATION
Learn from expert industry professionals and read their insight into the growth and opportunities in automation.
Vice President, Manufacturing Industry
As Vice President of Manufacturing Industry at Microsoft, Çaglayan Arkan is currently responsible for managing the digital transformation, growth, and competitive strategies across all manufacturing industries and supply chains. This includes businesses within High-Tech and Semiconductor, Industrial, Aerospace, Chemical/Process Manufacturing, Agriculture, Pharmaceuticals and Life Sciences, Consumer Goods, Defense, and more.
Arkan is passionate about empowering customers to position themselves as first movers or fast followers in today’s disruptive era. By empowering organizations with new digital capabilities, strategies, and insights, Arkan and his team are helping businesses drive sustained growth, agile innovation, and operational excellence.
Prior to his current role, Arkan held several leadership roles at Microsoft and Siemens, successfully spearheading new strategic growth, market penetration, and business development initiatives. Arkan is currently based in Bellevue, Washington with his family.
We would love to hear your take on how AI is disrupting the industry and the resulting opportunities for everyone.
We have been talking about Industry 4.0 for some time. The rapid pace of digitization in manufacturing has elevated us to new levels of disruption from technologies including artificial intelligence (AI) to machine learning, to IoT, to mixed reality, and more—and then pandemic happened. The crisis was a huge setback for us all, but especially for a conservative industry like manufacturing, which has very long cycles. Suddenly manufacturers were disrupted on an even greater level in terms of supply/demand challenges, zero operational visibility, and remote work. That is when we realized that capabilities such as autonomous systems, remote operations, and lights-out manufacturing were no longer a luxury—they were needed immediately.
And now coming out of the crisis, we have the opportunity to use technology to meet the next crisis head-on. Smarter, more agile systems that help machinery adapt in real-time to changing conditions are critical to today’s era. One outcome I anticipate out of the crises is accelerated innovation and accelerated investment in digital transformation and AI, creating great opportunities for businesses. There is also a great opportunity for people.
During the last 20 years, manufacturing companies have seen strong improvements in productivity because of automation. This has caused a recalibration in the tasks of the workforce. How does this benefit not only the company but also the worker? Also, what other changes do you see coming to the workforce?
AI allows everyone to operate at a higher-order with a higher value add. You can move from repetitive tasks to more innovative and creative tasks. By upskilling and reskilling our workforce, we can help them more easily adapt technology to keep delivering better products and keep delighting customers. And there is no age restriction because, with new technologies, combined with capabilities like autonomous systems and collaborative robots, we can keep our workers on the job longer as their expertise can now be made available virtually wherever it is needed. By bringing together the best of machines with what humans can uniquely do, creators and designers can become more creative. Marketers can become more impactful. Operational teams can become more intelligent, based on new systems of intelligence and data-driven decision making. Technologies like mixed reality are already being used to accelerate the learning, upskilling, and reskilling of the workforce, as well as improving health and safety.
Change management, digital twins, self-healing assets, customization at scale, blockchain, and sustainability- the number of technology advancements and “buzz words” that companies have to know about and be able to take advantage of seems dizzying these days. What is your advice to users on how to get started with automation in manufacturing and what are some areas where AI is driving real, measurable efficiencies?
It is up to us as leaders to either ignore these buzzwords or really get curious about them to understand what I call the ‘Art of Possible.’ The Art of the Possible is not about the status quo, it is about thinking differently and bigger to solve today’s big challenges. It is about getting out of your comfort zone and disrupting. For example, let us take digital twins. By creating a virtual replica of a physical object, machine part, system, process, or entire lifecycle, digital twins are enabling real-time monitoring and control. This gives manufacturers the ability to learn with AI and machine learning, to autonomously update, self-heal, and even improve systems and designs over time. Look at how SCG is optimizing complex chemical processing with AI and the innovative work that Unilever is doing here. With blockchain, you can revolutionize the way you think about exchanging value, data, and assets across industries. GE Aviation’s Digital Group is driving strong impact here, as they use Azure Blockchain technologies to verify the history of engine maintenance, reduce parts inventory, and accelerate safe repairs. And the list goes on. I invite you to learn more about how our customers are driving real business impact using AI and other advanced technologies by visiting Microsoft AI Manufacturing or downloading our Future of Manufacturing eBook.
With economists forecasting larger uses of robotics and automation, especially coming out of the COVID-19 landscape, this potentially means a lot of new customers – what would you tell business leaders about getting started with automation?
I would anchor around the problem you are trying to solve. What outcomes are you trying to drive? Automation, robots, technology: These are tools. You now have a good understanding of the Art of Possible, so you will want to think bigger and bolder just than technology. Technology is the enabler to generating more value; this helps us frame the digital transformation journey. You will also have realized that there is no delaying any longer. If you are just getting started, you are already late in the game. Many of the leading companies—the disruptors—have been on this journey for the last several years. And Microsoft is proud to have been there all along the way. My advice is to start now. Start small but go fast. As a business leader, you have to rethink your innovation process and cycles. You have to rethink your growth plans. You have to rethink your culture. You have to rethink your competition and defensive strategies—all informed by disruptive technologies starting with AI.
What is AI’s role in enabling sustainability? What are the benefits?
We are a company that has some of the most ambitious sustainability goals of any company. These include becoming carbon neutral and net water positive within our direct operations by 2030. By 2050, we also aim to remove our entire carbon footprint since our inception in 1975. The next step for us is to help our customers and partners bring sustainability to life in manufacturing supply chains and operations globally. We see AI as the main driver to enable this and we are proud of our collaborations to empower this innovation. For example, Ecolab is using the Microsoft cloud to speed up how worldwide industries tackle water scarcity. Bosch Building Technologies developed an in-house energy platform based on Azure to analyze energy consumption and pursue ongoing energy efficiency. And Bühler is using intelligent cloud technologies, including AI, the Internet of Things (IoT) and blockchain to ensure safe and sustainable food.
While we all know downtime can help relieve stress, several science-backed studies confirm you improve productivity when you take time to enjoy life outside of the office. What are some of your favorite things to do in your free time?
I have always been a very active person and I enjoy many kinds of outdoor activities. I am a bicyclist, a back-country skier, a sailor, and a windsurfer. Every chance I get, I am outside, enjoying the wind on my face.