Since last autumn, Arpita Chari has been the work package leader for WP 1 within Digitala Stambanan Produktion. She has an exciting background with a master’s degree in materials science from Texas AM University, USA. After many years in academia, she wanted to enter working life and work in the industry. Her professional career began with a one-year internship at a petroleum company in Singapore and then four years at a hospital in India with the task of, among other things, testing and developing a 3D microscope for eye surgery.

When the husband, who worked for Volvo trucks for many years, got the opportunity to work at Volvo’s headquarters in Sweden, they decided to move to Gothenburg with the children.

Why are you now working as a researcher at Chalmers when you decided that you were done with academia after your degree in Texas?

We decided to move to Sweden and Gothenburg because we knew that Sweden is a good country for the family and that there are plenty of job opportunities for me in Gothenburg. While looking for a job, I met many people in several different places, and one of them advised me to apply for a doctoral position. A doctoral part in Sweden is very different from what I am used to. Here, doctoral students work much closer to business, which sounded attractive. That’s why I started looking up various departments at Chalmers and which doctoral positions were being applied for. I thought the Department of Industrial and Materials Science best suited me and my background. Within that department, I found a post regarding sustainable production in the Production Systems division. They wanted a person with a degree in materials science with a broad background who would work with digital tools in Industry 4.0. I didn’t think I would get it because there were many applicants, but after several interviews, I was offered the position. This felt like a hand in glove because the environment and sustainability are areas close to my heart and where the manufacturing industry has a significant impact. Therefore, I would like to be a part of this and contribute to this considerable dual transition that must take place within the industry.

Arpita Chari
Arpita Chari

Work package manager

Digitala Stambanan Production

When you say dual transition, what do you mean?

I mean that industry and society are in a digital transformation simultaneously; there must be a transformation to a sustainable way of life so that future generations can live on our planet. In many cases, digitization is an enabler for sustainable solutions..

Your research focuses on Industry 4.0, resilience, and sustainability in production systems. How did you end up in that area?

For me, as for many other researchers, the first time was a search phase where I went through much literature in many fields. It can be compared to an hourglass, which is gradually funneled down to a limit that feels right for you. For me, the first 1.5 years were a search. Sustainability and Industry 4.0 were there from the beginning, and resilience deepened the whole. Sustainability is divided into ecological, economic, and social sustainability, but a demarcation towards ecological sustainability fits best.

Can you explain the meaning of resilience?

Resilience is the long-term ability of a system to handle change and continue to evolve. In my research, I look at how Industry 4.0 solutions can make the industry more resilient and ecologically sustainable. It is where Industry 4.0, sustainability, and resilience converge that I find myself.

Resilience is the long-term ability of a system to handle change and continue to evolve.

What are you looking for in your research?

I try to understand what drives change in companies in the manufacturing industry. The driving forces are, of course, to deal with challenges with climate and sustainability and what those entail. It can be about climate goals such as The Green Deal or other national and local regulations and legislation. Then I look for enabling things that can be part of the change. This is where techniques within the concept of Industry 4.0 come in, and there is a lot about handling data, information, and knowledge digitally, efficiently, and inclusively.

What do you want to achieve with your research?

As a researcher, I want to make companies realize the importance of incorporating this into their core business and genuinely want to work with it, both top-down and bottom-up. It must be something other than Greenwashing or something done on rare occasions.

Are there other researchers working on the same things? If so, do you collaborate with them?

There may not be those who have precisely the same orientation as me. But, still, many do research on similar things, within Chalmers, at other universities in Sweden, and internationally. So, there are many ways to collaborate, and it is something that we do and thinks is very important.

How do you see your research connecting to what Digitala Stambanan is working on?

Digitala Stambanan’s goal is to increase the use of digital platforms within the industry. Digital platforms are one of the technologies that come with Industry 4.0 and create the opportunity to share data, information, and knowledge efficiently and flexibly. This, in turn, makes the conditions for data-driven decisions where value chains can become more flexible and, thus, more resilient. Still, new values can also be created and thus increase companies’ competitiveness. I am very grateful to be part of Digitala Stambanan because it gives me not just one case study with one company but several different cases with several companies in each.

How do you see us spreading Digitala Stambanan’s message further?

I see much about Digitala Stambanan on social media and in other contexts. It’s good to reach out further by using other existing networks. Chalmers may have more networks within, for example, the Production Area of Advance. Another way is to get more “Tekniksprångare” into the project, which could then spread information through their channels to reach out to younger people.

For the EU, it is essential that projects such as the Digitala Stambanan not only become national but cooperate on a European level; how do you see that?

I would like to see more collaborations because there is a lot to learn from collaborating. Sometimes it cannot be easy to achieve because projects can be financed differently and have different orientations. For Europe, it is essential to find solutions that use the internal market within the EU. If we look at where the major platform providers come from today, it is the US and China, both of which have large internal markets for their products. However, other legislation affects the data stored in these technical solutions. Within the EU, we value personal integrity highly. Therefore, we need technological solutions that come from Europe and are then governed by European laws, but our internal market is less homogeneous than in the US and China. Therefore, we need to get better at cooperating at the European level.

Thanks, Arpita! Very interesting to talk with you. Good luck with your continued work!

Digitala Stambanan strengthens the Swedish industry through digitalization of value chains. The project is a collaborative project financed by Vinnova and participating companies. The work is now underway in two tracks through the strategic innovation programs PiiA (Processindustriell IT & Automation), which drives the Digitala Stambanan IndTech project, and Produktion2030, which runs the Digitala Stambanan Produktion project.