Make in India initiative has acted as a springboard for our growth in India
Published on : Monday 03-05-2021
By : Editorial Team
Sekaran Letchumanan, Vice President – Operations at Flex India.
What are the type of products currently manufactured in India and the industry segments covered?
We build products in consumer, power, telecom, computing, automotive and industrial segments in India. These include laptops and smartphones. With an extensive experience across the industries, Flex India is supporting many of the leading global and local brands. We help customers solve challenges of the connected age by providing improved speed, efficiency and effectiveness through the entire product life cycle.
What is the response from Flex to the recent initiatives of the Indian government in scaling up manufacturing in the country?
Flex believes that Indian government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative has acted as a springboard for our growth in India, over the last 5-6 years. The current ease of doing business scenario has been a direct result of that campaign.
Our country certainly has a potential to develop, maintain and accelerate the electronic hardware ecosystem which will transform India into a digital knowledge economy and a global manufacturing hub. Campaigns like Atma Nirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India), Make in India and Digital India can effectively help in building a robust ecosystem for the electronics hardware sector and we can expand the domestic market.
How automated are the facilities in the age of Industry 4.0 and digitalisation?
The dynamic factory floor is getting smarter as digitisation and automation are transforming manufacturing. The factory of the future we have envisioned for decades has arrived, and it is happening at the intersection of game-changing technologies. From Industry 4.0, the world is beginning to talk about Industry 5.0. At just about every point along the value chain, manufacturers are applying innovative technologies as they look to ensure safety, reap efficiencies, improve quality, lower risks, reduce costs and apply sustainable practices.
With cloud and edge computing, connected, intelligent devices are all over the factory floor, constantly collecting data that can be used to train machine learning models, monitor operations in real time and flag issues. Predictive maintenance will be utilised more and more as it can reduce downtime as much as 20%, which is a huge win, considering bottlenecks on the production floor can make or break on-time shipment.
Globally, Flex is also adopting Digital Twin – advanced simulation capabilities by using 3D modelling as well as virtual and augmented reality to build real-time, digital models of processes and physical entities. While digital twin applications are only limited by our imagination, a compelling use case is to build a digital representation of a proposed production line to experiment with different processes and configurations to make sure it works as planned before deploying.
Robots of course are also in the mix, having done much of the heavy lifting for many years now. As manufacturing becomes more complex, the next frontier is Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to endow robots with more nuanced control and coordination.
Flex is driving the evolution of Industry 4.0 by focusing on a mix of technologies and advanced manufacturing capabilities that can provide greater quality and efficiency along with the sustainability for customers. Undoubtedly, Industry 4.0 has been evolving at a fast pace and has been a contributing factor in the way the manufacturing sector has changed.
What are the other emerging technologies and innovations deployed at Flex?
IoT will have a major effect on the electronics manufacturing industry, which will be largely disrupted by automation. Electronics manufacturing sector needs to have innovative and better design components in place that can be synced with other technological tools like artificial intelligence. This will help the team force to be free of the tasks that are too dangerous for beings to perform.
In our own factories, we are increasingly seeing the benefits of smart automation and robotics as modular systems. Automation is not about introducing one new machine – it’s about getting many machines to communicate with each other and work side-by-side with humans in harmony. This requires a new way of thinking, combined with highly targeted business goals and intelligent machine-to-machine communications.
When it comes to manufacturing, we incorporate intelligence not just in the hardware, but in the software that makes the hardware work. Software insights in manufacturing are bridging the gap between the digital and the physical in a way that’s transformational.
For example, using simulation software to test a design before production begins. Software insights can also notify you when machine maintenance is needed, thereby reducing downtime and expenses. This intelligent system reduces the manual process that can lead to recurring mistakes, communication gaps and lost productivity. Allowing software to drive the factory floor frees team members to provide significant effort in other areas.
Using Flex’s home-grown RPA software, we have implemented a bot called Gabriel. Gabriel works 7 days a week and can simplify the repetitive and mundane tasks. Gabriel also helped in addressing the process of social insurance benefits for our employees in the China region. We witnessed a high success rate with respect to executing automation and achieved a full-proof accuracy rate in the job completed.
Time-consuming and repetitive tasks were simplified and Gabriel could finish those efficiently and rapidly. Flex believes that post Covid-19, there will be a key focus on how the manufacturing processes can be enhanced which will eventually result in greater operational efficiency. Our employees who were working remotely, when Covid-19 began, used AI effectively which could simplify the process to a greater extent without any human intervention.
How important is India for Flex, both as a market as well as a manufacturing destination for exports?
With a vast and diverse population like India’s, we certainly see a growing demand for manufacturing and export markets as well.
Flex is one of the largest employers in India and we have around 18,000 employees with an average workforce tenure of more than five years.
In India, Flex has been in operation since 2001 and we have four manufacturing sites in India – three in Tamil Nadu, i.e., Chennai Industrial Park (CIP) – Special Economic Zone (SEZ); Chennai Industrial Park – Domestic Tariff Area (CIP-DTA); Chennai Industrial Park 3 (CIP 3); and one in Sri City, Andhra Pradesh. These sites have been building products for domestic and export markets in Consumer, Power, Telecom, Computing, Automotive and Industrial segments. These facilities serve customers across three distinct lines of business, which are manufacturing, global business services and aftermarket services.
Flex GBS, present in Chennai and Pune, consists of professionals working on six specialised verticals supporting Flex’s global operations. GBS provides services in the area of Engineering and Quality, Procurement and Supply Chain, Finance, Human Resources, Program Management and Information Technology. Located in Bengaluru, with partners all across the country, GBS offers one-stop shop aftermarket services ranging from repair to spare parts management and forward and reverse logistics.
All the above firmly demonstrates the importance of the India operations to the Flex ecosystem globally.
We see strong potential in India – especially with the Government’s strong push for manufacturing. Our plans in India are guided by Flex’s overall strategy and our customer requirements. We invest sensibly in a balanced, global approach to meet our customers’ commercial needs in all parts of the world, including India.