Business leaders across sectors believe a return to normal in 2022 is misguided
Published on : Monday 10-01-2022
Ramji Singh, Vice President – Schmersal India Pvt Ltd
How did the industry fare in 2021 after the initial impact of Covid caused widespread disruption in 2020?
Due to Covid-19, there was a widespread disruption in 2020. However, after a decline in 2020, the market showed positive recovery signs. In 2021, the industry saw progressive growth that is expected to continue in the coming years. Unfortunately, during 2020, the manufacturing plants and businesses closed around the world due to Covid-19, and the demand for industrial solutions declined, causing significant losses. Fortunately, with the resumption of industrial activities in 2021, there have been positive signs of recovery, and the industry is seeing increased demand for industrial solutions. In fact, as per a report published by Fortune Business Insight, the global industrial automation market is expected to grow at 8.9% CAGR throughout 2021-2026. Moreover, the need for digital transformation in various sectors will accelerate the industrial automation market growth rate.
What were the changes and new technologies businesses widely adopted in 2021?
The year 2021 saw a steady increase of automation in the manufacturing sector in India. Businesses across industries are now exploring automation possibilities to reduce the impact of any such events like Covid-19 on production lines in the future. The companies adopted many new technologies in 2021, such as robotics, 5G, augmented reality and simulation. As a result, we saw widespread use of intelligent robots and systems based on automation. There was an increased demand for automated solutions like robotics from many industrial sectors. The industries tried replacing manual labour with intelligent robots and automation-based systems. The manufacturing businesses with highly repetitive tasks requiring low-skilled labour are now exploring automation solutions. The companies are showing a keen interest in developing hyper-automated factories. Businesses are also exploring technologies such as 5G, AI/ML, Robotics, Cloud/Edge Computing and Predictive AI.
While Covid triggered the supply chain disruption, it now continues in various forms and for different reasons. What could be the solution?
Covid-19 severely impacted supply chains. As a result, businesses need to evaluate how they can proactively prepare for any such disruptions in future. It calls for the companies to build a ‘smarter’ supply chain. Businesses can leverage automation and other technologies to manage, foresee and limit the impact of supply chain disruptions. Organisations need to build capabilities and make their supply chains more agile. They need to create geographically diversified supply chains and collaborate with supply chain partners to develop a coordinated crisis-support system. Fortunately, the emerging supply chain technologies enable companies to improve their visibility across the end-to-end supply chain and enhance companies’ ability to resist disruptions and shock.
Businesses can leverage digital supply networks, artificial intelligence, 5G, Internet of Things and robotics to connect to their complete supply network and boost end-to-end visibility, agility, collaboration and optimisation. We need to repurpose and reshape the supply chains for the future for long-term resilience for managing future challenges. Organisations should adopt a holistic approach to managing the supply chain and build sufficient flexibility to safeguard against future disruptions.
Businesses need to develop a robust framework with a resilient and responsive risk management operations capability. This capability should be led by technology such as artificial intelligence and machine learning. The supply chains need to put people first and ensure their workforce is healthy. They need to leverage data to maximise visibility across the ecosystem, such as demand, capacity supply, inventory and finances. Businesses need to analyse the demand carefully and define priority micro-segments. Organisations need to mobilise sales and ops SWAT teams and evaluate their supply-chain scenarios to make them robust and immune to future disruptions.
With new strains of the virus appearing periodically, is the WFH culture here to stay and become a permanent feature?
Though life is returning to pre-pandemic normal, new strains of Coronavirus are appearing periodically. Given that, the Work from Home model is here to stay. In fact, many organisations are considering a hybrid or predominantly Work from Home model for the long run. Organisations are planning to work remotely, either fully or partially, even in the post-pandemic era and are evaluating work flexibility where employees partly work from the office or work remotely dependent on their jobs. Since not all jobs can be performed remotely, some companies are looking for a mix of physical working and remote working.
Moreover, Work from Home has yielded better than expected experiences and offered benefits for both employees and employers. Some behemoths like Facebook and Twitter have already declared that remote working could continue forever, while other business giants have announced that Work from Home can continue for a few more years. Companies and employees are more open to the Work from Home model now than compared to the pre-pandemic era, and many companies are opting for it as a permanent feature. However, more and more employees are choosing the work from office option as they feel fewer distractions and perform better in the office.
How is the outlook for 2022, given that a lot of lessons have been learned during the last two years?
Business leaders across sectors believe a return to normal in 2022 is misguided. They think volatility will remain the main challenge for businesses as new strains of Coronavirus emerge. To deal with volatility, we need to create simplicity in our business. We need to simplify everything within our control to let people deal with volatility. Labour has become a significant concern in many industries. I believe hiring and retaining workers is only going to intensify in 2022.
Moreover, organisations also have to deal with the long-term implications of climate change in business models. Businesses willing to succeed will have to apply a disruptive mind-set to approach and solve problems. Organisations are now prioritising competencies like enterprise agility, cash-flow management, crisis management, workforce resiliency, cost management or innovation as critically important for their companies. In 2022, the focus would be on workforce safety and security, enterprise agility, and cost management. For businesses, the need for flexibility and speed has amplified. Covid-19 has accelerated digital transformation. Organisations are more trusting of what technology can do and are planning to invest or investing in technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence, cloud and the Internet of Things. In 2022 we don't see things returning to normal. The risks and opportunities are too significant, and business leaders need to be proactive in managing any kind of volatility.
Climate change and sustainability are matters of serious concern. How sustainable are present business practices?
Businesses have realised that sustainable business practices are important to their company's success. As business leaders realise, climate change and its effects will continue to worsen; their focus is shifting towards implementing sustainable business practices. So today, organisations are developing sustainability strategies and marketing sustainable products and services. The companies are now adopting business practices focused on reducing unsustainability and creating sustainability. Businesses today are striving to be more energy-efficient; they are recycling and conserving non-renewable materials. They are strategising to minimise the negative environmental impact. Today, companies embrace opportunities and manage risks resulting from economic, social, and environmental impacts. The companies have realised climate change and sustainability pose serious concerns and are pushing for new market models. Organisations are moving away from linear models where items were created, used and disposed of and moving to circular models in which items are produced, used and then items are either restored or reprocessed for recovering energy or materials for reuse.
What are the technology trends most likely to dominate in 2022?
There have been drastic changes in the previous two years in how we perceive work to how we communicate. The adoption of digital technology has accelerated due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Today, operations are being streamlined using connected technologies and automation. In 2022, I see artificial intelligence, Internet of Things gaining momentum. These two technologies will redefine the future of automation. 5G will lay the foundation for an intelligent and connected environment. The bottom line is technology will shape the businesses of tomorrow.
Ramji Singh has done Bachelor of Electronic Engineering from Nagpur University. He currently has more than 27 years of industry experience. He started his career with M/s Roman Wight Bridges then joined M/s Elder Instrument (Sister Concern of M/s Elder Pharmaceutical) in the sales team.
The next 7 years his career were with M/s Pepperl+Fuchs for factory & Process Automation then four year of his career were with M/s Sick India in Mumbai in Industry sales of factory Automation then 6 years of his career were with Rittal India – Eplan Div at Bengaluru to promote their Electrical Engineering software for factory & process Automation.
For the past six years, he has been with Schmersal India Private Limited (100 % subsidiary of Schmersal Group, Germany) which was a new start-up in India in 2007. Started as an Associate Vice President – Sales and is currently Vice President – Sales & Marketing of Schmersal India.