Post lockdown, manufacturers will need to build capabilities
Published by : Industrial Automation
Sudhanshu Mittal, Head CoE & Director – Technical Solutions, NASSCOM Centre of Excellence, Gurugram.
Barring a few engaged in essentials, the manufacturing sector has come to a near standstill in past weeks. What are the dimensions of impact of this lockdown?
There is no doubt that the lockdown has severely disrupted the manufacturing sector. Apart from the demand slump, the supply chain has been disrupted which has been aggravated by the manpower dislocation. As the lockdown starts easing, the manufacturing players need to consider the impact of lower workforce, social distancing requirements, availability of their suppliers, interstate movement restrictions and the demand slump. The MSME sector, which is the largest manufacturing job generator, will face the biggest disruption as it has the less capacity for withstanding such losses compared to large enterprises. The government is focused on helping this sector withstand the current crisis and be able to continue when things start easing.
Since different companies in supply chain will gear up at different rates, how is a plan for kickstart of regular operations after lockdown to be evolved? How do you plan to cope with shortage of skills in this phase?
Post lockdown the manufacturers will need to build capabilities for closer monitoring the capabilities of their suppliers. Digital technologies like IoT, AI provide such capabilities and large number of players would insist that their suppliers incorporate these technologies in their operations. Real time tracking of shipments will start becoming more and more crucial, apart from the need for localisation of suppliers, as much as possible. Shortage of skills will cause shift towards the automation and enhanced role of digital technologies like AR/VR on the shop floor. Workers will have to be reskilled in being able to use these technologies. All this will cause much higher level of digital technology adoption by manufacturing players and consequently higher productivity/efficiency in medium term.
Going forward, what strategies should manufacturing companies adopt to minimise the impact of lockdown like situations in future?
First step will have to be the mind-set change. Planning for the unexpected will be necessary. There are costs associated with implementations but at least the planning has to be there about what to do when your assumption about your supplies/work force do not materialise. Automation and remote working will get increasing level of acceptance. Manufacturing companies have already started seeing the benefits of remote working in terms of cost saving and they will embrace this more in future.
Cocid-19 has reshuffled the pack, as far as preferred destination for outsourcing is concerned. How should India gear up to derive maximum advantage?
While Make In India was launched years ago, the success so far has been lukewarm. There are structural issues because of which the manufacturing sector has not taken off. Issues like land acquisition, uninterrupted power supply, transportation, approvals and clearances and simplified tax regime are necessary perquisites without which manufacturing cannot take off. Government has recognised the problem and is addressing the issues by working with different State governments. It is hoped that the companies looking to relocate will find India an attractive destination for setting up their units.
In what way has Covid-19 changed the parameters for evaluation of digital transformation in terms of cost, RoI, and man power?
Crisis usually accelerates the changes which were happening already. This defines the fundamental change in digital transformation in the manufacturing sector on account of Covid-19 impact. Companies were already exploring the digital technology adoption but there were reservations in terms of investment required, RoI that would be realised, and availability of skilled manpower to manage the change, etc. With the crisis, there is much greater willingness on part of the management to explore digital transformation. They are more willing to spend energy on understanding the RoI and ready to make the investment if there is benefit to be realised.
Will this lead to an increased demand for robots and cobots?
Automation is definitely going to go up. As lockdown starts easing and companies start addressing the challenges associated with opening up, demand for robots and cobots will go up. This will especially open up opportunities for Indian startups as they will be much more willing to work with users and do the required customisation, apart from supplying the solutions at much more attractive price points.
Since the future is going to have many people in the ‘work-from-home’ status, how do you plan to change your recruitment, training and other HR policies?
This is not directly relevant from NASSCOM CoE perspective. However it is expected that basic IT skills will start becoming mandatory for the workers when being recruited. Those already recruited, will have to undergo the training sessions to build up the skills. NASSCOM Centre of Excellence – IoT & AI has partnered with ACMA to help promote the digital transformation of ACMA members. We have already seen the bottlenecks being faced by manufacturers as larger parts of their operations are managed remotely and are working to identify suitable digital solutions as well as training requirements to address the challenges caused by remote working.
As Head – CoE Gurugram & Director – Technical Solutions with NASSCOM Centre of Excellence – IoT & AI, Sudhanshu Mittal leads the overall operations of Gurugram CoE and is also responsible for driving the solutioning of the problem statements brought by CoE partners. Vertical focus includes Automotive and Standard verticals for CoE-IoT. The key responsibilities include: a) Driving the solutioning of the problem statements brought on by CoE partners; b) Driving the Automotive and Connected Vehicle activities for CoE; c) Driving standard body participation from CoE-IoT for Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF) and Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC); d) Driving academic research engagement activities; and e) Niche partner engagement like Indian Army, Railways, PSUs, etc. The views expressed are personal.