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Rajesh Kumar Sharma, General Manager & Head - ME, Fiat India Automobiles

Image: Fiat India

Automation as a strategy “A proactive approach helps”

May 3, 2018

“If you scheme automation at an early stage of your vision, it certainly makes implementation very easy and simple” — Rajesh Kumar Sharma, General Manager & Head - ME, Fiat India Automobiles

Do you see any challenges while making automation as a fundamental part of the overall business strategy in the Indian manufacturing enterprises, in both SMEs and corporates?

In order to be competitive in today’s business scenario, you have to adapt to means by which operational efficiency is improved. There are various means and tools that can be employed to achieve the desired results. Automation as a business strategy is one of these tools. The challenges involved depend upon the dynamics of the organisation and the goals and targets set by the management. However, the foremost challenge that I see is the relevance to the business need and the RoI. So, depending upon the organisational need and benefits that automation will bring, one has to do a deep evaluation before making automation a part of the business strategy.

A better approach to automation investment begins with a strategic vision that drives a methodical approach to business improvement. What would be your recommendations?

If you scheme automation at an early stage of your vision, it certainly makes implementation very easy and simple. If planned at the right time instead of at a later stage, you can also lower investment numbers. A proactive approach definitely helps. For this, past learnings & future trends need to be mapped effectively and incorporated in the overall vision of the organisation.

How easy/difficult is it to align business and automation strategy in a manufacturing organisation and ensure the two are closely linked in the long term, especially in the SME sector?

For any organisation, the strategy for automation will be a part of the overall business strategy. You don’t have to make a separate business and automation strategy. Once you decide to go for automation to achieve a certain target, it can be linked to the overall business plan. This is being done in large industries but can be a challenge for the SME sector if they are not clear about what they need to do with automation. However, today, we see CII and other societies, who are doing a great job by bringing SMEs and large professional organisations together through interaction and visits for benchmarking and learning. Also, one of the biggest factors for automation taking a lead role is the fact that organisations are becoming lean. In order to meet the KPIs, it becomes very easy to align business and automation strategy, as it will always be positive in the long run if done the right way.

Consumer demand and relentless global competition have resulted in shorter product lifecycles, a need for reduced turnaround time, and a renewed emphasis on quality and cost reduction. Can you highlight the current trends in the automation solutions and advanced technologies available that address these areas?

Trends and advanced technology in automation solutions will be industry specific. But lately, the concept of smart manufacturing & Industry 4.0 is becoming very popular in businesses and is being deployed at a fast pace. It is for the organisation to identify the area of attack and the means to overcome constraints. For instance, laser welding is coming in place of conventional spot welding in the automobile industry. This will not only improve operational costs but will also give the product and customers a very high quality return.

The effective execution of your automation strategy requires the right partner to help guide and drive the process. How can the partnership between automation service provider, system integrator and end-user be more effective to further overall business objectives and ensure consistent ROI?

Yes, the right partner is very important for the execution of automation strategy. Plus, cutting across industries and sharing knowledge and know-how will certainly be of big help in achieving ROI. To achieve this, too, CII and other government forums need to play a pivotal role.

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