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Arundhati, Managing Director, Plazma Technologies

Image: Plazma Technologies

Automation as a strategy “Automation does not take away jobs”

May 3, 2018

“Our experience shows that amongst hundreds of our customers, most successful have been those, who have adopted detailed SOP, scope, documentation of their processes and allocated resources for automation project” — Arundhati, Managing Director, Plazma Technologies

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?

For some time now automation across the work places has become a necessity. We easily adopt IT automation, but are slow at automising our shop floors. My experience while interacting with customers has been to address their standpoint that automation is an expensive exercise, which needs skilled work force and is difficult to adopt due to its complexity, especially with non- standard jobs. Another challenge we faced is to convince the shop floor teams that automation does not take away their jobs, rather enhances their productivity.

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

The time is overdue for SMEs to run smart and adaptive businesses. To facilitate this transition with automation and AI, companies need to create IT and related infrastructure, bring in smart software and hardware, and update the skill sets of the employees. A well-described vision statement shared with the team is the first step towards bringing it together. With the alignment of the key people, everyone is prepared to commit to the process of integrated automation. A well-documented framework ensures that right technology is implemented in a right way, at the right time and place, as we don’t have time for mistakes.

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

The commitment to automation ensures clear scope of requirement. The entire organisation is then aligned to its success. The defined scope clears the possible discrepancy between expectations and reality. Our experience shows that amongst hundreds of our customers, most successful have been those, who have adopted detailed SOP, scope, documentation of their processes and allocated resources for automation project. This exercise is most crucial. SMEs have a shorter process of decision making; therefore, sharing their management vision is much easier.

Consumer demand and relentless global competition have resulted in shorter product lifecycles and a renewed emphasis on quality and cost reduction. Can you highlight the current developments that address these areas?

My experience has illustrated three major issues that every SME struggles with: getting and retaining skilled manpower and having manpower which is aging and not skilled enough to adapt new production technologies; the issue of rising labour costs and the pressure to improve productivity. Every industry needs to address these concerns by implementing advanced technologies at lowest cost possible within the required time frame. The advanced technologies are growing rapidly. As such, providing a cost effective service to the customer is the major endeavour.

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

An automation provider generally takes responsibility of only the robot/CNC/SPM that is under their scope of supply and the system integrator takes the responsibility of the complete automised solution provided. However, it is just half the story. For successful project implementation, the end user needs to meet the integrator half way. It is their joint involvement that will ensure RoI.

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