You have been given the title 'Hero of US manufacturing'. What do you attribute this success to?
I was very fortunate back in the early 1980s to have met some of the pioneers, such as, Taiichi
Ohno, Shigeo Shingo and Yoshiki Iwata, who turned Toyota around in the 60s and 70s. I learnt the philosophy and tools behind the success of Toyota Production System from them. In 1991, I founded TBM Consulting Group, a boutique Operational Excellence company, in cooperation with Shingi Jutsu, headed by Yoshiki Iwata in Nagoya. TBM grew very fast and worked with about 800 companies around the globe, implementing sustainable operational excellence and strategy deployment process. Many of the companies in the US, who were our strategic client partners, achieved top line growth, two to three times the rate of industry growth and four to six times of bottom line growth, without significant additional resources and manpower. Based on these top and bottom line results, I was given the title ‘Hero of US manufacturing.’
What are your recommendations to achieve faster growth in the top & bottom line by adopting operational excellence and strategy deployment?
To achieve that, it requires a complete transformation of the archaic management system and a change in mind-set. This takes bold and visionary leadership at the very top and a disciplined process of permeation of that vision throughout the organisation. The vision is then reinforced with rapid and concrete results achieved through operational excellence, doing more with less. Strategy deployment process is the glue that keeps the transformation on track and sustainable. Many companies in India short-change this process and get fascinated by tools and techniques. The predictable outcome is that, the improvements are scattered and die a natural death. What is needed is a holistic and strategic transformation that creates results and excitement.
The manufacturing of the future needs to be decentralised and run autonomously. How realistic is this scenario?
Manufacturing should be responsive and reliable. Responsiveness to meet customer expectations for highly customised products will lead to close proximity to your customers. Delivery and service will only be possible if the work force is skilled and the use of poka-yoke improves ergonomics as well as quality of outcomes. This is very realistic and has been achieved by hundreds of organisations around the globe, including India.
How strong is India in the adaptation of key technologies such as Industry 4.0/IIoT? How prepared, do you think, is Indian manufacturing for this?
My experience is that people in India are very bright and smart at all levels, so the adoption of technologies will not be an issue as long as we have bold and visionary leaders at the top of the triangle. In my humble opinion, based on my limited work with Indian companies, what Indian manufacturing needs is respect for the human capital and investment in re-training the employees at all levels. I find that many manufacturing companies resort to too many temporary employees through agencies with a large turnover and little loyalty on both sides. In truth, I strongly believe that the human resource is the only appreciating asset an organisation has. Without skilled, passionate and excited people, you cannot
deliver value to your customers or earn customer loyalty and advocacy.
Do you think Industry 4.0 will bring more, but different jobs to the industry or will it result in a large loss of employment?
If Industry 4.0 is done right with a long term vision, responsiveness & reliability for customers and proper investment in human capital, then the organisation will grow faster while doing more with less. Over the past 25 years, I have seen that companies that have done it right, maintain the same or higher level of employment, while doubling their top line every 4 to 6 years. Obviously, with the introduction of new technology, the job skills are going to be different but enriched. People’s jobs will change from boring and mundane to interesting and engaging. That is why these organisations will have to be prepared to invest in retraining. My experience is that only a small minority will not be able to make the transition to new skills.
What is your framework for sustainable Industry 4.0 business models in order to gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace?
That would involve a business that is devoted and passionate about creating a ‘wow’ factor for its customers and provide them unparalleled responsiveness, reliability and value. It also includes treating its employees as the only appreciating asset that will have a sustainable competitive advantage and will win in India or the rest of the world.