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?
Automation is mostly seen as an independent entity of the operations strategy. Mostly, it is bottoms up and has limited linkage to overall business objectives and tactics.
A better approach entails automation investments and capital expenditures to be aligned to the strategic priorities of the organisation. Businesses should see this as an imperative for making processes and systems more sustainable and hence, base line to attain short and long-term goals. Automation projects should be seen more as smart automation solutions by businesses addressing one or more challenges.
A better approach to automation investment begins with a strategic vision that drives a methodical approach to business improvement. What would be your recommendations?
Smart automation initiatives should aid business improvements. Hence, emphasis on ROI led approach, i.e. the 4 step methodology is key. These include, identifying the strategic priorities and business imperatives, conducting a need assessment wrt point 1 based on myriad factors, such as, competition, supplier capability, customer’s changing landscape, existing competencies and financial goals, identifying of smart automation initiatives and other improvements with RoI, implementing the identified initiatives with a strong management control and reporting system wrt performance management system.
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?
It is not difficult to align businesses and automation strategy. However, most organisations shy away from doing it meticulously, because of primary reasons. These include lack of clarity on the approach and how to be a part of it, inadequate performance measurement systems and the mindset that automation planning and a part of an annual one time budgeting activity.
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 automation solutions and advanced technologies available that address these areas?
Current automation solutions are getting rechristened as smart operations solutions. A recent survey that was conducted to ascertain the investments made by manufacturers, suggests connected shop floor and advance process control solutions to be the leading areas of interest, closely followed by robotics and low cost automation around ‘predictive quality’ and AR. However, there is also a certain degree of ambiguity in the customer’s mind around the ROI, payback and choosing the right partner for implementation.
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?
The partner-consumer ecosystem is still in early stages of maturity. With time, there will only be a handful of qualified partners to select. Selecting the partner is the most important step in the execution journey and the process should never be based on the value but on the quality of quotations. Partners for smart automation should really be partners and not suppliers. It’s advisable to partner with someone who is ready to co-invest, and comes with consulting acumen, technology capability, credentials, or at least understands the ROI led approach.