What are the manufacturing capacities of JAL at present like? How would you say the company has evolved over the years? How much of a key role does digitalisation/IoT have in it?
JAL had a ₹30 billion ($435 mn) turnover and a production of above 1.25 lac tonne in the FY 2019-20. At present, we are amongst the leaders in aluminium extrusion and aluminium flat-rolled products in India. As far as digitalisation is concerned, the company has been unceasingly augmenting its manufacturing facilities and is open to new prospects. Metal manufacturers are paying close attention to the process of smart manufacturing presented by the Internet of Things (IoT). A revolution has been stirring by modifying metal forming processes from analogue to digital by making use of servo press systems and IT technologies for refining the worth of the mass production manufacturing techniques. These innovations to smart metal forming by utilising servo press and IoT plays a key role in the aluminium manufacturing and improves formability and product accuracy. Furthermore, ingenuities such as process visualisation by making use of die-embedded sensors and data management with IoT are also being reviewed for prospection to the smart manufacturing system. These digital tools are all set to transform the way buying and selling of the metal take place.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed the shop floor situation in your organisation?
The ongoing global pandemic has impacted every segment of the industry. With almost all the segments having fallen prey to the uncertain impacts of COVID-19, the Indian aluminium sector is responding to the ongoing crisis by bracing itself for the impacts. In order to withstand the company’s operations, we have started our plants with limited capacity and are trying to abide by whatever orders are coming our way. We have also abridged the production to match lower demand. The optimistic and favourable steps taken by the government by deregulating various areas of the economy are all set to improve the ease of doing business. These positive measures will surely become a catalyst for turning this crisis into a tremendous opportunity for the overall aluminium industry.
The present lockdown has certainly brought in a set of losses for manufacturing industries. What plan of action does JAL plan on implementing to have a quick revival?
The overall aluminium demand has sharply condensed as compared to the normal conditions, and many of our customers have curtailed/stopped their production, too. JAL has been focused on safeguarding people, society and resources at large. The fiscal impact of the lockdown is inevitable, but the same can be recovered once the business and industry come out of this temporary phase. Taking into consideration the fact that downstream production has been comparatively in line with the demand, we have looked at making ourselves more economical by condensing our processing costs and bringing-in competencies in manufacturing at a lower scale. We believe, that in every crisis there certainly is an opportunity. We are anticipating the government to take steps for increasing aluminium consumption in the country, so that downstream aluminium manufacturers can grow and thereby, boost the aluminium industry in India.
What is the ‘new normal’ that JAL plans on adopting once lockdown opens fully? How do you plan on keeping employee health on priority?
The health and safety of employees have always been a paramount priority for the company. Even amidst such global distress, JAL has been striving hard to stabilise the accountabilities with appropriate safety measures to safeguard health of our employees and the well-being of the society at large. With the implementation of Unlock 1.0, the SOPs are laid down based on local and central government guidelines, which have been a dependable framework for us. Along with ramping up stringent hygiene and laying safety standards that follow global guidelines, we are conducting thermal temperature check at all entry and exit locations, routinely sanitising surface areas, abiding by social distancing norms, distributed face mask & gloves among our employees and have placed hand sanitisers at various points. Additionally, we have also tied-up with a local hospital to report any symptomatic situation, thus averting the transmission of infection.
The PM has now asked to make the ‘Make in India’ movement aggressive in the country as it can bring in massive opportunities. In what ways does JAL plan on contributing to this movement?
In order to create massive opportunities from the ‘Make in India’ campaign, it is necessary to create an environment for domestic manufacturing; we must guarantee that Indian innovation is attracting global investment. It is important to ensure that our local talent does not migrate overseas but is headhunted at home and our valuable natural resources are value-added at home. If we tweak our strategies to get this right, the ‘Make in India’ lion can certainly be the king. Right from the inception, JAL has been vocal about its inclination towards making use of local produce. The majority of our supplies are sourced nationwide and we engage mostly with the local suppliers. Further, to encourage local manufacturers, there is a massive scope for aluminium usage in packaging and transport that can be produced by the downstream aluminium sector. There is a tremendous potential in serving the prerequisites of the upcoming defence manufacturers by domestic aluminium extrusions and rolled product manufacturers.
You have been quite vocal about your commitment to provide clean energy to the society. In what ways does JAL practise sustainable manufacturing?
JAL is committed to the efficient management of all the wastewater that is generated at the facility. Through wideranging R&D activities, the company has identified various wastes that could be recycled as productive inputs. Wastewater generated in our entire campus is channelled to the sewage treatment plant which is installed in the campus for further treatment. The company has adapted the ‘three R’ strategy – reduce, recycle and reuse – to showcase our commitment to promote sustainability in manufacturing processes.
JAL has also invested in renewable energy with an underlying mission of sustainability. How do you think every manufacturing set-up in India can contribute to a greener and sustainable future?
The global pandemic has imparted us with a next step lesson that is to shift from sustainability to self-sustainability. Contributing towards a sustainable future is a collective responsibility, and for businesses to work in that direction, it is vital to restore all the natural resources that are harnessed from nature. It is the ‘sustainability’ in manufacturing practices that will allow minimal usage of natural resources and thus, will facilitate in entailing condensed pollution levels and measured emissions as they progress. Realising this, JAL has invested in renewable energy and has a capacity to generate 55 MW of wind power and 10 MW of solar power, which is more than our power requirements. Excess power is transmitted to the grid for use by the government.