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AUTOMATION India preparing for automation

Sep 17, 2021

According to a recent research study conducted by Deloitte & commissioned by Autodesk Foundation – The Future of Work is Now: Is APAC Ready? – India ranks fifth in terms of the impact from automation and needs to be more prepared for it. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the use of automation worldwide and we all must be prepared for its next wave. So, how prepared is India? Does the Indian industry have what it takes to implement automation to the fullest and how can it do so? The Viewpoint finds out.

G Ganapathiraman, Country Manager, India, ARC Advisory Group - Training programmes are vital to enable the workforce to thrive in the era of automation

The business world, as we know, has turned topsy-turvy and we are grappling with the changes. The industry is besieged with challenges: ensuring security in a remote work model, data protection, maintaining customer relationships and ensuring agile supply chains. To surmount these challenges, the Indian industry must join the digital bandwagon in a phased manner and automate processes. There is hesitance to migrate from legacy systems and the traditional way of doing things. Unless there is effective change management that percolates across the organisation, India’s state of preparedness being low will continue. The management should be convinced about the ROI and the employees should be made aware about how automation improves productivity & efficiency.

Training programmes are vital to enable the workforce to thrive in the era of automation. Besides technical skills, employees need to develop soft skills, such as effective communication, teamwork & collaboration, adaptability and problem solving. Investing in such programmes should be a priority for all stakeholders – industry leaders, academia and the government. Companies can conduct programmes inhouse, ingraining a culture of continuous improvement.

Automation suppliers must also create awareness, educate and showcase successful implementations, justifying capital investments. External and internal support mechanisms are required. External support includes collaborating across geographies, ease of doing business and reliable supply chains. Internal support includes management approval, training etc.

Milind Padole, Managing Director, Affordable Robotic & Automation (ARAPL) - Automation doesn’t mean AI & IoT only. It must start with building indigenous machineries.

In the coming years, user expectations and behaviour will continuously change. Also, there will be a lot of demand variability. This will result in cost competitiveness and manufacturing excellence, which will drive the future businesses. Automation brings all these. The mechanism required will be to standardise the processes which can meet these criteria and the entire exercise can then be automated. Automation requires a lot of capital cost as most of the machines or the parts required for them are imported. To make automation really affordable, we have to start creating the ecosystem in India like motors, sensors, PLCs, computers, etc. Automation doesn’t mean AI and IoT only. It must start with building indigenous machineries and then make it smarter. If we keep importing the automation material, the pace will be slow because the capital required will be very high. Corporates must take on several research projects and fund fresh engineers to build it. Every corporation must spend CSR money on such initiatives. Most start-ups are focused on SaaS-based automation as it attracts good investors, and the valuation gets easier. We have such a vast English-speaking, highly educated population that we can supply manpower for the whole world in the field of automation. Skill sets, like PLC programming, simulation, computer programming, coding, robot teaching and cognitive training can be some of the soft skill sets our general English-speaking population can quickly learn to be employable in the world, with one foreign language specific to a country (like Japanese, French, German, Italian etc).

Niju Vijayan, Executive Director, Avanteum Advisors - Automation levels are relative in nature & should reflect the aspiration of the country

The current slow pace is attributed to the pandemic induced decline, where sufficient funds offtake is not taking place. The pandemic has no doubt accelerated the pace of automation, but the ebbing of this issue brings the industry back to its regular mode of operations. Moreover, the adverse impact of business loss forces organisations to conserve their resources. There is no silver bullet for the industry to start incorporating automation into their processes. This will happen only if there are incentives. Incentives include competitive environment, export opportunities, tax breaks for higher automation, tax breaks for higher skilled workforce, preferential treatment in government projects etc.

Besides, the digital era of automation calls for workforce that is skilled in the top technologies driving the world e.g. IoT, AI, AR/VR, drones, etc. The skills required are numerous – hardware design, components, software, middleware, system integration, services, regulatory etc. This will also call for specific domain related skills. Given the data intensive nature of future manufacturing, data scientists will be in great demand that can provide the required analytics.

Plus, automation levels are relative in nature and should reflect the size of economy and aspiration of the country. There are multiple reasons for India’s preparedness to be low. For example, the fact that India’s scale of manufacturing industry is not comparable to developed economies, and thus, the approach is to adopt must-have automation. Or that India is not one of the key supply chain sources for the world, which is threatened by emergence of alternative regions.

Sandeep Garg, Head - Manufacturing, Nexcharge - The workforce needs to learn skills that complement the high-end automation requirements

India’s preparedness for automation is low majorly because of the rigid belief of organisations that automation comes at a high cost. There is a need for greater flexibility and a balanced approach while adopting automation to keep the cost low. Organisations are now using this approach. They have teams that can design and develop processes in-house to bring automation at lower costs.

The operational issues caused by the unavailability of skilled manpower, high iteration rates, location constraints and variations caused by manual control are further accelerating the adoption of low-cost automation in the industry. To further help adoption, the stakeholders of the manufacturing industry are also raising awareness. This synergy between all stakeholders of the manufacturing industry, coupled with supporting government policies, will help us reap the benefit of economy of scale. To thrive in this era of automation, the workforce needs to learn skills that complement the high-end automation requirements. There is also a need to specialise in fields such as mechatronics, Artificial Intelligence, robotics and data analysis. To cater to the need, our schools and institutions should design modules, host workshops & offer internships and help students learn these new-age skills.

Senthil Kumar Venkatramanujulu, Head - Industrial Automation, Schneider Electric India - Adopting automation is a process and every company would have to chart its own strategy for it

India is still in the early stages of transitioning into Industry 4.0 and the response has been encouraging. While the unprecedented challenges paved the way for Indian enterprises to catalyse the integration of automation technologies across sectors, it is important to understand that automation is a new phenomenon and so, it is natural for industry players to set their foot cautiously.

Adopting automation is a process and every company would have to chart its own strategy for it. Some companies are enthusiastically embracing the digital revolution while others might still be figuring it out. According to KellyOCG's 2021 Workforce Agility Report, while 50% of executives say that their organisation is slow to adopt technologies like automation & AI, 49% feel that their company is adopting new talent management technologies. It is imperative to narrow down the gap in digital literacy so that every individual, irrespective of their socio-economic standing, can reap the benefits of the digital world. According to a McKinsey Report, technological skills are set to see huge growth in demand. While not everyone can acquire advanced digital skills, it is crucial for them to develop basic digital skills. The central government’s ‘Bharat Net Programme’ that envisions linking all villages through an optical fibre network is a step in the right direction. It would be easier to establish skill development centres in villages across the country. So, companies need to adopt a learning-led approach for achieving sustainable growth.

Ravikiran S Avvaru, IT Head – Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa, Apollo Tyres - Automation is a long-term investment

We need to understand that automation will create new opportunities if the right solution is created and implemented, based on the real pain points workers are facing. One of the fears we have is that automation brings down employment. In fact, automation creates opportunities for us and improves the efficiency & quality of the product and helps us avoid repeated activities. We need to keep in mind that automation is a long-term investment. We also need to focus on high Impact areas where we really need technology in medical services and cybercrime. The first thing our blue collard employees need to develop is computer literacy. And this will help them in acquiring the new skills which are required to ease their regular operations. We need to improve their leadership skills, too, which will help them resolve the conflicts in cross-functions. Many virtual platforms have come about which can simulate the many aspects of automation and India has good capabilities in creating these learning & development modules.

Image Gallery

  • G Ganapathiraman

    Country Manager, India

    ARC Advisory Group

  • Milind Padole

    Managing Director

    Affordable Robotic & Automation (ARAPL)

  • Niju Vijayan

    Executive Director

    Avanteum Advisors

  • Sandeep Garg

    Head - Manufacturing

    Nexcharge

  • Senthil Kumar Venkatramanujulu

    Head - Industrial Automation

    Schneider Electric India

  • Ravikiran S Avvaru

    IT Head – Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa

    Apollo Tyres

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