2020 has proven to be a year full of surprises for the world, its economy, industries and businesses, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. The automotive industry in specific, throughout the globe and in India, has been worst hit due to the pandemic. With productions shut down for the longest period, the entire supply chain got disrupted. Moreover, with social distancing & workforce regulations on the shop floor, reviving the industry has become even more challenging.
To understand the implications of the pandemic, the nuances of revival, skill upgradation & development and use of new technologies, Publish Industry India, in association with Automotive Skills Development Council (ASDC) as Skill Development Partner, Flir Systems as event partner and EM magazine and A&D India magazine as media partners, organised the second edition of the International Automotive Manufacturing Summit (IAMS) 2020, virtually. The virtual event was a grand success with 13 esteemed speakers and 240+ attendees from the automobile and auto-components industry.
Present disruptions and future innovations
Discussing how 2020 will be deemed as the year for disruptions for everything, right from the way we live to the way we travel, the event commenced with a keynote speech by M M Singh, Director, Maruti Center of Excellence & Former COO, Maruti Suzuki India. Singh, who was also the Chairman for the IAMS 2020, speaking on the critical changes in the industry mentioned, “The most critical thing for industry would be to make sure everyone’s staff, workmen, etc feel safe. You have to think differently; the practices implemented for the past two to three decades have to change now and we have to innovate our whole way of working.” Next, Suresh Babu Muttana, Scientist D, Ministry of Science & Technology, Government of India, presented on ‘Electric vehicle development: Strengthen domestic manufacturing capabilities through PPP R&D Programs’. Differing from the usual cycle of COVID-19 talks, Babu’s presentation was futuristic, involving knowledge on electric vehicle ecosystems, government efforts and the new government program – Electric Vehicle R&D mission – that would be launched very soon. He noted, “This is the perfect time for OEMs to rearrange and realign their thought process and then continue to put efforts to develop electric vehicles & components.”
Following this, Co-chairman of IAMS 2020 & Managing Director, Hella India Lighting, Rama Shankar Pandey, shared insights on ‘Digital infrastructure and trust capital – A necessity & new dimension of irreversible change’. Speaking about the changing business models due to COVID-19 bringing in fear of the unknown and manufacturing post-COVID in India, he mentioned, “As long as our collective wisdom is faster than corona, we are fine.” Further, speaking on ‘COVID-19 impact: Isolated but not alone; unite to combat uncertainty & challenges’, Vineet Sahni, Group CEO, Lumax Group, mentioned, “We were doing low-cost process automation in the past but it will become of prime importance in the future, because the processes will have to be automated as the workforce and skilled labour will become a permanent constraint in the business.” Next, TP Singh, Sales Director, Flir Systems, spoke about ‘Increasing efficiency through innovative thermal imaging technology for automotive manufacturing’. He divulged into the basics of electromagnetic spectrum and spoke in depth on medium & long wave infrared. Speaking about thermal imaging helping in monitoring motors, he mentioned, “The beauty of this thermal imaging technology is, if something is getting heated up in a motor, one will be able to visualise and measure from a safe distance without touching it.”
Upskilling & well-being
Currently, India’s automotive sector is heavily dependent on imports from China. Owing to the present changes and the tiff with China, India is looking to be self-sufficient, which would require people with appropriate skills to fit the role. To explain the ‘Importance of reskilling for manufacturing excellence’, Nikunj Sanghi, Chairman, Automotive Skills Development Council (ASDC), was invited on to the platform. “If India wishes to be Aatmanirbhar and focus on Make in India, we need our workforce to be mechanically skilled as well as multi-skilled,” he emphasised. Subsequently, to focus on ‘COVID-19 and impact on mobility’, Kaushik Madhavan, Vice President, Mobility, Frost & Sullivan, took over. He explicated the impact of COVID-19 on the automobile industry, how we can recover and the growth opportunities. He accentuated, “Health, wellness and well-being is coming into vehicles. There is a lot of convergence of diverse industry in the automotive space which requires manufacturing to take a complete different dimension.”
Next, guest speaker Navid Talib, Plant Operations Head, Honda Cars India, discussed ‘Manufacturing excellence post lockdown – Restarting factories/shop floor’. He elaborated on the genesis of fear and how Honda is responding to the present situation. “We have taken ideas on social distancing from our employees to ensure they feel involved and accountable,” accentuated Talib. Following this, elaborating on ‘The new normal for the automotive industry’, Dr Wilfried Aulbur, Senior Managing Partner, Roland Berger, discussed the strategic implications of the corona crisis through scenarios and how government policies will impact trade and fiscal spending. He mentioned, “Economic angst and the worry about survival is not only an individual concern but also a concern for companies.”
Adapting volatility as the new normal
To understand the implications on achieving manufacturing excellence post-lockdown, the webinar hosted the final session, a panel discussion on ‘Manufacturing excellence with technology innovations post-lockdown’. Moderator Shekhar Jitkar, Chief Editor, Publish Industry India, set off the session with an industry reality-oriented introduction. That was followed by his first question to Sudhir Gurtoo, Managing Director, Leadec India, on the meaning of new normal for the automotive manufacturers and suppliers. Gurtoo mentioned, “The new normal is still away because the automotive industry has so many facets to it and the environment still is volatile.” Commenting on the question regarding significance of manufacturing excellence today and how it will change in the future, Arindam Lahiri, CEO, Automotive Skills Development Council (ASDC), stated “I think manufacturing excellence is critical. With social distancing being important, it will be important to instil automation within the plants to compensate for low-labour force.” Further, adding on to the same topic, Manish Manek, Chief Plant Officer, MG Motor India, emphasised, “COVID or no COVID, manufacturing excellence needs to grow. Its role might change, but the idea would be to build a collaborative strategy where manufacturing excellence can further support our efforts in accelerating towards next level of excellence.” Discussing the role of digitalisation going forward, Dr Pradeep Chatterjee, Head, Digital Transformation, Tata Motors, explained, “Technology can eliminate processes which involve human touch. E.g. robots or cobots, AR/VR, can help eliminate processes which require human presence.” Finally, offering his two cents on the attributes of a winning plant and immediate actionable strategies, Manek mentioned, “Skilling and reskilling would be the most important aspect. Also, we need to collaborate with tier 1 vendor partners & end-customers and be continuously engaged with our employees to be devoid of any speculations and to maintain a normal atmosphere.”
Intra-dependence & self-sufficient
The IAMS 2020 summit in its entirety established a platform where viewers and speakers learnt about disruptions and new changes that have and are about set into the manufacturing industry with relevant use cases. Though the industry might be slow in restarting, a full-blown technology intervention with equal regards for employee well-being and safety will certainly enable India to be self-sufficient and grow in the manufacturing sector eventually.