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MANUFACTURING PRODUCTIVITY Manufacturing productivity post COVID-19

Dec 2, 2020

While manufacturing organisations are continuously working towards keeping their workers safe, along with dealing with increased uncertainties and keeping productivity at its best possible, it’s pivotal that they prepare for a world once the virus leaves us. The pandemic gone will certainly be good news, but how does the manufacturing industry function for better productivity after that and does it go back to its old ways? With inputs from CEAT Halol, Aarti Industries, Godrej Applications, Mahindra Group, MG Motors, Balasore Alloys, Avtecs and Sandvik Materials Technology, the Viewpoint finds out what must be the Indian manufacturing industry’s first priority for productivity post-COVID, what must the industry do differently and where it will stand once it gets to that stage.

Industry 4.0 will gain momentum across the industries - Jayasankar Kuruppal, VP – Manufacturing, CEAT Halol

After COVID-19, the industry’s first priority must be improving automation across the value chain, taking digital initiatives to the next level and promoting work from home, especially for the support functions viz HR and finance. To enhance production after the coronavirus pandemic leaves us, manufacturers should also develop local suppliers for the raw materials and reduce complexity in manufacturing through standardisation.

As we come out of the crisis, Industry 4.0 will gain momentum across the industries and the main focus will be on reducing human dependency through digital solutions, cutting wastages across manufacturing and improving efficiency in manufacturing. While Indian manufacturing will be at a greater benefit with the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan initiative, India will also emerge as an alternative to China for manufacturing. Besides, organisations should also focus on environmental sustainability, social sustainability and economic sustainability, which should be a part of their vision.

The key is to listen to the voice of the customers - Kavishwar Kalambe, Sr General Manager - Operations, Aarti Industries

Virtual meets and use of IoT are the new normal. The new normal of working from home has been realised and productivity can be at its peak, even without utilisation of office resources. The only way to go ahead with this is with lean, Six Sigma and operational excellence. Industries must also look for backward/forward integrations for further diversification, apart from operational excellence. Post-COVID, the industry must focus on cash flow, customer base, quality of the product, geographical footprints and most importantly, what differentiation they can offer to customers from their competitors. It can be anything, such as low emission products, green products, biodegradable, easy to handle, enhancing customer service, a personal touch in the resolution of customer complaints and more. In fact, many industries have started coming green. The key is to listen to the voice of the customer.

Plus, the COVID situation has forced industries to learn and use digitisation/IoT. In the Indian context, Industry 4.0 will still take another decade to go on full scale but the big houses have already started working on it. Without a doubt, if the industry wants to flourish after COVID, it needs to adapt to some level of Industry 4.0.

Let’s just say, COVID-19 has been a sort of blessing in disguise. Having China lost its shine, the world has no alternative but to turn to India when it comes to reliability, quality, cost and eagerness to reach the customer. It is a great opportunity for all the sectors/segments of the industry. The current investment trend shows positive vibes for India, and the ‘Make in India’ & Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan initiatives by the Government of India have given confidence to the industry.

The pandemic has brought about an opportunity to take a hard look at our manufacturing capabilities - Mrugesh Gandhi, Manufacturing Head – Mohali, Godrej Appliances

Currently, the industry is slowly recovering from the impact of the pandemic and the short-term measures put in place to address the need for social distancing are helping recover productivity. But to sustain, this will require redesigning of factory shop floors. We need to learn from this experience and take all the measures necessary to avert such an impact due to a crisis in the future. Some of the long-term impacts of the pandemic which manufacturers will have to take into account are regular health check-ups for employees, multi-skilling of shop floor employees and sanitisation automation at factories for products, tools, machines & equipment.

What’s more, the need for a ‘work from home’ format, being connected remotely and also ensuring sustained output in this crisis have forced all organisations to quickly adopt digital technologies. With the recent ban on imports announced by the union government, local manufacturing is gaining momentum.

The pandemic has brought about an opportunity to take a hard look at our manufacturing capabilities and disrupt the existing processes. The industrial recovery from the pandemic is focused more on the economic aspects than the adoption of environment-friendly processes. Having said that, this can very well be viewed as an excellent opportunity to improve our green quotient through the use of digitisation to optimise resources, localisation of supply chains, use of automation to improve productivity, etc. The fear of the pandemic has brought upon the notion that it is a result of the inconsiderate exploitation of the environment by man. As companies gear up for the next phase of India as a manufacturing hub, we need to introspect and adopt methodologies to ensure that the scale-up is not at the cost of the environment & is sustainable in every respect.

The differentiators are the people - Vijay Kalra, Head – Mahindra Institute of Quality & Chairman - Central Safety Council, Mahindra Group

I don’t think anything major will change after COVID-19. The major change that is affecting the industry today and will affect it in the future is maybe the change of customer expectations and behaviour. So, the most critical thing would be to align with the current needs of customers. When we say that we are able to manage working from home, the people on the shop floor had to work, nevertheless, without direct supervision. This was possible because they are reasonably skilled. Hence, the skilling and empowerment of these people will become even more critical. Employees will value safety and security more than they did before. Therefore, as a society and an organisation, we have to be more concerned about not just employee safety but the financial security, medical security, etc as well. The differentiators, at the end of the day, are the people. Thus, it’s important to empower them and make them capable of making decisions.

The crisis has also made Industry 4.0 from a buzzword to something that needs to be looked at seriously. All the levers of Industry 4.0 and digitisation were there before the coronavirus hit us. Now, there is the realisation that using it is effective, helps and is more cost-effective. Plus, to make the recovery post-COVID a green one, there are two kinds of motivations – positive motivation and motivation by force. Both of these will become stronger and I see a good possibility where we will move in this direction faster than we did earlier.

As we emerge from the crisis, Indian manufacturing will be at an advantage because India has always given out a better position and COVID-19 has made us hungrier. Indians are going to play a major role around the world in technology-based transformations. I see a huge upside for India and we may not get another opportunity.

The industry must also address manpower availability issues - Vivek Gosain, General Manager – Manufacturing Engineering, MG Motors

The Indian manufacturing industry’s new normal will be to continue safe working practices for direct workforce, with deployment of relevant applicable SOPs, as a cautious approach. The industry’s priority for productivity post-COVID should be to adopt new trends, like deployment of industrial IoT, including sensing, data visualisation, remote collaboration tools and AI-based insights across their operations. Centralised data monitoring and insights across the whole manufacturing operation should become a standard component of running a manufacturing organisation. The industry must also address manpower availability issues, their skill development, automation of critical processes post-COVID and adopt scalable smart manufacturing. It must act responsibly and adopt green technology in energy, products & processes. The Government must play the role of an effective facilitator in this transformation with both stronger incentives on one hand and regulatory mechanisms on the other.

The good news is that the Index of Industrial output (IIP) growth turned positive for the first time in September this year, which is a good sign. I see this trend continuing and there are greater opportunities for MSMEs through government initiatives and expected foreign investments due to the geopolitical situation in the Asia region. Additionally, I feel the Indian industry is in a transition between Industry 3.0 & Industry 4.0, and is still adapting to automation. After COVID, Indian organisations would adopt Industry 4.0 as it would improve their financial and operational flexibility, facilitate cutting costs, thereby, giving them a competitive advantage. In the automotive industry, the Industry 4.0 and digitalisation revolution is already a work in progress, which is driven by the need to adapt to new technologies involved in the automotive industry. This is supplemented by the onset of new technologies, like ADAS features and autonomous vehicles, where strong reliance on digitalisation and IoT are basic needs.

Post-COVID, India will be shaping to become a future hub for manufacturing - Sureshbabu Chigurupalli, Unit Head, Balasore Alloys

The utmost priority of the industry post-COVID is to implement digital transformation. Work from home becomes the new normal for support functions which are not directly involved in the manufacturing process. Post-COVID, redesigning the supply chain, real-time strategic inventory reserves model, specialised skill training of the workforce and cross-skilling for effective utilisation of human capital need to be looked into. Plus, the manufacturing industry needs to accelerate the digitalisation drive. Agile and flexible manufacturing processes, with innovations while continually assessing the conditions, are the need of the hour.

Before COVID, companies were hesitant to implement digitalisation due to cultural dimensions, cost, new technologies and the workforce mindset. Post-COVID, however, operations are steadily shifting towards work process digitalisation, robotics, intelligent tools, remote & centralised control rooms and drones for reserves estimation. Moreover, post-COVID, India will be an attractive destination and be shaping to become a future hub for manufacturing, along with Vietnam and Mexico. The shift in focus from China globally will help Indian manufacturing to become a favorite destination. India is going to play a key part in the global supply chain realignment.

COVID-19 has also taught us lessons and shown us the importance of living in harmony with the earth. Industries are taking initiatives for low carbon and a more energy-efficient manufacturing process for sustainable growth. Renewable energy, waste management, wealth from waste are some of the new initiatives by them. Manufacturing industries have begun working towards green manufacturing amid concerns of an increase in pollution, depletion of natural resources and global warming. So, digital transformation, new technology and data-driven energy-efficient processes certainly ensure durable manufacturing.

If COVID leaves us, we should not relax the norms set during the pandemic - Sunil Humnabadkar, Director – Engine Business, PSA – Avtecs

The first priority post-COVID is to make the workplace safe for every person. This is possible by relaying the workplace by maintaining social distancing wherever possible. If not, the barrier between the workstation and people working in those stations can be provided. As we continue to be best cost, country automation may not be the solution for productivity. However low-cost automation should be considered wherever two people are needed at a less than six feet distance.

The support functions of a manufacturing industry can have two to three days of physical work a week and remaining work from home, which may become a norm to not have another crisis. If COVID leaves us, we should not relax the norms set during the pandemic and should take that as the new normal, so that we are not impacted by this type of a pandemic. To enhance production, we can have workshops designed in a way that humans do not come face-to-face for long hours of the shift and a virtual isolation is done for them to come in minimum contact. The manufacturing industry in totality will be benefited as we emerge from this crisis. This would be purely to de-risk the dependencies of manufacturing which is concentrated in certain countries. India has the knowledge and manpower advantage over many developing countries, which would be the key factor, combined with the government initiatives in the form of Atmanirbhar.

As for Industry 4.0, in my view, Industry 4.0 and this particular pandemic have no relevance, as these two issues are independent. The digitisation adoption will only eliminate the need of the people who are in the system generating a Management Information System (MIS). I personally see the world moving towards Industry 4.0 but with no link to any pandemic as such.

It would help to prepare an emergency response plan for a pandemic - Nitin Chaudhari, Executive Vice President - Product Unit Mehsana, Sandvik Materials Technology

Social distancing, sanitising hands, sanitising the workplace, wearing masks and performing tasks are the new normal. Two-way communication is one of the most important priorities. The industry should continue good practices, like maintaining personal hygiene. It would also help to prepare an emergency response plan for a pandemic. While manufacturers can quickly react to the situation, I expect that now governments will be better prepared to deal with such a situation in the future. The industry should also review its power source and make a conscious attempt to switch to renewable energy, at least partly. We should challenge the way we have been using resources, like water, fossil fuels, etc. We must encourage, drive change towards recycling and reducing consumption. Overall, we must aim to develop a sustainable and circular economy.

The Indian industry will certainly gain post-COVID. India itself is a major market and is likely to see robust growth. The world is looking for an alternative to China and India can benefit from it if we are prepared & can show that we have the ability to be an option. Positive policies by the government will also play a big role in this.

When it comes to Industry 4.0, adopting it fiercely post-COVID may differ from industry to industry post-COVID. For the Indian industry, using manpower will still be an economical way in the short to mid-term. I don’t feel that the industry will move to complete automation led by digitisation in India in the short-term. However, Industry 4.0 can and will play a major role in helping improve reliability and quality. When applied selectively, it can offer cost savings, thus making the industry cost-competitive. I see more focus on evolving hybrid solutions improving efficiency and quality but keeping the man in the picture.

Image Gallery

  • Jayasankar Kuruppal

    VP – Manufacturing


    CEAT Halol

  • Kavishwar Kalambe

    Sr General Manager - Operations

    Aarti Industries

  • Mrugesh Gandhi

    Manufacturing Head – Mohali

    Godrej Appliances

  • Vijay Kalra

    Head – Mahindra Institute of Quality & Chairman - Central Safety Council

    Mahindra Group

  • Vivek Gosain

    General Manager – Manufacturing Engineering

    MG Motors

  • Sureshbabu Chigurupalli

    Unit Head

    Balasore Alloys

  • Sunil Humnabadkar

    Director – Engine Business

    PSA – Avtecs

  • Nitin Chaudhari

    Executive Vice President - Product Unit Mehsana

    Sandvik Materials Technology

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