How do you see the role of technology changing over the years, when it comes to growth strategies in the manufacturing sector?
The future will see a greater proliferation of automation, including greater adoption of Artificial Intelligence and robotics, which will lead to advanced human interfaces. Technologies will keep pushing consumer aspirations and features, while the spread of automation will enhance productivity and guarantee quality (consistency). As evolution unfolds, one will see a convergence of technological advances and enhanced automation with the powerful potential of the Internet. With innovations such as the 3D printers and drone-based applications, we will see renewed purpose and excitement among consumers. The Teslas, the Googles and the Amazons have pushed expectations into a whole new frontier! The future looks very promising.
What do you think about the growth strategies in the Indian manufacturing industry (big & SMEs) in terms of adapting to advanced technologies?
Indian companies will adapt to technologies that will enhance customer experience and reduce possibility of errors. This could still be restricted to visionary thinkers who have the financial muscle to patiently wait for the break-even. SMEs will wait and watch; depending on their financial muscle, they could either totally adopt the technology or look for stripped-down versions, which can do the task at hand albeit at a lower cost. This is where the multitude of Indian institutes (IITs, NITs, and IISCs) could play a role. There should be greater interaction between academia and industry. Reverse engineering on the higher end may just find its way to India. While SMEs would look to adopt tech, the compulsions of India would drive them to use cheaper labour, which of course, will need upskilling.
How automation can help India become a global manufacturing hub on the basis of SWOT analysis?
Automation will definitely help India in productivity, quality consistency and also push it a few levels up the technology ladder, besides making the workplace safer. However, whether or not it would make India a global manufacturing hub depends on a host of other factors, such as favourable government policies, global sized investment tickets, and a more favourable perception of Indian manufacturing.
Should India indeed become a global manufacturing hub, based on outsourcing of semi-skilled jobs to a “low cost” manufacturing economy, it would incentivise and support a devalued Indian rupee. This could eventually create macroeconomic challenges; hence, the government has to be clear and vocal about its long-term vision and expectations from the manufacturing fraternity.
Strength: India has access to skilled manpower that can use and operate sophisticated shopfloor automation products and solutions. Adoption of automation will catapult Indian manufacturing to the next level as more and more global companies adopt the Industry 4.0 framework. India has well developed manufacturing facilities in all sectors across the cross section of industries. Cost of technology is dropping significantly and therefore adoption is far more easy and convenient. Many of the automation products are now manufactured and developed in India including sensors, systems, PLCs, etc.
Weakness: Adoption of automation means disruption in process and potential changes in employment conditions of workers. While large and some medium sized enterprises have the necessary training and skills to both invest and deploy automation solutions, many find automation products very expensive and are often times unable to justify investments. For small scale enterprises there is a lack of understanding of automation products and hence there is poor implementation. A vast majority of manufacturing in India still remains in the hands of small enterprises. They operate with limited resources and limited access to capital.
Threats: Automation has two levels of impact. It will certainly result in performance improvements across the manufacturing enterprise. At the same time, it will also most likely displace certain positions that will no longer be needed with automation. This fear of losing jobs has often times made it difficult for manufacturers to implement automation solutions.
Opportunities: Automation will make India ready for the next century. It will give India the competitive advantage and make it a bigger and stronger player in the global arena. Automation will allow India to operate in the ecosystem which is rapidly moving towards automation triggered by the fourth revolution of industrialisation.
What do you think would be the future of manufacturing and product development?
IoT, Artificial Intelligence and more and more integration of everything that is to be interconnected, could very well define the future mantra. As in the past, we expect core innovation and related early manufacturing (of new products and technologies) to happen in the parent companies (and countries). However, over a period of time, with increasing volumes and to maintain focus on continual innovation, older products could be systematically outsourced to other global regions, which could be closer to mass markets and deliver the cost advantage.
What are your views on the implications of Digital Transformation in India vs other emerging markets?
Digital Transformation in India is a must, simply because it will reduce the complexity and variance in transactions that are performed in an economy as huge and vast as India. To quote a parallel example, the world’s cheapest car was designed to be manufactured in one of the world’s state-of-the-art plants in India, simply because the volumes were expected to be so large that there was a need to “automate” the process of car manufacturing, to make them not only fast, but also consistent in quality. There was no room for car-to-car variation on any count. Digital Transformation (DT) of India is akin to “automation” of all the mass transaction processes (and this includes manufacturing as well).
India will require a huge infusion of funds and technology to be able to pull this off. A savvy Central Government committed to DT will need to be complimented by equally savvy State Governments and administrators; otherwise the usual, very developed yet-underdeveloped scenario will continue in India.