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Shailesh Sharma

Director of Manufacturing

SKF India

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KEY DRIVERS OF SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS The most effective change will be treating learning as a driver of business success

Jan 13, 2022

…says Shailesh Sharma, Director of Manufacturing, SKF India, in this interview with Juili Eklahare. SKF India provides industry leading automotive and industrial engineered solutions. Sharma talks about how the company’s focus has always been on ensuring the safety and well-being of its employees, how the most significant change in an organisation is treating ‘learning’ as a driver of business success and how the company is constantly focused on developing skills to meet the needs of the digital world. Excerpts…

What are the current digitalisation initiatives at SKF India? How has it altered the way you think about production?

We’re focused on using new data/IT capabilities, automating many steps and leveraging accurate data to drive decision-making and build new capabilities that will deliver even higher levels of production and efficiency. For example, we use Predictive Cockpit (condition monitoring) for maintenance, Additive Manufacturing for shop supplies, AI-enabled vision inspection system supporting M2M & E2M connectivity and a connected supply chain & full value chain to effectively manage & collaborate with supply chain partners. Within our manufacturing footprint, we are planning to utilise sensor technology, robotics and SCADA system along with the control system of machines being upgraded to the latest PLC with advanced features.

Your company is collaborating with leading machine builders and control system suppliers. How are these collaborations integrating your systems for next levels of automation?

Although SKF is already using IoT in its business processes, there are still countless opportunities to harness it. Currently, we are working towards getting the factories to be digitally automated. From an operations perspective, this means that if a machine shows performance issues, we not only fix that in the best way but also redirect production and replenishment automatically to ensure optimum capacity utilisation. Additionally, we are leveraging IIoT for developing products and services that deliver value for customers. For example, we’re developing multiple IIoT components, including sensors, sensing equipment and even connected bearings to aid in the capturing, processing and transmission of valuable data, so insights can be driven into the business.

How has your leadership role changed at SKF India through the coronavirus pandemic?

The good thing about 2021 is that unlike 2020, our manufacturing facilities were not completely shut down during this second wave and we continued supporting our customers by delivering products on time. The onset of the first wave of the pandemic just delayed the implementation and execution of strategies. However, our business models and strategies remain the same. Our focus has always been on ensuring the safety and well-being of employees and on implementing measures to reduce costs and increase flexibility. We dealt with the pandemic-induced challenge by becoming extremely agile. We started engaging more and more with our suppliers and scaled up our manufacturing capacities.

Of the many functions you have experience in, one is the automotive industry. What do you think are some of the immediate, medium-term challenges that the auto industry is facing?

The last one and a half years have been tough for all industries. Undoubtedly, the pandemic severely impacted the automobile sector. However, the sector has been experiencing prolonged negative growth for quite some time now. The current decline of the automotive industry can be attributed to various factors; rising fuel prices, slowing income growth and confusion around BS-VI emission norms are causing a general slowdown in consumer confidence. Also, in the last few years, the size of the organised pre-owned market has expanded significantly, impacting new vehicle demand. Currently, the semiconductor shortages are disrupting vehicle sales, and this may reverberate all through 2022.

You are a strong believer of self-learning. Do you think self-learning is something the industry needs to strongly think about to combat the challenges of COVID-19? How can that be done?

In the post-pandemic time, there will be drastic changes that the organisations have to make. The most significant and effective change will be treating learning as a driver of business success. As part of redesigning, the Learning & Development (L&D) fraternity must focus on identifying/upskilling three key capabilities, ie, data literacy, trade acumen and digital integration.'

We also need to rethink different methods of executing L&D initiatives, such as what will make most meaning for an individual and organisation to implement – will it be online modules, self-learning capsules, on-the-job learning, shadowing, coaching/mentoring, cross-functional assignments, etc? The good thing is that we have a much wider canvas to experiment with – since the pandemic has been an equaliser in many ways in terms of learning opportunities available for corporates.

You have subject matter expertise in automation. How do you think can Indian enterprises scale their digital transformation with observability and automation?

Automation, advanced data analytics & Machine Learning and the associated development of Industry 4.0 technologies are already creating new opportunities for industrial companies to improve productivity and efficiency. It allows them to exploit the potential from existing systems and increase capacity without significant capital investment. For example, industries can leverage automation to collect actionable, easy-to-use data to predict and manage the supply chain so that customers can have the right product at the right time. From an operations perspective, new technologies can ensure optimum capacity utilisation, machine availability, uptime or output.

Additionally, industries can scale their digitalisation efforts for developing product and services that deliver value for customers and help them reduce operating costs & increase profitability.

Many companies still have an apprehension about turning digital. How have you worked on building a culture of digitalisation at SKF India?

At SKF, we have been constantly focused on developing skills to meet the needs of the digital world. We work proactively with strategic workforce planning to ensure the competences needed for the future. By creating a data-driven culture and employing new resources, such as data scientists and visualisation developers, we’re focused on building new capabilities that will have the potential to deliver even higher levels of production and efficiency, while empowering employees to make faster, better-informed decisions.

As an example, we are developing the employees by enabling virtual, agile and continuous learning, with a high attention towards the capabilities of the future. On the shop floor, we have initiated Kushal 4.0 programme to provide training through IIoT labs. This will enable us to further upskill our employees and make them future-ready. Moving away from developing manual reports, we have adopted Power BI, which is a business intelligence and data visualisation tool for converting data from various data sources into interactive dashboards and analysis reports. It also enables the sales team to track their daily sales with a single click.

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  • Shailesh Sharma leads manufacturing and operational excellence at SKF India and provides oversight for robust performance of the manufacturing processes. With a Mechanical Engineering & MBA degree and over 27 years of experience in precision engineering industries, he provides strategic and tactical leadership for manufacturing operations at SKF.

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