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PHARMACEUTICAL AUTOMATION We should focus on capability building for now

Nov 5, 2019

…mentions Prem Prakash Dubey, Head - Engineering and Projects, GlaxoSmithKline, in his interview with A&D India. Dubey in this conversation, voices his opinion on the adoption level of digitalisation, need for a digitalisation supporting infrastructure, supply chain & security concerns, government support in adopting digitalisation and more. Excerpts…

What do you think are the technology adoption levels for digitalisation in the Indian industry? How ready are Indian factories to adopt advanced technology concepts such as Industry 4.0, IIoT, etc?

The technology adoption levels for digitalisation in the Indian industry, with respect to the food and pharma sectors, is still low. The penetration is relatively more in the areas, distribution, logistics, planning, customer insights and management, sales, etc. However, when it comes to manufacturing facilities, it’s still in the very early stage. The industry, in general, is more than eager to get to IIoT and 4.0. However, the capability to build and support systems for the same is in a pretty nascent stage, as of now.

In an attempt to take a leap to digital transformation, a supporting infrastructure has always been a major concern. What are the short-term and long-term challenges in this area and how to address them?

Yes, the need of a supporting infrastructure is a real concern. Further, to make the situation a bit more complicated, the end users are also not very clear on what is the exact requirement (scope definition). The system engineers and integrators are working hard to manage the associated cost (over-engineered proposals for the need of clarity of scope and thus, associated high cost) and resultant benefits. I feel that huge customisation requirements for providing bolt on technology solutions for Industry 4.0 is proving to be a barrier here. Our approach should modular and focused on low hanging stuff first. Once the eco system is seeded with 4.0 enabled technology, this will create a pull for more and we could then put our energy on re-engineering the rest.

How to take care of supply chain and security concerns while simultaneously keeping in mind the knowledge enhancement & skill upgradation, in the digital transformation journey? Can you share examples from your organisation in these areas?

IIoT/Industry 4.0 is intrusive by nature. Entrusting volumes of data in the hands of someone external won’t be so easy for organisations. The solution lies in creating secured networks that can be trusted and is transparent at the same time. It’s not a matter of choice anymore for individuals and organisations to remain cut-off from IIoT and still thrive. We just need to shed inhibitions and take the plunge. So, where there is a will, there is a way. As for our works in these areas, we may end up creating a hybrid concept of connected enterprises with systems like block chain, enabling cyber security.

What are the factors that will drive the ROI and business outcomes with digital transformation? Any recommendations on dos and don’ts in this area?

ROI is critical for the spread of digital transformation. The two Cs that are absolutely critical are ‘cost’ and ‘capability’. We should, for now, focus on capability building; the cost will come down on its own. Re-skilling of internal resources from within the organisation is the key to the success and internalisation of the digital transformation journey; I see a gap there. Also, the curricula of institutions in the field of “capability building” needs to evolve. One thing that I see in very positive light is the support provided by the government in promoting the technology driven start-ups. Start-ups would be key to the digital transformation of the industry. Also, one should not rush through the process and apply short-cuts to achieve faster digitalisation of the internal system.

As an end user, what are the factors that you consider while approaching a solution provider for implementing digitalisation technologies? What are your expectations?

First and foremost is the reliability. Once we introduce change, it should be seamless (least disruptive to the user). Just to reiterate that data security is nonnegotiable. We look for the capability of the solution providers from various angles and ensure that they have continuity and a strong reference from the peer industry group.

What would be the next step in this direction for drawing up a roadmap by defining simple building blocks or a path forward for the success of digital transformation?

For me, it’s all about reliability and we planned to go step by step. As we are progressing on the journey, the capability building is critical. In my organisation, we work on short-term goals with a long-term vision and ensure not to pull too many stings at a time. New initiatives are piloted and implemented to provide a good user experience. Our mantra is to be ‘fit for purpose and future ready’.

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  • Prem Prakash Dubey is the Head of Engineering and Projects at GlaxoSmithKline. He has more than 25 years of experience in the field of project management, operations & maintenance in verticals of food & beverages, tires & tubes, rubber coated and metal rollers, and has executed green field & brown field projects of different sizes and nature. A postgraduation in management, Dubey has keen interest in building
    and upgrading existing plants for the future and is working on building blocks for smart manufacturing systems in FMCG sector.

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