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WOMEN IN MANUFACTURING INDUSTRY Women climbing up the manufacturing workforce

Nov 29, 2022

In recent decades, a growing number of women in India have broken away from their traditional role as homemakers to join the workforce. Women have started seeking opportunities in the manufacturing industry, therefore creating a culture where women can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with their male counterparts who contribute to the growth of the company. Team EM peeks into the women workforce at Star Engineers in Chakan, Pune, in the article below. - Neha Basudkar Ghate, Assistant Editor, neha.basudkar@pi-india.in; Sanjay Jadhav, Sub Editor, sanjay.jadhav@pi-india.in

There was a time when we could only imagine men working on a factory floor. From building machineries to working in harsh assembly lines of shop floors, men had been ideal candidates to perform such operations. Thanks to the gender diversity drive in India today, we see more shop floors hosting women than before. Today, more and more manufacturing units across India are encouraging women to work on the shop floor and play an active role in manufacturing operations, thus creating a platform where women can perform at par with their male counterparts.

According to a survey by Avtar and GE, women account for 12% of India’s industrial workforce. However, things are changing now, and women are making their way to the shop floors of automobile, electronics, and mining companies. Their eye for detail, drive to bring about change, precision, dexterity, work ethic, loyalty, and lower attrition rates make them an attractive talent pool for companies, both large and small.

Diverse workforce makes the difference

Factory floors have traditionally required workers to operate heavy machinery, which requires physical strength. With time, the rapid use of automation practises has led to factories becoming more mechanised while using robots, hoists, and lifts to do heavy lifting is allowing companies to hire a more diverse workforce.

With the right training and relevant skillset, women are now inspiring a sizeable number of other women, who are jumping on the bandwagon and adding to the numbers as they are creating an impact in the right direction. With the required focus and good grasping skills, these women bring an added value to the floor, which is reflected in their work. It’s also equally important to create a safe working environment where their unique strengths can thrive. As a result, proper and equitable pay, health benefits, and flexibility are critical. Offering growth irrespective of gender and upskilling opportunities is surely inspiring more women to join the manufacturing workforce. More women workforce representation, participation, and involvement are what the manufacturing industry needs to innovate and improve production capabilities and quality. Besides delivering a strong work ethic and long-term company loyalty, an all-women production floor offers another distinct advantage — superior manual dexterity necessary for high-precision electronics assembly.

Welcoming women on shop floors

Giving an equal opportunity to women and appreciating their talent on the shop floor, Star Engineers heartily welcomes women. The Chakan-based MSME engages in designing, developing, manufacturing, and supplying a wide range of automotive electronics components to the global OEMs in the two and three-wheeler segments. Their product line ranges from ignition controls, sensors, regulators and recitifiers, flashers, chargers, converters, and electronic throttles for ICE and EV segments, among others. A walk on the shop floor at the Star Engineers’ factory is a visual treat of women heavily engaged with manual insertion, wave soldering machines, in-circuit testing, harness soldering, decapitation through casting, screw assembly, automatic optical inspection, testing, and potting.

According to the team, women are focused on their job at hand. While some women have been working in the factories for years, they have progressed and climbed up the ranks, moving on to bigger roles; new joinees are also equally engaged and involved in heavy-duty operations on the floor. With constant support from families and the management, these women are now dreaming big as they have earned a respected position, be it in their personal lives or professional lives. They also intend to continue working in the same field as they learn more and recommend suggestions that are implemented on the floor after necessary approvals.

Providing equal opportunities

According to Gangotri Upadhyay, a skilled operator who has worked with the company for over seven years, “Working in the manual insertion section and being a responsible part of Star Engineers gives me the pride of being a part of an amazing journey with a company that provides equal opportunities and support in every way.”

“My determination and the conducive work environment at the Chakan plant have helped me at a great level. It has been seven years in this company, and I am fortunate enough to have been given opportunities and exposure that have helped me grow both personally and professionally.” Training is a major boost to the women’s workforce in any orgnaisation. Speaking on the same, Upadhyay added, “In my initial days, I got the required training from the company, and after that, I started working in the manual insertion department. In manual insertion, products that cannot be picked and placed by machines are inserted and placed manually onto the product. This job is quite easy and does not require any extra effort, however, proper concentration and hard work are certainly required.”

Today, women have gained expertise in every aspect of factory floor operations. Sharing insights on the factory workforce, Prashant Yeole, Deputy Manager and Production Incharge, said, “There are around 450 associates on the shop floor, out of which more than 130 women are stationed on the shop floor. Some are placed in the testing and potting section, and some are placed in the manual insertion, soldering and testing, automatic optical testing, panel inspections, and incircuit testing departments.”

Speaking on the women’s expertise on the shop floor, Yeole added, “These women get promoted to different departments, and they are smart in solving any kind of given problem as they are well trained as well as have the apt focus to solve complexities. Rather than addressing the issue with the machinery and workflow, they come up with solutions, that reflect their strong will and sharp mind to work and understand the machines.”

Representing women on shop floors

While interacting with Vaishali Gole, Group Leader, shared, “I have 12 years of experience with Star Engineers. My education is in ITI, and my first job with this company was in the in-circuit testing department for six years, after which I moved into other divisions. Now, after a vast in-house experience, I am the group leader. I have been working with every segment on the shop floor, and so I have hands-on experience, knowledge, and expertise of all the machinery and products.” Being a proud employee, Gole stated, “Along with the technical expertise, I represent every woman on the shop floor. I look after every personal or professional issue and solve it as soon as possible. I must say that the company supports all women equally and allows them to rise higher in professional terms.”

Swati Kambale, who has been with the company for eight years, shared her motivational journey.”I have completed B Com and after I joined this company, I worked in manual insertion, in-circuit testing, soldering, and the testing and potting department. With every year passing by, I have been learning something new and promoting my skills, knowledge, and expertise at the outset of the company.” Kambale also mentioned that she is a married woman and that her family equally supports her job. “They do not feel that it is unusual. Rather, they are proud of what I am doing. People around me, friends and other women, also feel motivated by me.”

Creating an equilibrium at shop floors

Not only manufacturing enterprises but the government is also playing a crucial role by encouraging OEMs to enrol more women on the shop floor, which steps up the women’s ratio on the shop floor. This not only ensures gender diversity but also Gender diversity on shop floorencourages women from all walks of life to work on shop floors.

Jyotsana Mohate, who has been working with Star Engineers for the last five years, supports such initiatives. “Without any second thoughts, I joined this company as I knew working with the machines and learning something out of the box would have helped me progress in my professional life. I work in the testing department, where we test the product after it comes from the manual insertion, soldering, and screwing departments. This job profile requires technical knowledge. Also, I feel safe while working with other men on the shop floor, as they are quite friendly and dedicated to their work profiles,” she concluded.

A visionary entrepreneur with his continuous diligent, and his strong technical academics, K Lal, Chairman, established Star Engineers in 1988. Following his legacy, Divya Ramraika, MD, with his excellent entrepreneurial skills, has set the bar for futuristic technology, QCD and customer satisfaction. “Backed by cerebral in-house R&D and global technology partners, Star creates cutting-edge technology products to suit the customer requirements. The products range from ignition controls, sensors, regulators and recitifiers, flashers, chargers, convertors, electronic throttles for the ICE and EV segments,” said Ramraika.

“Star is qualified for automotive standards certified for TS16949, and ISO14000. Star consciously follows practises like 5S, TPM, Kaizen, process control and training. We believe recruiting and retaining female talent in assembly, management, and leadership roles can reap big rewards. Empowering the female workforce with tools and training is helping us, as manufacturers to unleash full potential. We also have ensured a safe working environment where their unique strengths can thrive. We strongly believe that women workforce are generally more loyal, focused better at following complex instructions, multi-tasking, and their superior manual dexterity as a necessity for high-precision electronics assembly,” said Ramraika.

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    Gender diversity on shop floor

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