ON THE FAST TRACK
Manufacturing Today|May 2021
FACED WITH OPERATIONAL DISRUPTIONS DUE TO THE COVID-19, MANUFACTURING FIRMS ARE PUSHED TO ADOPT DIGITAL INTEGRATION RATHER SWIFTLY THAN THEY HAD INTENDED
SYED AMEEN KADER

AS THEY LOOK TO ENSURE SMOOTH FUNCTIONING of their operations while migrating many of their processes from manual to automation and enabling employees to work remotely, the key is to carefully draw digital roadmaps and strategies that not only address the current challenges at hand but also better prepare them for any future eventualities.

“While different firms face differing challenges and hence their responses vary, but we continue to see a fast-tracking of automation and digital integration,” said Sameer Gandhi, MD, OMRON Automation, India.

He said manufacturing firms want to reduce the risks wherever possible to try and be better prepared for the varied disruptions that they continue to face. While some disruptions are difficult to overcome by digital transformation (such as chip shortage), but, Gandhi says, there are still many that can be overcome.

For example, he says, the second COVID wave has once again brought a sharp realisation that labour and market disruptions can occur anytime and hence manufacturing operations must remain flexible and this is spurring an increased investment in automation.

Arvind Kakru, Country Head End User & EPC Business, Rockwell Automation India, says the COVID-19 has given a new dimension to the global supply chain, toppling the long-established business models of corporations and governments across the globe that took decades to develop.

He insists businesses focus on reinventing their models, be more agile and digital and use remote technologies more rigorously. “That will bring in a new focus on cyber security as well and those investments need to be tied out too,” he said.

Digital integration and automation are critical in a crisis, acknowledge experts at Continental Automotive India, pointing out that COVID-19 has had an intense impact on the automotive industry globally.

With disruption in imports and exports of automotive parts, it posed a huge challenge in meeting supply chain demands.

According to Continental Automotive India’s Bangalore plant head Phanindra Karody, the major challenges were in operations - both production and supply chain. “But we quickly reacted to the situation and took the necessary steps following the government protocols for safe production. Our Industry 4.0 practices and lean processes have helped us in keeping our machinery running with limited resources.”

Citing a McKinsey survey published earlier this year, he said 56 per cent of respondents that hadn’t implemented Industry 4.0 before COVID-19 found themselves constrained in their ability to respond to the pandemic. “Industry 4.0 technologies are no longer being measured for their ability to add value during the usual business; instead, they are also expected to prove valuable during difficult times such as the pandemic crisis,” added Karody.

Industry players acknowledge that the COVID-19 crisis was a wake-up call for all the manufacturing companies that were yet to embark on the Industry 4.0 journey, and, for companies that already started the Industry 4.0 transformation, it was about scaling up.

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