Publication : Manufacturing Today

By: Deepak Pahwa, Managing Director, Bry-Air | Manufacturing Today | Monday, 18 May 2020

COVID-19 has shaken the whole world. There is no country, economy or industry that is not affected Describing this adversity, Deepak Pahwa, Chairman & Managing Director, Bry-Air says, “The world economy is in shambles and will take some time to recover. According to reports, China’s GDP that is approx. 19.7% of total global GDP, will decelerate by 1–1.25 percentage points over 2020 because. Which means the estimated loss, the global GDP will suffer will be somewhere between 0.5– percentage point. Here, the economy was already at a downturn, and thus, may take longer to recover.”

VDMA India had conducted a survey about a month back, which suggests that 91% of the companies anticipate an overall loss of revenue in 2020. Almost 34% of the respondents predict the loss of revenue would range between 20-30%. Having said this, essential services are still running and some of them are also experiencing higher demand. This is due to people being confined to their homes, which has led to increased consumption. On this backdrop, Michael Train, President, Emerson & Chairman, Emerson Automation Solutions “As the lockdown in India continues, successfully meeting challenges require the industries and people maintaining critical physical assets that are the backbone of daily life to have the ability, guidance and support they need to continue operating safely with utmost vigilance and care.

We have a responsibility to ensure everyone has access to the resources and essential services – like food, medicine, electricity and transportation – they need to safely live their lives and feed their families. India is an early mover in this case but, there are and will be many anticipated areas of intervention in the coming months. The people maintaining & manufacturing these resources have a vital role in providing the necessities of daily life – the essentials that create an environment to deliver safe care & that enable families in every part of the world to safely shelter in place while having their basic needs met. Countless behind-the-scenes workers sustain the industries that many may take for granted because they are always there. They are the people keeping our power plants safely operating to healthcare facilities and residential locations around the world that allow the continued supply of energy to fuel vehicles that take healthcare workers to hospitals and back home to their families every day.”

Repurposing factories

In order to fight the battle against COVID-19, many companies have chosen the path of producing much required medical equipment & other essentials. Ashok Leyland has announced a slew of initiatives like Ventilator Making. The company’s engineers have been working since end-March and have now readied a simple yet intelligent ventilator, at low cost but with all the essential features to aid First Mile ventilation including the necessary sensors and controllers for volume and pressure monitoring, and safeguards. The ventilator development is now complete. Testing, certification & clinical trials will conclude soon, with mass manufacturing starting in May 2020.

Similarly, a machine tool leader – Jyoti CNC Automation has also developed a ventilator indigenously. The team of more than 150 professionals from Jyoti CNC & other allied 26 companies have accomplished this mission of designing and developing the first prototype. The design was charted out and the critical components were produced at the manufacturing facilities at Jyoti and at some other end to fasten the process of preparing the prototype of this Ventilator which was later on named as Dhaman-1. The first prototype was tested and rested locally and finally was presented to THE EQDC (Electronics and Quality Dept. Center, Gandhinagar. By the grace of god everything went smooth and the device was successfully tested and certified by the EQDC.

Even JK Tyre & Industries followed the same path. Anil Makkar, Manufacturing Director, JK Tyre & Industries explains, “We have developed a prototype ventilator, which has been tested in Apollo Hospital, Mysore. The hospital made few suggestions & we have done the modifications that were required.”

Taking another route, TVS Motor Company has manufactured face shields. Speaking about it, the company’s spokesperson mentions, “Along with Sundaram Auto Components (SACL), we have undertaken a significant measure to contain the spread of COVID-19. The company has been producing comfortable & durable face shields for essential workers including police personnel, healthcare workers, and sanitation workers. These face shields are being produced within the company facility at Hosur. They are designed with fully transparent plastic sheet for clear vision, with the swiveling mechanism & retainer system as per the set guidelines. We have ensured that the face shields are produced with special attention given to social distancing of the employees and regular disinfection procedures for surfaces within workspace.” Alternatively, Maruti Suzuki JV Krishna Maruti has mass manufactured facemasks.

Extending their existing business, Centuary Mattresses diverted its attention towards mattresses for hospitals. Uttam Malani, Executive Director, Centuary Mattresses mentions, “Mattresses are critical items in fighting against COVID-19. So, we are currently focusing 100% on production of special grade hospital mattresses as there is a surge in demand from the hospitals. We have received number of orders from Governments of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh & Odisha for these hospital beds. Although every section of the society is impacted by the pandemic, especially medical professionals got even
more impacted as they are working tirelessly for extended hours with hectic schedules. Our intention is to provide them a comfortable sleep to enable them to continue taking care of the COVID-19 patients after a rejuvenating nap. Hence, we will be providing these mattresses to various hospitals as per the requirements. We have already supplied our PU Foam to one of the Head Gear for medical fraternity manufactured in Hyderabad.”

Customer Focus

In this difficult time, it is important to support customers in their endeavours. With this thought in mind, many companies have taken steps to educate and train employees and end users.

Through Service Mandi, a digital initiative, Ashok Leyland provides roadside breakdown assistance along with HPCL. With the task force & field executives of Ashok Leyland, contact the stranded drivers across the country through WhatsApp & phone to provide assistance. The company is also working along with Delhi Transport Corporation to keep their bus service running for essential service providing personnel informed, N.V. Balachandar, President – HR, Communication and CSR, Ashok Leyland and R Sivanesan, Senior Vice President, Quality, Sourcing and Supply Chain, Ashok Leyland.

Many other companies have offered extended warranty to their customers. To name a few, TVS Motor Company, Acer India, Toyota Kirloskar Motor, etc. have undertaken such initiative. TVS has also ensured

that customer service helplines like toll-free number, customer care email id & Road Side Assistance (RSA) continue to be accessible to all customers. Also, Free service, warranty, and AMC services in the duration of lockdown have been extended by the company.

Narrating Acer India’s other initiatives, Chandrahas Panigrahi, CMO and Consumer Business Head, Acer India mentions, “Through our e-store we have come up with an initiative called ‘Book Now and Pay Later’ option, which is feasible for both small business and individuals. We are also working with businesses to upgrade the technology infrastructure to meet their business continuity planning and mitigate any future impact of such pandemics.”

Adding a different perspective to the conversation, Varun Pahwa, President, DRI – Pahwa Group says, “We are conducting various virtual training programs for our customers. This is done through webinars. We are getting good responses to it as such educational programs are useful for them. Also, it helps us keeping on-going customer engagement.”

Agreeing to it, Gandhi says, “Along with continuously keeping them posted, the team is putting in efforts to strengthen connect with customers and channel partners so that they are able to work in a more mutually beneficial manner. This will help us to support them appropriately once the lockdown is over. For this we’re organising online training sessions and covering topics that include sharing information about maintenance as well as new products and solutions.”

Sanjay Joshi, Chief Manufacturing Officer, Nuvoco Vistas Corp says, “We are connecting with our customers via social media & sharing the Best Construction Practices. Nuvoco Knowledge Series, a programme through, which we are connecting with our stakeholders, entered its fourth week. Participants have an opportunity to interact live with experts and learn practical tips for building sturdier structures.”

Even associations are helping their members to stay updated. In this regard, V. Anbu, Director General, IMTMA says, “As an advisory service, IMTMA has prepared a general guideline, ‘protocol for resumption

of activities’ which may help members to work out a plan to suit their individual organisations. IMTMA also advised members to build an element of assurance, within the plan, of strict adherence to safety norms as required for prevention of the pandemic disease, specifically social distancing, screening & sanitisation.

Employee Initiative

Apart from the production for essential goods, most of the manufacturing had come to the halt. It is easier for office-staff to work from home but same policy can’t be implemented to the shopfloor workers & other factory staff. Then how did the companies utilize this time? Makkar replies, “My day had been far busier than older routine as I spoke to plant heads & other department heads on a daily basis. Additionally, we have created various learning modules, which were delivered through webinars.

Moreover, some of the employees chose to get themselves certified through outside agencies for specific subject matter like sustainability and green manufacturing, greenhouse gas emission check, etc.”

DRI – Pahwa Group as well carried interesting activities for their employees. Speaking about it, Varun Pahwa says, “We kept in touch with our staff on a daily basis. This was important to know their wellbeing as well as to keep them motivated. As a result, we worked out on daily tasks for them. This helped us keep them engaged.”

Sameer Gandhi, OMRON Automation, India says, “We are utilising this period to ensure a convenient and effective work-from-home for them. Also, we have developed a module of relevant virtual skills development programs focusing on technical as well as non-technical aspects. So far, the participation

has been enthusiastic, and this is surely going to help them strengthen their professional acumen to emerge stronger & better. We are also holding group chat & virtual ‘tea-sessions’ to keep them motivated as well as get adjusted to the near-term possibility of many people continuing to work from home.” Sanjay Joshi, Chief Manufacturing Officer, Nuvoco Vistas Corp speaks about the company’s initiatives. “This crisis has been a massive learning experience in more ways than one. To keep our team motivated & inspired, senior leaders are coaching young identified talent within the organisation through ‘Coaching Conversations’ sessions. For the first time ever, we will be connecting online with 200 leaders of the organisation for kick-starting our annual goal-setting process. This will also be our first ‘virtual’ Annual Business Conference; where managers across the country will connect with the senior leadership team from their homes to understand & cascade the FY21 priorities to their respective teams. E-Learning is also something that we are strongly pursuing.”

Deep Agarwal, Regional Sales Director – Indian Sub-Continent, Zebra Technologies Asia Pacific adds, “Despite the disruption, we continue to invest in our team members by conducting virtual trainings for them over web conferencing platforms to enhance their skillsets. Apart from work-related trainings, we have been conducting virtual wellness workshops through our company’s intranet to provide them with tips on how to stay healthy & productive during this period as they work remotely.”

Besides, training & skill development programs, some of the companies are also undertaking awareness programs. Elaborating on it, Mukesh Chawla, COO, Group Legrand India says, “There are separate training programs designed for workmen & housekeeping, highlighting aspects important to their role in day-to-day activities. Reinforcing the importance of social distancing, educating them about safe waste handling & disposal procedures of personal protection equipment are a few key areas. “

Adding yet another dimension, Panigrahi, says that the company’s approach is multifaceted. It includes:

  • Formation of Crisis Management Teams: Wehave created a committee to make policies and provide information to executives & front-line staff on topics like awareness, prevention, and hygiene. They also handle employee safety & other future developments; covering issues like protocols for remote working, daily safety check-in, etc.
  • Using Virtual Training: There has been a fast expansion of training opportunities within enterprises. We are making use of new platforms and providing courses to employees and extended staff
  • Remote working: Remote working has triggered a rapid spur in the adoption of technology. Many social distancing strategies have been deployed, hence the explosion of innovation around virtual meetings, video conferencing, etc.”

Post pandemic period

This is the most difficult part. Malani answers, “The post lockdown period will certainly bring optimism for the manufacturing industry. But, few things which should be kept in mind are spending the money

sensibly with judicious buying. The companies need to implement a proper credit management system, control the operational expenses, plan logistic management effectively & streamline the manpower management. They should also look at revising the stakeholder relationships with the realignment of thoughts, processes, business modules & credit terms.”

Agarwal expects, “The pandemic may have disrupted businesses and the lives of people around the world, but it has also presented an opportunity for us to learn how to better manage a similar situation in the future.” He further anticipates: (a) sectors like retail and healthcare will need to re-assess the

resilience of their supply chains to keep production running in order to enable fulfillment to their customers. (b) Business continuity plans have led to split-team work arrangements, which stresses out the workforce of essential businesses like supermarkets and daily essential stores, thereby prompting them to find ways to help their front-liners achieve greater productivity and efficiency at work.”

“For (a), we anticipate the demand for e-commerce to be even higher because people would have grown comfortable with ordering online. This means that fulfillment operations will have to leverage on technology to scale their abilities quickly to meet with this anticipated growth in demand. For (b), we expect businesses to recognise the importance of augmenting their front-line staff with the right technology to increase their efficiency & productivity to cope with the situation. By providing them with tools that have a relatively low learning curve, their front-line staff will be able to shorten the on-boarding time required and enable them to start using the devices effectively at work sooner,” he mentions.

Seconding the same, Anbu says, “We foresee demand picking up in healthcare industry, especially with companies from various industry sectors manufacturing ventilators, masks, 3D printing, face shields, personal protective equipment, etc. India is likely to increase its spend on infrastructure development over the next 5 years including development of rail & road networks, upgradation of medical colleges
& health institutions, which is likely to spur demand for construction equipment. All these are expected to be up & running once the lockdown ends. Firms from various sectors are accessing market intelligence to adapt & grow, and moving forward the new mantra will be 3 R’s: resolve, rebound & reimagine. In the long-term industry will also be proactively exploring opportunities in aerospace & other sunrise sectors. It is likely that industry in post-Covid world will become agile, dynamic & diverse in its offerings to cater to various sectors.”

Revealing the company’s approach, Chawla asserts, “Our approach would be to bank on automation, and to invest in cobots, etc. in areas of production which will help us achieve better productivity to meet the demand. The efforts will be towards meeting the demand through proper planning & prepare ourselves to meet a higher demand scenario in the future.”

Naveen Soni, Senior Vice President, Sales and Service, Toyota Kirloskar Motor sums up the situation by saying, “The lockdown and shutdown of the plant gave us time to rethink on our strategies. We are looking at three buckets – 1. What is to be stopped? This means those things that are not important. 2.

Change – People will need to change themselves in terms of up-skilling. We are also looking at re-skilling the people. 3. Continuity – means continuing whatever we have been doing.”

On a concluding note, Deepak Pahwa, says, “The Coronavirus outbreak is something like an earthquake with a shifting epicenters and never-ending aftershocks spreading across the globe. Having said that, as we stand today with a hope of resuming a semblance of manufacturing operations, we are preparing to face the new normal.”

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