India has emerged as one of the most sought-after manufacturing destinations across the world and has the potential to become a global manufacturing hub. Manufacturing will have to play a very important role if India has to realize its target of India to become a $5 trillion economy in next five years. The government has taken a series of measures to improve the Ease of Doing Business and to position India as a manufacturing hub. The industry too is gearing up to realize its full potential and even expanding capacity.

Industry competitiveness, resiliency and flexibility will be a must for India to emerge as a manufacturing hub, and the key to this will be building future-ready manufacturing enterprises. Manufacturing units that adopt the latest technologies and innovative tools to transform their operations will be in a better position to compete globally. Technology adoption has been one of the biggest positive outcomes of the Covid-19 pandemic. There has been a quantum jump in the adoption of digital solutions in every field in the last couple of years, and manufacturing is no different.

In an increasingly globalized world, and especially with the continuing uncertainties surrounding the pandemic, manufacturing enterprises need to realize that just having high-end machinery and equipment is not good enough to claim that they are digitized and ready for the future. Automation can only take them to a certain level, but to survive and thrive beyond that they need to have cyber-physical systems and adopt smart manufacturing solutions to further reduce costs and achieve greater efficiency. The future is about flexible manufacturing, where the output can be adjusted in no time as per demand and evolving market trends.

We are in a situation where there is a huge disparity in the technology adoption. Until recently, mostly large companies were deploying smart manufacturing solutions, whereas medium and smaller enterprises were largely giving them a miss. The reason being lack of awareness, accessibility and affordability of digital solutions. This disparity doesn’t just impact the SME sector, there is an equal effect on the large companies also as these companies work with each other in the ecosystem. Question is how we reduce this wide gap and make enterprises resilient to future disruptions.

In my opinion, the answer to this is 5As– Awareness, Assessment, Architecting, Adopting, Advocating. These 5As can play a crucial role in making manufacturing enterprises future ready.

Awareness is the starting point where we need to ensure its not just the leadership who understands digital, but the whole workforce is aware so that solutions get used when deployed. Ignoring worker level skilling is a big miss we see in enterprises, and this is one of the big reasons of digital initiatives failures.

Assessment is getting a pulse of digital maturity, which happens by evaluating the processes, infrastructure and organization’s digital skills. Digitizing processes which are not efficient will never deliver results and same way bringing new solutions without proper understanding of current infrastructure creates integration challenges 

Architecting the digital journey should be based on current cost structure and future business objectives. Finding solution to just one or two current challenges should not be an approach, rather look towards how to we bring in flexibility in production processes and workforce. Design thinking is a great way to build a plan as it brings in integration of technical feasibility, business viability and user acceptability

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Adoption of solutions also needs to be an integrated approach. Co-creation is way to build solutions where user company and solution providers work jointly to define and plan the development. Startup engagement has become a very effective model to build innovative solutions which doesn’t take lot of money and easy to deploy.

Advocacy is the final but most important steps as this ensures success stories gets shared in ecosystem to enable others replicate and learn from the experience. While we say need to competitive, but this is the one areas where need to be generous and reduce the disparity of technology adoption. We also need to have large companies play their part of showing the path forward to SMEs.