Vijay Kalra: 'This is the best time for the industry to work on Industry 4.0'

by Shahkar Abidi 15 Nov 2019

Vijay Kalra, chief of manufacturing, automotive, M&M (From December 2019, Mahindra Vehicle Manufacturers and Chief Manufacturing Operations at Mahindra and Mahindra) talks about the concept of Industry 4.0 and how it could be successfully implemented in India.

How do you plan to take the concept of Industry 4.0 to your workforce, especially considering that technology adoption is also about the change in mindset?
I am a very strong believer of the theory which says that people always intend to do their best. The only thing is that you have to give them the opportunity in terms of sharing place, learning, sharing information or that experience and they deliver. Let's say your television set has an issue and the company authorised service engineer says its recovery is not possible and the Rs 70,000 TV set is now worth Rs 10,000. For all you know, a mechanic who has never been to school or college just may be able to open it up and offer a 70 percent probability of success. Knowledge and intelligence are two different things. I believe that the 28,000 persons who work for M&M are equally intelligent.

There is a general slowdown in the economy,  particularly in the automobile sector. Do you think it is the right time for the industry to work on Industry 4.0?
This is the best time. When do you revisit things? It is when things are not right. When things are going right, we usually avoid that. When things are bad, it is the time to look back and see how differently things can be done. If you have some people who can’t change, support them, but tell them to stand aside. The day I start feeling that after 35-40 years, change is becoming difficult, then I should get to the side and let somebody else take over. So, I think this is the right time. We will never get a time better than this.

We are not waiting for the good times but are doing pilots. The idea is to learn new things and then decide later whether to scale them up or not.

What is the blueprint for Industry 4.0. How you go about it so that the industry benefits?
It is too premature. The basic idea is what we share with people and then see how it emerges. Something which is meaningful will succeed. For example, we implemented an LED programme at M&M's Igatpuri plant. We began on a very small scale and I soon realised that it was giving payback within a span of 18 months. Once that happened, we joined hands with EESL and we invested Rs 22 crore. We were the first company in the entire M&M ecosystem to completely shift to using LEDs. This exercise has begun giving us Rs 18 crore savings every year.

After looking at our success, 250 out of our 600 suppliers have implemented it. The remaining say they are headed on the same path. Now, I plan to change all the old air-conditioners, a project with a payback of one-and-a-half year.

Is there any kind of support or push from the government on Industry 4.0 and what is the extent of involvement of M&M in this programme?
I think NITI Aayog with assistance from CII is pushing for it. My feeling is that there is good alignment (with the government). As a company, we will be playing a small role like many others playing that role.

(This interview was first published in the October 15, 2019 issue of Autocar Professional)

Also read: Mahindra's Igatpuri plant becomes India's first carbon-neutral facility

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