One of the youngest corporate chiefs in the Indian automotive industry and a leading road safety crusader, Ramashankar Pandey, Managing Director of Hella India Lighting, gave an insightful presentation at the Autocar Professional webinar on 'Manufacturing and Skilling after Covid-19' held on May 1, International Labour Day. He was one of the five panelists.
The panelists for the first webinar of May 2020 comprised Vijay Kalra, Head, Mahindra Institute of Quality and Ex-Chief of Manufacturing Operations- Automotive Division, Mahindra & Mahindra; Nikunj Sanghi, Chairman, Automotive Skill Development Council (ASDC); Ramashankar Pandey, Managing Director, Hella India Lighting; Rohan Rathod, Managing Director, Delux Bearings; and Ashim Sharma, Partner & Group Head - Business Performance Improvement (Auto, Engineering & Logistics), Nomura Research Institute.
Ramashankar Pandey spoke on the various aspects around the impact of Covid-19 on organisations and its workforce. “We are surrounded by unprecedented uncertainties. We have succeeded in the initial phases, despite the ailing health system for majority of its population. We might be winning the war against corona but is going to be a long battle.” He agreed that the ongoing lockdown is a big jolt to the economy and the manufacturing sector, as the supply chain is completely broken.
According to Pandey, each one of us has a personal, professional and rational responsibility in this fight against Covid-19, and no one by themselves alone can win the fight. He agreed that that the present situation is quite challenging, especially the broken finances for MSMEs (Tier 2s and 3s), which poses a huge risk of extreme poverty and the likelihood of creating unrest.
On the other hand, he asserted that while the “India has many challenges, the fear psychosis of the unknown, the collective wisdom is travelling faster than the virus. All stakeholders are coming together, the global action is fully justified, but the fear is not. We are doing whatever we can, compared to deaths per day worldwide due to road accidents, Covid-19 is very less. Given the extreme measures by all nations and global prioritisation, the fear may be disproportional, compared to other big killers. Every CEO, management and stakeholder is doing what is humanly possible.”
"The post-Covid challenge ahead of India Auto Inc is immense. This is right from logistics for manufacturing plants resuming operations, workers returning to the shopfloor and revival of demand. But there are positives too in the form of new SOPs."
"The new health and safety environment post lockdown will be a major concern for all plants and facilities. There will be a huge challenge in the supply chain because of reverse migration and lack of free movement in the red zone. Tier - I suppliers like us have started our supply a few days back and we can see the bottlenecks there," he mentioned. Adding more, "We need to have trust in the workers and the impact of the migrant workers will be critical in the unorganised sector."
According to Pandey, the manufacturing sector will no doubt take time to return to normalcy and the pace of that journey will be different in different areas in India. "This will prove that the recovery time will be different and the bottleneck will be worse on Tier- II and Tier- III supplies," he said.
Man-machine collaboration to drive productivity
Pandey anticipates a big change happening because of digitalisation and Covid-19 has just helped increase the focus. He points out while the topic may have missed the attention earlier, the current lockdown has brought the focus on skilling and digitalisation into sharp focus.
According to him, smart industrialisation is here to say, and one can simply look at their people's daily lives, particuarly in urban and some parts of rural India, to experience that they are now more reliant on digital tools, then they were in pre-Covid-19 days.
Call for an end to "skill robbery"
Even before this Pandemic, there was a megatrend of Digitisation and Industry 4.0. But, this has accelerated the push of connected and smart solutions. According to him, the topic was not relevant for the masses before this, but now it is back on focus. For the manufacturing sector, it means moving from labour-intensive methodologies to automation.
"Rise of machine learning, AI, and digitalisation, were already there and we were threatened by this. We are now working from home and have been pushed to use digital methods to connect. The cyber-physical world will come together. One can experience that they are now more reliant on digital tools, then they were pre-Covid-19. We can see this in our lives now on how we are connected to the digital world. This will happen in manufacturing too," he said.
Pandey mentioned that the meaning of lockdown changes based on income groups and financial security. India has the lowest productivity in the world and the people here are not skilled or educated. They remain vulnerable and cannot be paid more. "The vision of our industrial policy needs to focus on fair wealth distribution. States must now compete not on how much investment has come but how much employment has been generated. The skill robbery happening in the country needs to be fixed,” Pandey signed off.
Nomura Research Institute's Ashim Sharma: 'Expect continual disruptions across the automotive supply chain.
Mahindra Institute of Quality's Vijay Kalra: 'We need to celebrate and value people skills more now.'
ASDC's Nikunj Sanghi: “Online learning and training now vital across manufacturing, sales, aftersales.'
Delux Bearings' Rohan Rathod: 'Adopt lean management tools to be future-ready.'