Guest Editorial in Efficient Manufacturing, March 2018

Indian manufacturing organisations should aspire to build the brand tag ‘Made in India’ as a value offering. This will mean building core competence values like reliability, safety, value for money, dependability, and appeal; and this is possible by building the business processes aligned to lean thinking and lean principles. Lean manufacturing companies work using the principle of PULL. Others work on PUSH. Unfortunately, we have more PUSH companies than PULL. The principle of PULL makes companies better and healthier – productive, productivity improvement delivers quality improvement as its byproduct, delivering better value and greater customer satisfaction.

Government has tried to push for quality and competitiveness through its schemes such as the cluster program. Irrespective of how it is reported, these programs have missed the essence of lean and at best have become attempts to reduce defects and give instructions on a few lean tools. While tools when used properly may provide change but does not guarantee continuity of improvements, consistency and impact the balance sheet. Most claimants to lean are not lean. However, if lean is culturally embedded properly, excellence will walk to its door step and so will customers, markets, share and profits. The pursuit of ‘Made in India’ tag as an awe of respect, quality, desirability, reliability and affordable price should be led by the industry and its Captains. Becoming lean is an insurance to survival and continued growth.

The cows are yet to come home on whether technologies in the digital space such as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Internet of Things, 3D Printing etc. will reduce or increase jobs. We need to pay attention to the growth of jobs. Imagine if all cars are driven autonomous, what will happen to millions of drivers around the world? If batteries or hydrogen cells replace IC engines, what will happen to all those workers in auto component industries and those upstream to them? When automation replaces jobs of any kind, the question that needs to be answered is what’s the next job opportunity for those displaced? While the argument will rage that there will be creation of new jobs that will replace the old ones; but these new jobs will demand entirely new levels of learning, skills and competence. Can those losing jobs rise to new expectations? Look at the tech industry vacancies, they are finding it hard to recruit college grads for new tech areas. So, these are going to be two different domains altogether – the domain where jobs are lost and the domain where jobs are created and with a huge knowledge gap. Remember the 1980’s when FMC’s and FMS’s flooded European industries because they wanted to automate, escape the wrath of unions and have longer weekends. They said those displaced would find employment in service and leisure industry which did not happen.

To overcome this potential social problem there needs to be more ‘Job Creating Innovations’ and at different levels of education and opportunities led by innovators, manufacturing organisations and investors who invest in Job Creating Innovations rather than in Efficiency Innovations. Investors and investment companies must consider to invest from profits made by their investments in Efficiency Innovation businesses into Job Creating Innovations so that growth and stability in jobs and economy can be maintained. There is much of Sustaining Innovation happening through substitute products, but such innovations only replace the old, they don’t add to overall jobs and economy. I hope industry champions will selflessly lead the solutions.