News Stories

Our Factory: Manufacturing in the Post-Pandemic Era

The electronic manufacturing industry is one of the fastest-growing industries globally, and post-pandemic, it’ll bring about changes in businesses and personal life. With its latest trends that transform and make things easy for professionals, they’re good for personal use. Few of these latest trends are used in augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), the use of 3D printing, and intriguing concepts like IoT (Internet of Things). The electronics manufacturing service (EMS) is moving toward fragmentation, owing to the increased adoption of these services across the industries and several market players globally. The market players are viewing product developments and innovations as a lucrative path for post-pandemic market expansion.

The post-pandemic EMS market is expected to register a CAGR of 6.8% during the period 2021-2026. With the advent of miniaturization and the adoption of emerging technologies in the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and enhanced communication posed by 5G, the electronic component design and assembly have been revolutionized. However, COVID puts a break on every accelerating process that was ready to shoot. This disastrous situation in the history of humanity has torn every single piece of courage, enthusiasm, or thought process apart. People are still afraid to keep their foot forward in their next journey.

ELE Time’s correspondent Sheeba Chauhan had an exclusive conversation with Sharath Bhat, Senior Vice-President of Kaynes Technologies, and Dr. Sreeram Srinivasan, CEO of Syrma SGS Technology, about the latest trends in the EMS industry, the unprecedented challenges during the lockdown period, and how they’re planning their journey forward. The COVID-19 slam dunk brought the whole world to its knees last year, however in this catastrophic time, the technology always finds a way to pave its path to advancements and serve the world, and that’s exactly what happened with these top players of EMS. They have something exciting and intriguing to tell about their journey in COVID-19, their experience as a part of the most important industry, and their way forward.

Impact of the Pandemic on Manufacturing Strategies

Sighting the impact of pandemics on manufacturing strategies, Sharath Bhat, Senior Vice-President of Kaynes Technologies, said that ‘the unprecedented challenges of pandemics for EMS companies have multifold impacts. Companies like us who produce medical products were always on our toes to ship out urgent orders on Ventilators or Respirators. Our first big challenge was in getting all the electronic components shipped to our facility. Logistics costs went sky high, and that impacted the costs of the product. However, seeing the sensitivity of the issues, we tried to absorb these additional costs or tried innovative ways of logistics in many cases.

The second challenge was to ensure that your skilled workforce was somehow allowed to reach your facility. This was managed through continuous liaison with District Authorities so that their staff need not harass our workforce. They also used our own transport to ensure trouble-free conveyance of our staff. As most of the outstation staff had left Station, on the announcement of lockdown hence we had to manage with our employees in and around our facility.”

“Thirdly was the constant issue of scarcity of components in the market. This issue had to be worked on along with our OEM clients. Even our sourcing team worked along with our customers and ensured that no lines in automotive or any other vertical stopped due to lack of components. We take this opportunity to thank our clients, who even agreed to pay slightly more for getting such critical components. This issue is still not resolved and continues to plague the electronics manufacturing industry. The positive side of COVID-19 has been a very healthy order book and our facilities working round the clock even during the lockdown. It also taught us to work lean. During the first and even second wave, our excellent and strict COVID-19 guidelines ensured minimal positive cases.”

Dr. Sreeram Srinivasan, CEO of Syrma SGS Technology, stated that the “pandemic has significantly impacted our approach to manufacturing in a few important ways. The need to build flexibility and resilience in all aspects of manufacturing from sourcing to outbound logistics, even if they have multiple scenarios planned out for the short term – uncertainty requires much more planning and several levels of planning which is contrary to what most people assume. We build geographical diversity with visibly safe workplaces rather than massive automation initiatives to overcome people’s challenges. One more thing is skill-up people continually do for tackling emerging scenarios quickly.”

Latest Technologies Shaping the Manufacturing Industry

Sharath Bhat of Kaynes Technologies informed that “manufacturing technology, especially in the electronics industry, is essentially driven by shrinking real estate on the bare board and AI-driven robotics for process control. Major technological advancements will improve manufacturing efficiency, safety, and productivity by incorporating real-time data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI). Ultimately, customer experiences will be improved as a result of increased connectivity, along with greater visibility and traceability of key processes and outcomes.”

“With industry 4.0 norms around the corner, the convergence of physical objects and the virtual and digital world will be in real-time. Creating smart objects tailored to each person’s needs is the goal of industry 4.0. Smart factories and a smart supply chain based on data analytics will fuel the next-gen manufacturing in electronics. Post pandemic, customers need to be connected to the shop floor of the EMS and increased connectivity along with the machine to machine interface, information flow will be seamless in real-time.”

Dr. Sreeram Srinivasan stated that “digitalization and IoT are the buzzes around the industry, but very few have seriously committed resources or management time to it. Autonomous robots and cobots are going to be sweeping across industry sectors in a few short years. At present, the robot density of the Indian manufacturing sector is 4 per 10,000 employees, while the automotive industry is already at 58. These numbers are likely to significantly increase as manufacturing costs and more stringent regulatory scenarios play out in the coming years. Augmented reality (AR) and rapid prototyping will be key for product design and quick turnarounds for new products.”

Key Challenges in Manufacturing Processes and Steps to Overcome Them

Sharath Bhat said, “firstly, complicated special processes with a high mix of products could be a limiting factor. Secondly, the availability of a talent pool to leverage AI and data analytics is limited today, but going forward, the landscape could change with a focus on such skills. Third, the high costs of implementing Industry 4.0 and associated infra with such AI-driven process control could be another limiting factor.”

“The consumer electronics segment will first overcome these challenges as costs of implementing can be spread over a large volume and would be minuscule compared to the savings. Most of the EMS in India is customer-driven; hence if the customer encourages and is willing to absorb the additional costs, then it may happen at a faster pace.”

Dr. Sreeram Srinivasan stated, “inertia will be the biggest challenge towards replacing legacy systems for most manufacturers in India’s “hasten slowly” mindset. This could be the costs and resources to be deployed apart from the pushback from existing top-down systems that are well entrenched. Second is the paradox of scale – do we do this to scale up or do we do this during/after the scale-up.”

“Third, probably a blind spot for most – the bandwidth and reliability of internet connectivity that we operate within most of our manufacturing plants today. Talking of overcoming challenges, he said, “commitment at the top is the critical factor to overcome all of the above-listed challenges. With it comes a compelling need to change old ways, resource allocations, on-boarding and retention of the right talent, training and development towards continuous improvements.”

Top Four Megatrends that will Shape Industry 4.0 in India

Sharath Bhat said, “the consistent increase in local demand will fuel the electronics manufacturing growth in the next few years. Major megatrends are going to be IoT powered smart hardware, electric vehicles, and 5G technology, telecom spectrum, AI/machine learning and data centers.”

Dr. Sreeram Srinivasan said, “the biggest trend shaping or will shape Industry 4.0 in India is the Make in India initiative and the incentives such as PLI that enable them. Make in India will usher in large investments from overseas companies in several sectors. They’ll bring with them clear digital strategies that include inter alia AI, ML, IoT, and other cyber-physical systems. This will force many Indian companies also to review and redefine their digital strategies to stay competitive and survive and thrive in the new order.”

How will the manufacturing industry evolve in 5-10 years?

Sharath Bhat said, “With continuous government support and investment in infrastructure fueled by domestic demand, the electronics manufacturing growth will be in double digits. The future looks bright, but GOI needs to have a clear plan to ensure dependency on China for raw materials should be reduced in the coming years.”

Dr. Sreeram Srinivasan said that the “only seers and fools indulge in foretelling the future, and I lay no claim to sanctity.” And I’d be even more of the latter doing this for India and Indian manufacturing. India is very good at finding workarounds for everything the world throws at us rather than being simple adopters of new ideas. Sometimes it works, and many times it’s a grand failure, setting us back by decades. We’re witness to several examples in our times. Therefore, instead of predicting the future, I’d close with fond hope and a wish that we adopt and embrace Industry 4.0 in spirit and all its facets and evolve rapidly with it as it does. This would be the only way for our aspirations of becoming a leader in manufacturing to come to fruition in the decade ahead.”

To view the original article, please click here.

Syrma SGS TechnologyOur Factory: Manufacturing in the Post-Pandemic Era

Related Posts