Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0 and digital factories to gain more momentum

Covid-19 has redefined the way we conduct our manufacturing operations and businesses in the future. Technological interventions has accelerated the need for automation in manufacturing industries.

Citadel Intelligent Systems Ltd, incorporated in September 2017, focuses on providing cutting-edge customized fiber optic solutions in the infrastructure space. It is supported by an experienced group of industry leaders with over 300 years of collective experience in fiber optic products applied across diverse business segments.

Here, Diwakar Belavadi, Director, Operations & Strategic Projects, Citadel Intelligent Systems Ltd, talks about the future of work. Excerpts from an interview:

DQ: How are you dealing with the Covid-19 situation? What plans have you put in place?

Diwakar Belavadi: Globally, these are challenging times for all companies across various sectors. As many industries, our production activity was also halted due to the lockdown and we awaited Government permissions to resume manufacturing.
During the lockdown period, we were still carrying out limited business activities by using Digital tools. Using hang-out sessions and VCs, we are conducting project review and engineering review meetings to be ready for execution once the manufacturing activity starts post the lockdown. We are also engaging in technical & commercial discussions with our customers via digital interfacing on current & future project opportunities.

During the lockdown situation, we have encountered supply chain challenges due to manufacturing stoppages and lower outputs from our suppliers across the globe on account of raw material shortages & limited manpower deployed in factories during the lockdown period. Advance planning process to create adequate safety stocks, Alternate sourcing from USA and Europe to de-risk the supply chain challenges from China, and localization of selective components and raw materials from Indian suppliers helped us to mitigate the supply chain challenges to some extent.

DQ: Are you giving employees more control over their schedules?

Diwakar Belavadi: At CIS, the health and safety of our employees is of prime importance. Keeping their safety into account, we have provided our employees options of Work From Home with flexi timing options even after the lockdown situation has been eased. Functions which are not related to manufacturing operations, are still encouraged to work from home and will be contacted digitally if need arises.

We have encouraged our employees to use digital technology to a maximum extent to execute their jobs while they are at home….Work from home also provides the employees to plan their schedules better as they need not spend time in traveling to the work places and back home, which consumes a significant time in their daily routines, specially for employees working in metro and major cities in India.

DQ: How are you assessing on learnings from enforced experiments around WFH?

Diwakar Belavadi: Covid-19 has redefined the way we conduct our businesses in the future.

Need for office spaces may be questioned as we have been able to live and manage using the concept of Virtual Office concepts during the lock down and yet manage the various jobs while working from home. Significant advantages from hard variable cost savings will be weighed against any potential efficiency drops while executing jobs from home.

Investments on “Secured Digital Tools” will be considered for effective communication and networking with customers and with internal resources while working from home.

More and more companies will consider adoption towards cloud architecture as it can replace physical servers in work spaces, thereby enabling business continuity and carrying out maintenance and backup activities seamlessly, even while working from home.

Last, but not the least, companies will also consider comprehensive WFH solutions suite for individual businesses to ensure business continuity and endurance.

DQ: This is a challenging time for managers. What advice would you give them?

Diwakar Belavadi: The key for managers is to maintain a daily cadence with their respective teams. The key is to check the well-being of them and their respective families.

You can possibly break the monotony by holding discussions on their ways to spend times, while at home, other than engaging themselves in official work. Create online forums by interfacing social media through which team members can post their creative contributions while working from home such as “new cuisines” or “art work”, which they or any of their family members have created during the lock down phase, or “poetry”, etc. This will keep their teams motivated and keep them in their creative spirits even during the lockdown phase.

Schedule meeting calendars with their teams giving sufficient breaks thereby avoiding overlap meetings and back-back meetings. WFH may tend to burn out employees as they may spend too much time in front of their laptops. Timely breaks is the key to recharge the employees, keep them creative and focused on their work.

Use digital tools effectively for effective communication and networking between the internal team members and also holding meetings with the customers.
Managers can up the morale of employees by communicating news related to business wins, appreciating contribution of team members in securing projects or driving profit improvement initiatives etc. This can be specially motivating for employees specially when they are WFH.

Encourage employees to manage their work efficiently by giving them options of managing their schedules while WFH that helps in striking a good work-life balance.

DQ: How does work/life balance work in a crisis like this?

Diwakar Belavadi: During this pandemic, we are seeing that our employees are functioning, while discharging their family responsibilities at the same time. Striking a good balance between work and life is always a huge challenge.
Specially in circumstances of the Covid19 outbreak and lock down situations, the enormity of striking work/life balance becomes that much more difficult. More so ever it happens that WFH may tend to burn out employees as they may spend too much time in front of their laptops

Hence, simple ways of accomplishing good work/life balance can be in the form of better work planning and scheduling, create scheduled breaks for employees from meetings in which they can focus on family time.

Create expressive interfaces for employees using social media tools wherein one can value the creative ideas that emerge while working from home in the amidst of being with families. So managing the priorities is more important during this distraction and doing this in a right way develops the right work life balance during this pandemic.

DQ: What are the policy responses you would give to the MSMEs and SMEs?

Diwakar Belavadi: Some of the many policy responses for MSMEs and SMEs, which may be required during the challenging business conditions on account of Covid-19 can be:

* Allow MSMEs to function during the lock down situation by implementing the social distancing and hygiene norms at work place, else their revenue streams will get dented adversely.

* Additional funding limits from the banks for MSMEs to meet their working capital needs.

* Preference to be  provided to MSMEs in supply of goods & services over large Indian corporates or MNC firms….will help in sustenance during the Covid-19 situation.

* Government relief packages for MSMEs in the areas of taxation, extended moratorium period of loan repayments, waiver of rentals by landlords for the affected period, subsidies in utility bill payments etc. will help MSMEs to manage their working capital efficiently.

DQ: How are you now facilitating digital work?

Diwakar Belavadi: Covid-19 has redefined the way we conduct our manufacturing operations and businesses in the future. Technological interventions has accelerated the need for automation in manufacturing industries.

Effective usage of digital tools, Social media etc have proven to enterprises that the office space is technically “Virtual” and hence, more and more corporates would like to capitalize on this model in the future. Perhaps, this will become a new belief in corporates post the pandemic.

Through effective usage of digital tools such as hang-out sessions of Google, Microsoft Team sessions and VCs, we are conducting project review and engineering review meetings to be ready for execution once the manufacturing activity starts post the lock down. We are also engaging in technical & commercial discussions with our customers via digital interfacing on current & future project opportunities. Our Sales and Application engineering teams are conducting training & product orientation webinars to support our customers find the right solutions.

Our data and ERP systems are housed on cloud servers, which can be accessed seamlessly while we WFH and hence, business continuity is ensured through effective usage of digital tools.

DQ: How are the latest technologies going to redefine workplace?

Diwakar Belavadi: Digitalization will redefine work place to be a “Virtual Office” and more and more corporates would like to capitalize on the advantages created by this model that has proven itself during the lockdown phase.

Technological interventions has accelerated the need for automation in manufacturing industries. Industry 4.0 and Digital factories will gain more momentum that will insulate businesses from such lock-down situations and also help in managing costs & efficiencies better.

Effective use of secured digital communication, interaction and networking tools will bring people closer and help them communicate & interact effectively and solve problems. This will redefine business travel as companies may opt out and may travel only if absolutely necessary. Business travel may never return to the same levels as what it was before the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic.

DQ: How do you plan for a future of ‘decent digiwork’?

Diwakar Belavadi: At CIS, which is primarily a manufacturing based organization, we have laid out a “Digital Factory” roadmap which encompasses concepts of Industry 4.0, Connected Machines, Selective automation of few of our critical manufacturing processes, Digital Work Instructions, use of RFID technology for Production Tracking, Logistics and Warehousing.

We have also used digital technology effectively for our data storage and data retention processes. We have automated data storage and retention processes using cloud technology in our organization. In addition to the above, we are also implementing “Digital Command Center” in our organization to assist our Business Intelligence and HR processes. All in all at CIS, we adopt digitalization at work place(wherever applicable) as a Key tool to enhance the overall efficiency of people, systems and effectiveness of our organization.

C A B CE DA A AFAF A CDQINDIA Online | DATAQUEST

Diwakar Belavadi, Director, Operations & Strategic Projects, Citadel Intelligent Systems Ltd

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