There is a surprising revolution underway - Indian Manufacturing is rapidly adopting SaaS and winning. Read on.
The characterization of Indian manufacturing as a slow adopter of Tech and with low productivity is rapidly changing. A part of the credit goes to the increasing hunger of veteran business leaders & new-age entrepreneurs hellbent on competing with the best in the world and also credit must be given to the government for it's 'Make in India' campaign.
There is this undercurrent of innovation and automation happening on shop-floors which is a harbinger of good times. There is, of course, this temporary blip due to the impact of COVID and subsequent lockdowns - but this is also becoming a point for rebooting and fresh thinking for Indian manufacturing plants.
Let me talk about one such transformation, which we are pleasantly surprised with - Manufacturing SaaS.
New products must be brought to market in ever-shorter timeframes and customers demand much more personalized products. Rapidly changing markets require increased flexibility and an efficient use of resources and energy. All without compromising quality. - Siemens Website
For consumer products such as mobile phones, the replacement cycles are shortening to a span of months before new the models take-over. The automobile industry is similarly facing the challenge of moving quickly to electric cars and self-driving cars and still uncertain of what the future of the market will look like.
It may not be obvious at a glance, but these rapid changes impact even the upstream industry such as steel in material ways. E.g. if Tesla Truck's space-grade - stainless steel alloy body becomes a rage - it will drive rapid changes in steelmaking processes.
This uncertainty requires flexibility, speed & scale - which were normally never expected of manufacturing. Everyone agrees that there is only one solution to achieve this - Technology, but not just any technology.
Almost all Indian plants have some level of digitization in place - most of it is in the form of ERP or standalone manufacturing software suites which I refer to as ISS short for 'IT Services Software'. Most of them are provided and maintained by Indian software giants - TCS, Wipro, Infosys and Tech Mahindra over the last 20-30 years.
Thanks to this, Indian manufacturing achieved considerable improvements - but now these same tech stacks are holding them back. These limitations are due to the business model as well as the technical limitations.
A steel plant we visited had a comprehensive software to capture data from their processes with fancy analytics tools on top of it, for which they paid through the nose.
But, in practice even for the daily analysis, users were downloading data in excel, cleaning it up manually and then using excel functions to make use of it.
This we saw case after case where even the simplest changes in systems became missions and projects tracked in senior executive meetings.
In a tech company, a fresh engineer would have solved this without anyone even batting an eyelid.
At Sparrosense all our alerts and reminders are powered using WhatsApp which is such an intuitive platform for workers & supervisors.
At the request of one of the manufacturing clients, we explored if we could power alerts from their existing ERP systems. The design was just not meant to power standard collaboration and integration by something like RestAPIs - and made integration with WhatsApp etc. difficult if not impossible.
The above points illustrate the frustration that manufacturers used to feel for not being able to reap the full proposed benefits of their digital journeys.
Manufacturers now realise the need of flexibility, rapid iterations, speed, scale, leverage AI & IoT and ability to integrate across tools is best served by SaaS - an approach which is already working wonders in the tech sector. This SaaS adoption is starting with Sales, HR and finance tools but is now rapidly entering the shopfloor - the advantages are obvious:
Manufacturing, as well as SaaS providers, have come to terms with this shift and now it is just a matter of time in which this becomes the new gold standard.
Just for illustration - Asian paints has already adopted Sight machine a SaaS product for creating a Digital Twin of their plant. Quoting from the press release -
"Sight Machine’s (SaaS) platform transformed plant data into a digital twin of the entire production process, identifying and quantifying contention and bottlenecks. Asian Paints was able to reduce cycle time on one of the key production lines at one of its plants by seven percent, delivering very good potential return from the initial project alone."
What we are observing in our daily interaction with manufacturing leaders is that - they are already cognizant and eager to be part of this shift. We are fully confident that - India will not only participate in this trend but will emerge as a leader.
Startups have a critical role to play in this - by not only rapidly bringing the best in the world to India, but by building the best solutions in India and taking them to the world.
The next decade will be for Indian Manufacturing to win..!
Abhinav is the founder and CEO at Sparrosense. He graduated as an Engineer from IIT Delhi and has 10+ years of experience. He has worked as a Management Consultant with BCG and KPMG working with clients across Finance, Banking Healthcare, Government, Technology.