For assured growth, the machine tools industry must show the workforce opportunities.
BY PRERNA L
One of the questions that often crops up at almost every forum is our ability to meet the immense opportunities brought by Make in India. And most of the times, the question is intended to building people potential thus enabling us to meet the growth momentum when it comes. Like any other industry, continuous sharpening of manpower skills in the machine tools industry is necessary at all times. These skills are needed now than ever before.
Mohini Kelkar, MD, Grind Master Machines, says, “Skills development is extremely important for Make in India initiative to succeed. This is true for across the entire manufacturing spectrum. We are working hard on improving skill-sets of our people right from operational level to managerial level. We need to be world-class in every function to deliver the best.”
Sudhir Malik, AVP, new product introduction & training, Sandvik Coromant, says, “This is the step in the right direction from an Indian consumer’s perspective. Today, one can buy best of machine tools. And even source them from any country. We have a lot of engineers and scientists working abroad offering a good knowledge base to develop and contribute towards growth. The current young generation possess skill-sets and are talented to generate wealth for our country. Hence, skills are an important key towards achieving that growth.”
Education plays a key role in the global economy and the fast changing industrial landscape. Innovation both on an R&D level as well as the ability to boost productivity is a game changer.
Putting it aptly, Gisbert Roth, director, marketing communications, Asia-Pacific, Seco Tools, informs, “Education, not only technical, but in general, is fast transforming. Faster Internet connections, new devices and the advent of the Internet of things (IoT) are all enabling people to learn differently. Interconnectivity and instant access to information opens up possibilities for service applications to employees, customers and partners alike.”
There’s no denying the fact the companies on their part are attempting to hone employees’ skill sets. Each industry has devised ways of enhancing their employees’ skill sets. Right from hands-on training to online, to cross-functional training, companies are open to offering newer facets to employees.
Offering insights on how Sandvik Coromant is geared up, Malik says, “We are a 150-year-old MNC company with presence in several countries, and have been in India for more than 55 years. When you have 42,000 employees and Coromant alone has 8,000 across the world, there is much skill set lineage we possess. We spend good number of man-days to learn new skills and adopt to fast paced changes. Unless we are able to quickly adopt to changing global conditions, we will not be successful.”
He believes that employees are major differentiating factors between companies and competitors. “Anyone can catch up with trends. It’s the etiquette, commitment, skill-sets that make one successful,” he adds. The company has also developed Sandvik Coromant Academy where modules for technical and business skills for employees at functional level (level I), level II and level III have been created. Employees are encouraged to take these up. In the last 10 years, more than 15 modules have been developed. The company also helps customers and dealers with the same. The programmes range from the basic (practical application of tools) to the advanced (special training).
Other companies too are working similar strategies. In January, Seco Tools opened its first Indian technical centre in Chennai. The new learning centre, Virtual & Practical Centre No. 1, is likely the first Seco learning and education centre of its kind in Asia-Pacific. Online learning cannot replace hands-on experience, as feel, sounds and smells of a real production environment cannot be transmitted through an online interface. The company has pioneered education in the metal cutting industry with its STEP (Seco Technical Education Programme) system and it has gradually evolved with interactive self-train modules. The current state of STEP is available through many channels and LMS (Learning Management System) online availability.
Industrial association body, IMTMA, is not far behind. Offering best-in-class operational practices, IMTMA Productivity Institute is equipped with state-of-the-art training facilities including production of CNC machines, metrology equipment including CMM, CAD/CAM systems, latest cutting tools and work holding accessories. Hands-on training is imparted in programming and operations of CNC machines and productivity and quality improvement concepts.
When global companies come to India, they bring with them latest tools & technologies and also world-class processes and operations. They are also known to set up training centres to familiarise users to their technologies. In early 2008, Renishaw had come up with a state-of-the-art training centre with advanced machinery to offer hands-on training to customers. Since then, the company has been continuously expanding on its training capabilities. Similarly, industrial automation company, Fanuc India, has been offering training to machine tool builders, users of CNC machines, users of Robots and Robo machines to make them better equipped with automation processes.
A novel method of imparting training is online. Several companies have come up with online modules to help customers get the best use of their machine tools. Companies such as Hurco have specialised in online training. A common refrain one often hears is the collaboration between industry and academia. While institutes impart the best of knowledge to students, what is lacking is practical training and that hampers the employability quotient. Malik feels that industry-academia partnership is long overdue. Students need to prepare themselves so that they can quickly find employment and not on the basis of knowledge, but on their ability to adopt to company ethics and standards. Training is one way.
He adds, “When I consider the workshop technology taught 30 years ago and today’s teachings, there’s little difference. There’s little upgradation in terms of understanding new machinery. This is the ideal time to bring in a transformation.”
Kelkar believes that industry-academia partnership should be further intensified. Universities and the colleges need to take lead. “There is a lack of experienced trainers in colleges. So we have to work towards training the trainers and institutes should be forthright in accepting this,” she says.
A spokesperson from IMTMA says, “Our engineers are strong on theory, but do not have the requisite practical knowledge to contribute to the organisations they join. From interpreting manufacturing drawings to processing parts on CNC machines to measuring them and getting used to factory discipline and working environment, fresh engineers need to acquire these skill sets in the shortest possible time.”
While on the one hand, the industry is ready to join hands with the universities, there seemed to be a reluctance on the part of the academia to walk that extra mile. However, it is only recently that management institutes are implementing these modules to ensure that graduates are better equipped to deal with challenges put up at work. Going by the enthusiasm for the recently launched ‘Skill India’ project, one can hope for positive developments in this area.
After acquiring the best suited talent, keeping them motivated is a crucial factor for success. Most companies have laid out structured processes for natural progression of employees. Speaking about Sandvik Coromant’s retention process, Malik says, “We have a clear roadmap for progression. We work in a transparent environment where everyone has a fair chance and opportunity to grow. Youngsters today are more aware of the opportunities available to them. We should be a facilitator to help them guide their own future rather than being authoritative.”
According to Kelkar, “Companies must understand the need-gaps and act accordingly. Senior management should take lead in bringing about change and making employees gauge their role in the organisation. If that ownership is imbibed right from the start, every employee will be tuned towards making the company one of the best places to work at.”
Most persons we spoke to are confident of a bright future. Access to global demand, the need to produce high quality goods and a strong focus on processes and quality is what will give Brand India a better image. It is a crucial period for the machine tools industry. If Indian companies cannot cash in on machinery demands, the advantages will be grabbed by foreign companies. The industry needs to work on improving deliveries and improving capacities. All this has to be done on a priority basis to be able to cater to the burgeoning opportunities waiting to be harnessed.
Going ahead, large investments in the manufacturing sector coupled with government support in terms of conducive fiscal and trade policies as well as promoting R&D and skill development will ensure faster growth of the domestic machine tools industry.