ICAHT 2019: ‘Smart Factory’ concept becomes the focal point of discussions

by Nitish Varshney

10-September-2019  |  7 mins read

ICAHT 2019

15th International Conference on Apparel & Home Textiles (ICAHT) was conducted recently by OGTC in New Delhi, India. The theme of the conference remained unchanged this year – ‘Creation of Ten Million Jobs in Apparel Sector’ and the industry experts covered all problems of the sector including the low productivity, challenges in supply chain, problems in HR interventions and low investment in technology in factories. One couldn’t have asked for more!

On his opening note, RC Kesar, Director General, OGTC, emphasised on the fact that industry’s problems have not changed for quite some years now and so, rather than changing the theme, the experts should speak about the solutions on prolonged issues for the benefits of the industry.

Theme presentation was given by Prashant Agarwal, MD, Wazir Advisors on ‘Smart Factory – a Roadmap for Manufacturers to attain Competitiveness’ and touched upon a few issues Indian garment exporters have not been able to solve over decades. “Simultaneously, Bangladesh, Vietnam and Cambodia are rising in their exports, while India is still hovering on US $ 16 billion export for the last couple of years. This is really a worry for the nation’s garment industry and smart factory is a solution to boost it,” shared Prashant.

Endorsing the same, Gunish Jain, MD, Royal Datamatics Pvt. Ltd., talked about ‘Integration of the Supply Chain to Attain Business Excellence’ and emphasised on the fact that, cutting vendors can do wonders and help the industry make deeper and strategic engagement in the in-house processes. One of the key issues he averred was ‘buffer of days’ in each department of a factory, which is actually a major challenge that only a few manufacturers are addressing. “To eliminate this challenge, ‘local maximisation’ should be achieved,” shared Gunish.

It’s a fact that India is still reluctant in adopting technology in apparel manufacturing and, at the same time, the country is extensively talking to increase its exports so the question becomes even more significant that how can the Indian manufacturing be transformed to become more sustainable and profitable? Virender Goyal, MD, Aplos Global Ltd., Hong Kong had his views to share with the audience on this. “Previously, it was ‘human to human’ approach, while today it is ‘system to human’ approach that every big factory is following,” said Virender whose main focus was that companies should actually inject their ‘goals’ and ‘DNA’ in their employees through a strong HR to obtain long-term sustainability, productivity and a right business structure. “This is necessary as the entire workforce of a company comes with a different set of skills and it’s important to let them walk on the same road to achieve targets using these skills,” averred Virender.

Besides, Imal Kalutotage, CEO of n-Cinga, Sri Lanka, shared that it’s true India is not actually pacing up with the global trend of smart manufacturing but it has actually started making waves in this segment. Substantiating the same with his recent experience, Imal informed, “Until last year, India was not a targeted market for his software but he got some great response in last couple of months. Now, some considerable number of manufacturing units in Delhi-NCR is using our Industry 4.0 aligned SaaS-based smart manufacturing execution system.” n-Cinga helps manufacturers in taking data-driven decisions rather than using experience or intuition to make decisions which is a key point in building smart factories.

On the other hand, Chandan Chowdhury, Senior Associate Dean, Indian School of Business, emphasised mainly on ‘understand customers’ customers’. Chandan also organised a workshop in the second half of the day in which he shared that IBS conducted a survey amongst companies located in Delhi-NCR and it was found that 41 per cent from those companies are still unaware of Industry 4.0 term. 76 per cent of respondents said digital literacy of their employees is less than 50 per cent. There is a very limited structured training for skilling on new technologies and, in most cases, it is just need-based. Chandan opined that to embrace technologies like big data, cloud, IoT, companies need to expand in HR interventions first.

KP Mishra, Proprietor, Shreeya Consultancy also threw light on how a strategic HR should work in an organisation. “Workshop Planning and Staffing; Learning and Development; Organization Development; Performance Management; and Employee Relations are 5 fundamental HR processes that should be followed by an organisation,” asserted Mishra.

The second session was moderated by Prashant Agarwal, and panelists were Gunish Jain, Pallab Banerjee (Ex-VP, GAP and Group President, Pearl Global) and Ajay Srivastava, Additional DGFT, MoC. The panel discussion was all about the challenges within the Indian apparel industry related to productivity, supply chain and policies. All speakers were on the same lines as they said data analytics is a MUST thing to do for manufacturers to pace up with global trend along with the support of the Government in terms of industry-friendly policies.

Another workshop conducted was on ‘Production’ in which Skandaraj of MAS Holdings (Sri Lanka) and Imal Kalutotage, n-Cinga briefed about how smart factory should be supported with Lean implementation to achieve the full productivity. According to Skandaraj, 6 points of Lean should include operational stability, Visual Factory, Management System, Problem Solving Center, Data Analytics and Support on Experiment and Simulation. He also talked about how he and his team set up a factory where all the operators work in standing position, right from sewing operation to the finishing department. “This has increased the efficiency of the factory tremendously,” claimed Skandaraj.

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