The use of disruptive technologies such as big data analytics, internet of things (IoT), cloud computing, automation, artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) across manufacturing functions is helping enterprises transform into smart factories. Several manufacturers in India have started leveraging new-age mobility solutions to digitalise operations and thereby enhance business performance and efficiency. The need for digitalisation of operations has become more pronounced in the wake of Covid-19. Rajeev Kapur, managing director (MD), Steelbird Helmets, talks about emerging digital trends, the impact of Covid-19 on technology adoption in the sector, and the way forward…
What are the key ICT trends shaping the manufacturing sector at present?
ICT makes desirable ends such as sustainability, higher quality, faster construction, lower cost and competitiveness more attainable. In modern design and manufacturing, ICT is a useful tool because it can make design and manufacturing more robust, effective and efficient by using a computer-based system.
How are technologies such as AI, IoT, robotics, AR/VR and cloud transforming the sector? Are you deploying any of these at present?
Robotics has been a part of our system for some time now. We use robots to paint helmets with greater accuracy and efficiency. Also, we use robotics in our visor coating lines to ensure that the visors are coated with absolute accuracy and efficiency. This is important because visors are a critical part of helmets. We are looking to introduce AR/VR at the design and concept stage as well as at the production stage as they help in creating better products, improving worker safety and saving money. The biggest help from AR/VR will be in the concept and planning stage as they will give us flexibility to add/remove parts that might not be viable in the production stage. This will also help us in having similar ancillary parts for every helmet, which will give us a cost advantage.
What are your thoughts on the advent of Industry 4.0 in India? Are you using ICT elements to make your factories smart?
Industry 4.0 is a brilliant initiative by the government to fill the quality gap that exists in the capital goods sector. This initiative will enhance the competitiveness of Indian products.
Yes, we will be introducing ICT elements for better efficiency, productivity and sustainability.
How has Covid-19 impacted your business and what steps have you taken to address the challenges?
Covid-19 has not impacted our business that much, although it has impacted some of our distributors/dealers because they have been facing a cash crunch. A lot of these dealers deal on a credit basis, which has thrown their working capital cycle off track. Two-wheeler sales have picked up and the demand is further increasing, in turn pushing the demand for helmets. After April, which witnessed absolute lockdown, helmet sales have been picking up May onwards. Market sentiment is definitely getting better and given the festive season, which sees people spending relatively more, it is hoped that the market will revive.
What are some of the Covid-19-induced digital trends that will shape the sector going forward?
The only digital trend that Covid has induced is online retail sales gathering steam. Many people have started buying helmets online and this trend will surely sustain given the ease of the whole transaction.