Can India Overtake China in the upcoming years?
Skill Gap in Local Labour
With the exodus on China increasing and manufacturing of multiple companies shifting to India, a major opportunity has arisen for India to grow into a booming manufacturing hub!
Over the last 5 years, several sectors have juxtaposed positions for the top slot of maximum hiring. However, 2019-20 saw a new entrant and that is manufacturing. The demand for skills in this sector is evolving and that is not restricted to just the educated & privileged undergraduates and postgraduates, but also the workmen who constitute the lowest rung of the ladder. There is a ‘Skill Gap’ between the demand and supply of this blue-collar stratum of people.
Also, gig work culture is picking up in India as opposed to permanent employment. (Gig work is nothing but a contract limited to completion of a specific project and subsequent payment for the services rendered.) Unfortunately a large part of Indian labour falls under that segment since they are the most disposable.
About 30% make up Level 1of the Indian labour market, 56% constitutes the Level 2 segment, 11% form Level 3 and a miniscule remainder fills up Level 4. The labour we need in manufacturing comes from Level 2 and clearly we have them in abundance!
What skills / qualities can we hone to address the demands of the manufacturing sector and also create meaningful employment opportunities for this sphere of workmen?
We observed from our own set of experiences in the manufacturing sector that certain lapses in the daily operation of a unit were caused by under qualified workmen. The most important 6 are brought under the spotlight here:
Lack of Multiskilling
Engineers who have worked on the fabrication shop-floor are aware of the challenges we face when delegating tasks to our workmen. Most arise especially because each worker has a specific skill set and can cater to a limited range of activities. Thus limiting the distribution of work to a set worker-task combination.
It is imperative that each worker can perform multiple tasks in order to streamline manufacturing and enhance productivity. E.g. a welder must be able to grind and give his weld a good finish (forward integration); a grinder must be able to perform at least one kind of welding in case there are no grinding jobs on the floor.
Knowledge of Consumables
Workmen on the shop-floor often shun their responsibility of making sure the right consumables have been issued to them for use on a particular job. Should something go wrong, the supervisor is held responsible. Let’s be real for once – a supervisor oversees multiple jobs comprising hundreds of operations; mistakes inevitably creep in inadvertently sometimes and it is unfair to let the workman have zero accountability.
An understanding of the various grades of consumables must be given to the workmen such that mistakes arising from the incorrect issue of materials are avoided. It is just adding another fool-proofing check in the process.
Quality Assurance & Control
In a generation reliant on client retention basis their satisfaction, quality deliverance is a primary demand from all organisations. Fabricators working on heavy-duty equipment such as gasifiers and heat exchangers are expected to deliver alignments within extremely close tolerances. Each workman must be able to effectively achieve this perfection on all jobs.
Once again shop-floor supervisors would be well acquainted with the occupied slinger / no overhead crane operator conundrum. Let me shed some light on it. In shop-floors that handle heavy fabrication, the sizes of equipment being manufactures are huge and therefore their movement is kept to a minimum. All the work is done in-situ. Hence the number of expert crane & forklift operators to execute heavy lifting and movement are limited to 5 out of 100 employees.
Now obviously no two equipment reach completion at the same time but that doesn’t make it an impossible event. Sometimes timelines clash and movement is hampered as the slingers are moving another ready equipment on the floor. This results in a lot of idle time and therefore each worker must be taught to move the equipment assigned to him for his own needs. The dependence on other workmen must be brought to an end. We also need to have a lot of material handling movement equipment training as it is a professional Skill and requires professional License to drive a forklift!
Inventory & Warehouse Management
Store in-charges (often belonging to the worker grade) must be given requisite ERP software training in order to keep a tab on the incoming and outgoing materials and tools. Every project is assigned a limited quantity of consumables based on the calculated number of manhours each will take until completion. Any excess issue is an overrun on the project cost and goes straight out of the bottom line.
Safety of Operations
Having covered the skills we need to impart to our workmen, the most important of them all is ensuring safety in everything they do. Adherence to safety norms is a must and the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) must be ensured on the shop-floor. Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) must be followed for all activities to maintain the sanctity of life of all fellow workmen.
Training and refreshers on the importance of safety and use of firefighting techniques must be given to all those actively working with heavy machinery.
With every upgrade, training must be given and the workmen must be constantly be at the same pace with implemented technology in order to avoid mistakes.
In order to ensure complete compliance of standards, regular audits must be carried out by professionals (internal as well as external). Audits are also a useful method in detecting lapses in the system and therefore are the starting point of initiated corrective actions.