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The Indian - Items filtered by date: April 2020
Sunday, 26 April 2020 00:00

How to manage with 40% of your Manpower?

Manufacturing will restart sometime. But you will not be able to deploy all your manpower in the current situation. To avoid crowding at the work place, the Government will not allow full manpower for quite sometime to come. 

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Safety is first Priority: When you reopen, Production is not the first priority. Priority is Safety of your Team. How do you ensure safe working of employees without infecting them. Already there are a few examples of Factories contributing to the spread of the Virus. The factory near Mysuru is a case in point. We need to ensure we take maximum precautions. We addressed the Risk Identification and Mitigation Plan in earlier articles. 

Demand may bounce back: Now let us look at how we can manage with only fraction of manpower that Government is going to allow. From what I hear, probably you will be allowed only 30-40% of manpower. When the Lockdown is ended in a gradual manner, the Demand may bounce back. Let us hope for the Best. If the Demand is going up and you have only 40% of manpower, how do you fulfil the demand? 

Low Productivity: Indian Manufacturing Companies have been sitting on huge Productivity improvement opportunities. We have been talking about it in many articles earlier. The Manpower is used in excess both in Shop floor and in offices. Both Blue Collar and White Collar Productivity opportunities are existing for a long time. 

Double Your Productivity: This is the time to Double Productivity at your Factories. You need to quickly put Teams together for this purpose. Let the Teams formulate Paper plans immediately and then you can try to take permission for small teams to go to the factory. 3-5 People teams are already visiting the Factories. These team members can be rotated and each line can be taken up for re-engineering by rotation. Our experience is that most of the Companies do not require huge amount of changes on the shop floor to double the Productivity. If a team is very clear about Lean Principles, then a Small team is enough to re-engineer a line. The Team can live telecast their work to a larger team sitting at homes. You need to re-engineer each operation. The target is to get same output with 50% manpower. 

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The other day a Company was allowed to start Production as they are serving the Medical fraternity. They had 140 people in place of the normal 275. The Team started Production. The motivation of the Team was high as they felt they are serving the nation in these troubled times. In 5 days, they started giving 95% of their normal output. In their words, they cut down on 'non-essential' work (NVAs). I am sure their high motivation would have helped. We need to study it and ensure it more sustainable. Some more work is definitely needed. But the team has shown how a Calamity can be turned in to an Opportunity. 

The Productivity improvement may continue after the Factory reopens too. But these Projects have to be made the top priority for the Company. Productivity can be improved no matter how good is the efficiency in the Company. 

We would recommend that the Companies do not go for high investment on Robots and so on immediately. We need to arrive at a situation where only Robots can add further value. But many companies can improve Productivity in a big way just by looking at their work methods and may be some small investments. We recommend that you put a very small budget for each line. This will ensure that the team will come up with the most Frugal Engineering ideas. We do not want to encourage temporary and flimsy work. But we should also not throw away big money when it is not needed. 

Using Industry 4.0 diligently : If Companies can use Industry 4.0 elements diligently, they can improve the efficiency in a big way. 

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Eg. A Machine shop will be able to use their machines much more effectively if they can schedule their Machines with the help of a Software that connects all the machines and monitors their loading. 

Eg. A Task assigner software can be developed to drive all the Routine work in a Factory like Process Quality monitoring / Machine monitoring / Production monitoring and so on. This software may work on smart phones. The time of the Executives can be used much more effectively with the help of this Software as it can schedule activities dynamically and ensure there is less unproductive time. 

Look for Immediate return on every Rupee that you spend on Industry 4.0. It will pay back!! 

Digitalisation: This is the time to go for Digitalisation in a big way in your office Activities. If you have not been acting on this agenda, now you have enough motivation to do it. The White Collar Productivity can be addressed with this. Each Department should take up the work of re-engineering their work and reworking the SOPs. If you did not have SOPs, then this is the time to write them. With all the team members sitting at home, they have all the time to write SOPs. Every Team should take the target of managing their work with 50% of the Man-hours that are available. 

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Companies like Siemens and Wipro are supporting Companies in Industry 4.0 and Digitalisation agenda. Already there are good number of Projects that are happening in the Country. But I would suggest that you do not look for examples. You need to be trail blazer and create examples. 

Senior Management Awareness and Commitment: The Senior Management has to educate itself on these possibilities and ensure they motivate their teams to take up this agenda. We notice that many Senior Management members may not be aware of these opportunities. Their conviction is important for this agenda to come even on to the table. 

What will you do with the Excess manpower? 

If you are able to improve the Productivity by two times, then you will have many excess employees. It is also a Social responsibility of Companies to ensure that they do not send out big number of Employees in these tough times. We are here to contribute positively to the Society. Trying to just take from the Society is not sustainable!! 

You can try different options.

  • If you are having growth, then you need not fire the Employees. You will simply not recruit more.
  • If you have been having plans to go for some Vertical integration, then this is the right time. Cost advantage will help you. You have the People ready. 
  • If you are not able to do any of these, then train the teams in Vocational Programs. Help them to become independent professionals like Carpenters / Electricians. There is huge demand for this. 
  • Help a few employees to become your Suppliers. It does not take as much money as you imagine. You will be able to help them to get loans from Banks with your guarantee.
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This way there can be myriad ways in which you can take care of your Employees. Have a firm resolve that you are not going to send any employee away without a solution for him/her. You would be able to do it. Be Patient and give it some time. Meanwhile you can ask all other employees to take a cut in their Salaries / Wages. This is a much better option than putting some on the road! 

You can use this Calamity to emerge stronger! Are you using your time well ?

Published in People Productivity

Manufacturing Companies are getting ready to reopen. Some will reopen in full and some in part. Government is going allow this depending on the criticality of the Industry to the current situation and to the Country and its' peoples' existence.

Already the companies are working out Detailed safety Plans. There are several Power point files in circulation.

It would be good to approach this work much more systematically and at greater depth. The Risks have to be identified very carefully. It would be good to use a Tool to identifying all risks.

RIM Plan (RIM - Risk Identification and Mitigation)

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Please look at this simple format.

Every Work activity at the Company would be a potential Hazard area.

I have read that in Germany a factory played a big role in spreading the virus in the initial time. In this factory the virus passed on from one employee to the other when the person passed a Salt dispenser. So a simple act of passing salt can spread the Virus! Such a simple act has become a Hazard now !

Methodology for each Function in the Company

Prepare RIM Plan: Each Function in the Company should prepare a RIM Plan as illustrated above and identify ALL activities that happen in the Function. Teams should not look for short cuts here. There can't be a lazy approach of identifying just some activities. Just an act of opening Door can be risky. A Coffee vending machine can dispense the Virus too if we don't take care. 

Slow down: Teams need to slow down and identify every small activity. In the normal situation we may not pay attention to several small activities that we do as routine. It would be useful to ask the Team to write out a 'Micro SOP' that captures every small activity for one particular activity. This will slow them down and make them look at details. For many Team members, it is a struggle to slow down! Recognise that and help them to slow down!

It is good for the teams to Prepare the RIM Plan and then take it up for revision a few times before settling down.

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Some Company Level Solutions:The Company should look for innovative solutions. We can already see videos of several Soap / Sanitizer dispensing solutions without touching the Dispenser. We are capable of solutions when the need comes! 

There are some situations that can be given Solutions at the Company level. Look at the list below:

a) Opening Doors : You may encourage the employees to open the Door with Elbow instead of hand. You may simply keep more doors open to avoid this need!

b) Hand sanitising : Any solution like the above can be designed and make them available across the Company. 

c) Handling Files : It would be good to ensure that a set of files are handled only by one individual. It would be good to prepare a few more files if the next person has to use them too. Any way the Digitalisation agenda can be taken up now! 

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d) Using Computers / Laptops : Providing Disinfectant for everyone and specifying the frequency of cleaning can be from Central level. 

e) Handling Company Gates : Again it would be good to limit the Gates that are being operated. Release one procedure for handling Gates.

There can be more such Solutions that can be given from a Central level. 

Posters : After identifying all the Solutions, the Team can prepare Posters and display them at respective places. These Posters should have many Photographs. These Photographs should be Company specific and not downloaded from Internet. This is to ensure that someone tries it out practically on the ground before demanding that every employee should practice it! 

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Training: After preparing the Posters and Power Point files, the Employees need to be trained on the first day of operations starting. Every Company should devote good amount of time for this. We have to be aware of the fact that Employees have been working in the Company for years and they got used to working in a specific manner. It would require some effort to change their regular practices. We should not approach it like another Procedure ! It is unfortunate that many Companies do not have full adherence of Procedures already in place!! 

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System Auditors : For the first 2 months, all the Senior People should don the role of Auditors. In addition, few full time Auditors also may be identified who will be going around and identifying the Adherence and Adequacy issues. The Auditors can use the CC TV footage too to identify potential risk areas. The Auditors will identify the Potential risk and also implement a Solution.

Course Corrections: We should expect that we will not cover all Risks and we should expect that we need to improve the practices continuously. These Course Corrections have to be encouraged. We should not be under the false belief that we have set up a system and it will work well forever. 

Videos : Videos of each new practice can be taken when the Employees are actually practicing it and use them for Training the employees. 

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E-Learning and Certification : It would be good to put together a simple course of having all the new practices, train the Employees using the E-Learning course and Certify them. This Certification may become the most important one in the Company! 

It is important for Companies to take this effort seriously. This is a wonderful opportunity for companies to improve the Discipline in the Company. This effort has to be led from the top! If the Senior Management treats this effort as one more ISO efforts, then the Company may soon have COVID Positive cases and put its' employees and its' own Business to Risk!

How Seriously are you undertaking the Safety Practices implementation ?? 


Tuesday, 07 April 2020 00:00

New Behaviours for New Situation!

Manufacturing Companies will start work sometime! The Economy has to roll on. It may start in certain pockets to begin with. The Companies will find themselves in a situation where they have to work with much more Discipline! 

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Several Companies have varied level of Discipline in their Operations. Till now if your Employees and Leaders are not Disciplined, probably you were losing money and may be in a few cases a few Customers or Opportunities of Business! 

But now if your Employees and Leaders are not Disciplined, you may have People falling sick and worse, you may have loss of Life! Companies need to drive a Change quickly and now! 

If a few employees fall sick in your Company, your Company may very quickly get into a ‘Critical Situation’ ! 

If we compare ourselves to say Japanese, we have long way to go in terms of being Disciplined. Right now, Japanese are struggling to contain the Virus once they looked the other way. They thought they were in control. The Virus is giving them tough time. 

We need to recognize the progress that we have to make and be as ready as humanly possible. The Travel that the Leaders in Indian Companies have to do is very steep and tough. But not impossible. We are capable of responding to a tough situation. 

Some of the aspects of Discipline required are as follows:

01.  Planning: Planning is one element that is not given its’ due in the Manufacturing Industry. We will require a lot of Planning in the new environment.

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A Sales Manager needs to plan his priorities more carefully. Changing the Production Plan and rearranging the Production Plans will be much tougher in the new environment as the Procurement team may be working from homes and they will not be able to visit the Vendor Partners as frequently as they may want. 

A HR Manager has to Plan the recruitment and Induction training more carefully. He has to ensure he trains all the new recruits in the ‘Heightened Safety practices’.

An Admin Manager has to Plan the staggered lunch times for employees more closely. 

A Security Officer has to manage the Visitors in a better manner. Maybe he has to go for an App that asks the People wanting to visit his Company to give an advance notice! 

Every Employee has to Plan his next move (Literally) in the Office / Factory so that he/she will follow the Heightened Safety Rules. 

02.  Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for every activity: In conventional way of working, the Work is somehow done as the help is always available immediately. A Worker always has a Supervisor to call when he has a doubt. A Production Manager will always be able to call the Vendor partner if he has some problem with the parts he supplied. 

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But in the new situation, the Team is not going to be very close by. They will have to learn how to manage the work with less interventions and it should happen in more standard manner. 

The SOPs have to be prepared and followed rigorously. Physical changes in the Office / Factories has to be made as needed. Eg. The Physical distancing marks have to be put in areas where you expect more people coming together like at Employees gate, Canteen and so on. 

A fulltime team has to be employed to help the Employees to prepare the SOPs and also audit the following of them. 

Employees will follow the Rules if the overall environment is that of a structured environment. Take the example of an MRT and MRT station. The whole structure of MRT station and Metro trains is very well defined. The Trains come and stop exactly at the same place. There are automatic gates controlling the movement of people. Security team nudges the Passengers to behave in a certain way while getting down and getting in. Every Person going in to the MRT Station follows the rules. You very rarely see someone violating it. Hence if overall environment is well defined and the whole system is well thought of, then the Discipline will improve in the whole area. 

03.  Regular Exercise and managing health: Many of working People are not very health conscious. They do not do regular exercise. They are all focused only on the Work and nothing else. Health of Employees had always been a matter for the Company too. But now it is much more so. 

The Company has to encourage the Employees to take care of themselves and stay healthy and strong. The Company may introduce regular exercise activities for the Employees. 

Introducing a Yoga Teacher can be a good idea for the Employees. Everyone including the CEO should participate in the Daily exercise regimen. 

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04.  Clear KPIs for everyone: When the team is going to be away from each other and when they have less opportunity to make mistakes due to the multiple restrictions that are going to be there, it is important for employees to be clear about what they need to do and what Targets they have to achieve. 

Clear KPIs and Targets can be very useful to the team to just focus on what they have to achieve and plan their activities towards that. 

It would be good to break up the KPIs to the level of action required on a daily basis to achieve the Targets of the KPIs. 

05.  Online Training: The days of having many people in a Hotel Room for training are behind us now. At least for few more months, we cannot hope to do such training to our Employees. 

We now have to train our Employees on Micro skills and the training has to happen online and more often. Probably we should ask our employees to allot a few hours for learning every week. 

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We need to ensure the Skill levels of Employees on all the Functional Skills are improved and they are made more effective. 

We will have to address the Micro Skill / Practices that the employees have to learn in the new environment. 

The Training has to be re-engineered. 

06.  Become slow and steady as against Fast and Furious: The normal way of working of our teams is to go all out and try to do everything in a very fast manner. The Quality takes a back seat. For example, if we are setting up a factory, we pride ourselves in saying that we have built the factory and started it in 3 months flat / 6 months flat and so on. But after starting the factory, every day the people working the factory will suffer due to Bad layouts, Bad Material handling arrangements, Badly planned Canteens and so on. 

In the current situation the Companies have to find ways and means of becoming more efficient immediately. Hence, we should act after considering all angles of an issue. We may have to slow down to speed up. 

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07.  Tech savvy: Now the Employees have to become more Tech Savvy. They need to identify the ways and means of using the Ind 4.0 Technology. For example, you may use a Video analytics app for identifying the violations of Physical distancing rules. Much better, the employees may be warned of Possible violation 

It is not enough if only the IT department is thinking of Technology. The users will be able to suggest much better applications. The overall guiding factor is to become more efficient and avoid the Violation of Physical distancing rules. 

Till now your company would have been only talking or thinking of Digitalization. Now the time has come to do it now! There is greater incentive for this. If you do not do it, the consequences are much worse! 

08.  Accepting Mistakes: Generally, the Employees may not be very open to accepting the mistakes that they would have done. This is largely based on the Culture of the Company as driven by the CEO and the senior team. Most of the Companies have this trouble. 

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Now the CEO and the Senior Team have to drive a culture of accepting the mistakes and improving to the next level. This is absolutely essential when you are trying to change the culture. 

If you do not accept the mistakes, then you would be living in denial. Then there will be no improvement whatsoever. 

09.  Willingness to learn: Employees may not be focused on Learning. This is the normal situation in most of the Companies. They are busy in achieving the Targets. Learning is out of their Horizon once they have come out of their College! 

Now the Employees have to be encouraged to work out a Learning agenda for themselves as they have to become more effective. 

Learning can be there in Functional Skills / Leadership skills. A Company may make it mandatory for every Employee to have a Learning agenda for the coming Year.

10.  Follow up Practices: In the Pre-Carona situation, you could have had the luxury of visiting Vendor Partners / Other Stake holders as required. Now, suddenly you cannot visit them at the same frequency. 

You need better Follow up Practices. You cannot irritate the Vendor Partners. At the same time, you need to follow up like a Champion! 

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11.  Regular Business Reviews: The Business Reviews are very important in any scenario. But now in the current situation when you would have Several Variables, much more than the Pre-Carona situation, you need to keep conducting regular reviews to see what is stuck and keep helping the teams to get over hurdles. 

The hurdles will be many more and we should expect the Hurdles. Expecting them can help you prepare better for the hurdles.

The Purpose of the Business Reviews is to help the Employees to formulate successful ways of achieving the Targets in the new situation. The purpose of Business Reviews is not to ‘Chase’ the employees. 

12.  Deep Dives by Leaders: The Leaders in this situation have to be on the Shop floor / Market as needed. The new ways of working have to be formulated by the Team and the Leaders should participate in all the new ‘way of working’ to understand the problems that the teams will face. 

Leaders should help the teams to solve the problems in the new way of working and establish the new ways of working. 

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These are some of the new ways that Leaders will have to Learn! 

When are you going to start unlearning and Learning?

Published in Leadership

From what it looks like, COVID-19 is not going to disappear in a hurry. It will go on for longer period. No one knows how long. But, to me it looks like at least another One year to 18 months there will be restrictions. If not the lock down. Till the time we have a Vaccine, we may not be able to get away from these restrictions. Indian Manufacturing has to reopen. Closing it for too long will have serious impact on the Economy and the People of India. 

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We need to find new methods of working that will minimize / eliminate the risk. Let us look at some of these methods.

Work from Home

Probably all the functions below have to work from home with probably once / twice a week trip to office depending on need.

a)     Procurement

b)    Vendor Development

c)     Sales 

d)    Marketing

e)    Engineering

f)      Finance

g)     Part of HR

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Better connectivity has to be provided by the Companies to the Employees to work from home. In many cases there may be a need to provide a Laptop / Desktop to work from home. If the Employee is having a machine at work, it has to be shifted to the home of the employee. 

A Small cubicle has to be quickly designed of probably 5x4 = 20 Sqft that can house all that is needed for the employee to work from home. To the extent possible the Company may shift the stuff available at work. If need be the company has to get some things made. Many of the Employees may not have an office chair at home. They should not start developing new physical ailments coming from working ‘somehow’.

There may have to be some routines for taking the Documents from /to the Workplace. This may have to happen once in a day/ week as appropriate. 

Speed up the Digital Drive: It would be good for companies to push for the Digital Drive that they may have been thinking for long. This is the time that you can go document free in your office. Prioritize that project. 

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Companies have to be ready for drop in Productivity at least in the first few weeks. A ‘Productivity team’ has to be constituted that will continuously look for improvements possible in the new way of working. 

There will be a demand for many more Internet connections. ACT / Dongles from various service providers will have to spruce up to handle this higher demand. 

Field Visits / Customer Visits 

The Sales team / Purchase team may have to visit the Field. First of all these visits have to be restricted to the bare minimum. 

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It will be good for companies to appoint Resident Representatives quickly in all major cities where they have Customers/ Vendors. These Resident Reps should do the travelling to the Customers/Vendors. This will minimize the Train / Air travels. Allow these Resident Reps to work for other companies also if one Company cannot fill up the time of one Rep. This can be decided on case to case basis. 

The Vendors will have to be encouraged to set up the Video conferencing facilities as needed. Probably companies like Cisco have to get ready for a bigger demand for their products. 

This is very crucial to maintain the Productivity. Otherwise there can be many frustrations. 

Vendor Digital Connect: This is again the right time to connect all your Vendors and start getting crucial information thru the net. You have to think of connecting your Suppliers and Critical machines in Supplier place in such a manner that you would get much more data than you had been getting earlier. This should make the Remote management much easier. 


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The Core functions like Production / Quality / Process Engineering / Product Engineering/ Stores have to work from the Factory. But as we have asked a good number of people to work from home, there will be much more place at work. 

The seating of all Staff has to be modified to ensure Physical distancing. Government / Companies have to formulate Physical distancing norms. The seating has to adhere to these norms. 

Every Company has to formulate a list of new Behaviors that the team has to practice. Some Behaviors may be as follows:

-       No Hand Shake. Practice Namaste.

-       Monitoring the Body temperature at the gate as well as at the Canteen entry/Exit points. 

-       No Staff meetings. The meetings have to be from their Desks only using a meeting tool.

-       Staggered Lunch / Breaks to avoid crowding.

-       Mandatory usage of hand sanitizer every hour.

-       If there are Manufacturing Processes that require crowding, the processes have to be re-engineered quickly.  Eg. If Assembly lines are designed to keep the operators very close, now you may think of pushing stations away a bit to ensure Physical distancing. 

-       It has to be mandated that everyone in the Shop floor will wear Face masks and Gloves that will be discarded every shift. 

-       An Initial Sanitizing process has to be introduced at every line / every station. 

-       Shop floor PA system has to be used to good effect for the Shift beginning / ending meetings. This is to avoid crowding of people at one place.


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Every Contact point between Two people has to be thought of and it has to be de-risked. Companies that are certified for ISO 14000 would know the ‘Hazard identification and Risk assessment study’ HIRA Study. The HIRA Study has to be taken to entirely a new level. 

Rule Implementation

It is easy to make several rules within the organization. But the weakness of Indian Teams is adherence to the Rules. 

The fear of the invisible Virus is a good motivator for following Rules. But every Company has to put in place a close monitoring system to avoid violations. Willful or otherwise. 

A Company can start with a Small Cross functional team whose only job is to ensure the Hygiene rules are being followed. 

Digitalize the Hygiene Rule Monitoring

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After understanding the problems in following rules and improving the system, a Company can consider going for a Video analytics software that can detect the violations of the Hygiene rules of a Company through CC TV Video. 

With the help of Video analytics, it is possible to monitor the Rule following by the teams.


Indian Companies have not been focusing on the Training. Now it is mandatory for the Companies to take Training of its’ staff more seriously. They have to improve the Productivity of staff to make up for the possible drop in Productivity due to new Hygiene practices. 

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This Training also has to be done remotely as far as possible as getting Employees in to one room is not advisable. 

Companies have to go for E-Learning practices sooner than later on. 

Extended Responsibility of Companies

Companies will have to take the responsibility of avoiding the crowding of Public places by their employees. 

Companies will have to pick up their employees right from their doorsteps to ensure they do not crowd the public transport system. 

It would be good to have the Companies tie up with Grocers and Vegetable suppliers to let employees buy these essentials right at the Factory and take them home. 

Many Companies provide accommodation to the Migrant labor. This has to be continued even when the Business is down and for next 18 months no company should discontinue any Migrant labor. 

Wellness focus

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Companies should take up a focus on Wellness of Employees by supporting them with activities like Yoga, Zumba and other practices. This will ensure that the Employees are in good Physical and Mental health. 

Government may mandate this and ask this internal initiative to be linked to ‘Banega Swasth India’ campaign. 

Government Support

Government needs to support the Manufacturing Companies by way of Direct benefits that would put Cash in the hands of Companies to bear all this additional expenditure. The Companies can be given a Target to improve their efficiencies to cover the additional expenditure in ‘x’ months. 

Government will not be able to sustain the subsidies forever. 

Every Company has to find its’ own set of practices. But following the Physical distancing norms of the Government / Company should be the goal all of us chase.

Without this, the Companies will start suffering badly. It is in our interest to ensure the Industry is in good health so that it can support the society at large. 

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Digitalization and Industry 4.0 can come to the aid of the Indian Manufacturing in all these efforts. 

Definitely this way of working will add more hardship and expense to your company. But I suspect , you may not have much choice. 

Carona may not be the last virus to hit us. We have to prepare for Bio warfare anyway. The time has come! 

Are you Working on your Safe Re-opening Plans?

Published in Leadership