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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ?