Guest Column

Manufacturing Automation Minimizing Human Intervention

December, 2018

Tomoyuki YAMATO moved from Singapore in 2016 but is originally from Japan. World1 Solutions is a cross-border business professionals managed by Indian & Japanese management. It executes Make in India / Skill India / Digital India / Startup India programs partnering with Japan, Belarus and other regions. The company offers original services such as “virtual CIO” to semi-automate existing operations; “virtual Expat” to offer pre-entry market experience, and “Innovation in India!!” for JUGAAD R&D, etc.

Most of the operations in India are still highly dependent on manual works. I believe “human intervention” certainly contains some positive aspect, i.e. JUGAAD, but it may not the expected context in this column.

From my personal experiences as resident in Japan and Singapore, I would agree that India needs “minimizing human interventions”. Still there are some miles to achieve “Skill India” in every aspects of the society.

300km per hour high-speed railways project in between Mumbai-Ahmedabad, with “Shinkansen” technology from Japan, is under development. Launching date, i.e. either 2022, 2023 or later, is one of the major concerns frequently pointed out, but I foresee further concerns in maintenance operation once after successfully launched.

Shinkansen insists lots of “Takumi-no-Waza”, artisan’s work. Record as “no fatal accident over 50 years” in Japan operation must be an appreciated fact itself, but it doesn’t mean its quality can be perfectly duplicated and realised under condition in India by Indian engineers. Skills among individual operators/ engineers as well as its management structure including sensitivity on preciseness, working culture, etc. are quite different from those of Japan.

Now training for engineer trainers for Shinkansen has started. Since “Takumi” of Japan, the artisan of those technologies or techniques, are mostly senior ages, communication can be done only in Japanese language. Hence the training program had to been started from language studies. I have quite a doubt on this approach, too much dependency in human interventions.

Seems railways route operated over 100kmph in India as of now is only one, i.e. Delhi – Agra Express. Even within far less average speed, i.e. 60-70kmph, still tragedies are happening sometimes.

As “virtual CIO” oversee to improve struggling Japanese operations in India, I’m encouraging and promoting “Semi-Automation” as realistic and affordable solution under current circumstance. Not like full-automation which requires massive robots, drones or any larger facilities replacing human resources, semi-automation is aiming maximising human activities in collaboration with certain machines or tools, i.e. IoT devices, IT applications, etc. From the opposite perspective, minimizing human intervention in traditional manual works.

I knew from my experience that Indian talents are capable enough to catch up certain level of technical skills once “appropriate” training opportunity has given. In the meanwhile, trainers, i.e. Japanese in most cases, are not much aware of the basic condition in Indian engineers currently based upon. They tend to simply duplicate completely same approach which has done in Japan in history. Targeted goal must be right but since the approach is often not appropriate, Indian engineers may lose the context, especially details required in level of sensitivity, punctuality, etc.

“That level” of preciseness cannot be taught only via verbal communication. It requires certain experiences at real site but there’s no Shinkansen in India so far.

Why don’t we leverage with technologies in here? There are various equipment or tools which will work collaboratively with human resources by minimizing human intervention to raise their quality of works. Not only for Shinkansen, Japan is ready to share its rich experiences and know-how to develop those. I see lots of areas for Japan - India collaboration toward “semi-automation” of the industries.

- Tomoyuki YAMATO,
Resident Partner – Bengaluru,
World1 Solutions