Industry 5.0 and MSME

I had a wonderful opportunity to attend the Manufacturing Conclave 2024 organized in Bhubaneswar by ASSOCHAM. Lots of insights about the future of technology interventions in manufacturing were shared by eminent speakers from reputed companies. However, two major aspects were left unaddressed.  

What is the impact of Industry 5.0 on MSME?  

How to enable the future workforce at Technical Institutions to manage these technology solutions?  

Two focus areas of technology solutions in the industry focused on improving efficiency and monitoring work. Both are perceived as threats by shopfloor workers. Hence the tensions and apprehensions. As the value proposition of technology has mostly been higher productivity, the natural consequence is to replace people and reduce workers. Can we do better than this?  

One of the biggest barriers to adopting the latest technology by MSMEs is the prohibitive costs involved. However, the conventional business model of all the technology vendors has been the capital expenditure model, making and selling the machines. Of late Canon has cracked this barrier by shifting their business model to pay-per-print to make the machine more affordable. This has led to a boom in the number of outlets using copier machines as the affordability issue has been addressed.  

Similar shifts have been seen in a few more industries like industrial gases and boilers where the focus has shifted from selling the plants to selling the gases, steam, and charge based on consumption. Can the machine and technology manufacturers think of such models to make themselves affordable to MSMEs? They could also set up common service centers where different MSMEs can use the machine and pay as per usage. This would address the affordability issue, maintenance issue, and operator training issue. 

For the human-machine interface, we have a familiar example in our hands. The smartphone represents some of the latest technology breakthroughs. Yet it is designed for the masses. No special training is necessary for the users to use it. Why can’t human-machine interfaces be designed in such an effortless way to remove the fear of technology from the users?  

Another issue is deciding what skills to impart to the people. We should focus on their decision-making skills based on the reports generated by the machines. They should not be looked at as machine operators as understood till now. Machines would be capable of completing the tasks independently. However, based on the alerts and feedback received from them, people should be able to decide and implement the adjustments necessary to ensure quality output and sometimes to avoid breakdowns.  

Hence the shift in focus should be to ask what the machines can not do or should not do, to bring in the necessary accountability into the system rather than merely blaming the technical glitch for any error. The focus of training would then be to build capabilities to understand the data and make decisions. This will have an enormous impact on the way the technicians are trained.  

To implement these changes to leverage the technology by MSMEs, the following changes are suggested. The MSMEs should start collecting bargaining through the supporting agencies so that common facilities are created. The necessary processes and controls are to be set up to ensure the smooth functioning of these facilities. Rather than expecting the MSMEs to learn how to use technology, they should be helped in leveraging technology to compete in the international markets, while remaining competitive.  

The next generation of workers should be trained in using technology for better decision-making. This means a complete shift in the curriculum and pedagogy. They should however be trained on maintenance and troubleshooting of these machines so that any disruptions to production can be addressed promptly. The training should focus on different scenarios and situations that could happen and how to address them or correct them. The focus should be on the processing and knowledge of various parameters that are critical to quality.  

This would require a higher level of basic education so that the workers can understand the necessary processes and learn how to make decisions under different conditions. This also means that workers would be spending more time in formal education. The curriculum could be tailored for different processes and streams so that there is no need to learn too many subjects. This will also reduce the overall duration of education and training necessary before they are employed.  

The present institutions must invest and transform themselves into technology hubs, rather than remaining the museums of obsolete technology, which they are today. This brings in another pertinent challenge of getting competent trainers and teachers necessary to get the job done. A model could be to turn these institutions into common facilities so that they generate revenue from the infrastructure while imparting direct training to the students, just like teaching hospitals. All this sounds like a dream and a dream. But if there is no powerful vision, there is no drive to change.  

About the Author

Flt. Lt. Sridhar is a Startup Ecosystem Builder, Keynote Speaker, Author, Researcher, and Entrepreneur. Sridhar’s mission is to help Entrepreneurs and startups achieve incredible success through exponential growth. He brings insights and lessons from three decades of hands-on startup and business leadership experience in various verticals. Sridhar uses six different thinking processes, including systems thinking and design thinking, and helps entrepreneurs create breakthrough solutions through his unique coaching process. Sridhar launched and ran four businesses. He is a certified Startup Mentor from the Confederation of Indian Industries.  

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