Why Manufacturing is not an attractive option for employees in India? (Can India leapfrog into Industry 4.0?- Part 4)

Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink………
Where have all the skilled workers gone?

On a recent domestic flight in India, I sat next to an entrepreneur who was bemoaning the lack of ready and skilled manpower. He was needing skilled welders but was finding it difficult. When I asked him about his next steps, he replied that he will work with some fresh/untrained workers and add some more workers for rework.

Last year when I visited a customer’s factory, I was unable to believe it – the machines, the planning systems and the way materials were handled, were so archaic that it seemed as if the factory did not progress since three decades.

When I asked a youngster working in the assembly unit of the same factory, he said he was leaving the job to work as a delivery person for a food startup.His logic: at least the delivery job was more exciting and having a better atmosphere and image.

This is the case in many other organizations too, particularly in the SME segment. Investments in technology and IT have missed the majority of manufacturing organizations in India.

90% of the manufacturing industry in India is in the unorganized and small sector and the wages in the manufacturing sector is definitely less attractive than banking, IT and transport sectors – although it is fast increasing for some of the skilled trades and even overtaking the salaries of engineers/accountants due to paucity of supply.
Questions, questions and more questions:

Did making the shift directly from agriculture to services, mean making the manufacturing look unattractive in India?
Are the factories being seen as “dirty, dumb and dangerous” by the youngsters and associated with demanding physical labor, harsh factory conditions and low wages?
Why do youngsters look to IT or office and service jobs rather than Manufacturing?

In our previous blogs in this series, we touched upon the fact that all countries wanted to move to Industry 4.0 and we strongly believe that India can leapfrog into Industry 4.0.

But it boils down to addressing one main hurdle….How can we make Manufacturing more attractive to talented youngsters?

In order that we leapfrog into Industry 4.0, the first and biggest task is to make Manufacturing attractive to engineers, managers and skilled workmen who are keen to stake a career and invest their time and energies.

As opposed to the casualisation of labour, non-existent training, long working hours, poor pay and absence of basic safety in the manufacturing sector(especially in ancillary units), new workers want to work in an industry where there is job security, wages based on skills attained, good benefits, and the job is presented as a long-term career.

Manufacturing today is modern and high-tech globally and it is important for HR mangers to catch up with this trend. Factories are going to be hubs of innovation and technology. Work will no longer be the traditional “blue collar” requiring physical prowess but will be more like a “white collar” job requiring deep levels of problem solving, continual innovation and a spattering of IT usage.

Some of the steps we would recommend are:

Acknowledge the existence of the problem
Government of India can talk about “Make in India”, “Skill India” etc. but accepting that there is a serious problem constraining the industry would be a good starter. The answer is not a labour intensive, small scale industry.

Unshackle the “un-organised sector” from definition linked to the employee strength, investment and terms like “non-electrification”. Instead give incentives/support to investments in Automation, productivity and quality.
Train the vast pool of IT workforce into areas like Digital enablement, IOT and Analytics-as applied to Manufacturing ecosystem.
Transform the “mind-set” of the youth so that they respect work and move away from the mentality of acquiring degrees/certificates to that of acquiring skills in line with industry expectations to get a job. Academic learning should be integrated with industry exposure through internships or ‘Apprentice’ system.
“Swach Factory” with clean/safe working environment would go a long way in attracting the youngsters.
Promote Industry-Academia collaboration to launch new courses like “Mechatronics” –
a blend of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, control systems engineering and information technology which combines elements of Robotics as well as (IT+OT) Technology. These courses would lay the foundation for Industry 4.0 adoption.

Create “Centers of Innovation Excellence” for various regions/industry sectors. These can be used for demonstrating the practical application of Technology through working pilots relevant for each sector.
Establish “Centers of technology” where setting-up of certain specific technology based “ancillary units” as well as “Skill units” like fully equipped Tool Rooms, CNC/Robot programming/repair centers, etc. This would ensure availability of difficult to get skills very much essential for the initial take-off. These centers also can Train the workforce for skill upgradation.

Of course, the suggested measures are not exhaustive and we can add some more……

Dear friends, feel free to comment on the points mentioned and share your ideas to make Manufacturing an attractive option for the youth in India !

In the next blog we will talk about the countries that we need to take inspiration from!