SMEs in BPM sector – Scaling through Verticalization, Omnichannel, and Partnerships By Ramesh Mirakhur Director – 5F World, Principal Consultant – Kalzoom Advisors

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SMEs in the BPM sector must adopt the approach of specializing in the vertical industry and they must use customer-centric thought processes for channeling sales efforts. The success of a sales and marketing strategy lies in the approach that is used to reach new prospects and improve conversion rates…

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A New Race For Leadership

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It will need a concerted effort by the government, academia, research institutions, industry associations and industry to make India a force to reckon with in AI-led growth and enable manufacturing

There are many who believe that China, with its burgeoning costs, is losing out in outsourced manufacturing to more nimble and cheaper competitors such as Vietnam and Thailand and there has been hope that with some concerted investments in the right areas, India too will finally find its place in the global manufacturing sun. However, the time for projecting India’s pool of engineering manpower and ability to do labour-intensive manufacturing at scale and quality is now over and the baton of leadership will pass to those who are truly able to design and build factories of the future, powered by cyber-physical concepts, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI).

Manufacturing firms of the future will use predictive analytics to estimate demand for each product category based on demand and environment patterns and also develop new products through generative design principles on an ongoing basis to satisfy demand of discerning customers. Virtual agents will interface between information systems and production processes and feed fully automated factories with planning, materials and process inputs on a real-time basis. Materials handling, location of parts and warehouse management and utilisation optimisation with digital aids such as augmented and virtual reality are commonplace today. The real cutting edge will be provided by AI applied to quality defect management through image recognition, process quality prediction and large-scale prescriptive approaches, failure predictions and predictive maintenance including support of self-healing machines. The future is all about maximising throughput with consistent high quality and redefined role of engineering talent in manufacturing.

Jabil, one of the world’s leading designers of digital factories with several successful implementations in Asia and Latin America, enables real-time predictive analytics for its customers by connecting equipment, sensors and people and claims an ever-increasing accuracy level for predicting early equipment and process failure leading to energy, scrap and rework savings and decrease in manufacturing cycle time. Companies such as GE and Siemens, both pioneers in digital manufacturing, have reported success with the use of AI — GE through the deployment of digital twins, which models and tracks the state of the engine and provides continuous analytics and predictive maintenance suggestions and Siemens through a combination of AI with neural technologies in its Gas Turbine Autonomous Controller Optimizer which ensures that every gas turbine has over 500 sensors continuously monitoring temperature, pressure, stress and other variables enabling the neural model to alter the distribution of fuel in the turbine’s burners on a dynamic basis.

Recent studies by PW and BCG place AI and advanced analytics at the core of smart manufacturing

Advanced Analytics at the core of smart manufacturing with recent trends moving beyond traditional inventory optimisation, maintenance and data security usage to intelligent factory operations, the application of digital twins and human robotics collaborative ecosystems. They predict that humans in the future factory will be entrusted with the higher-level tasks of programming, maintaining and coordinating robotic operations. With AI driving advanced predictive and prescriptive analytics and replacing SMAC (Social Media, Mobility, Cloud and Analytics) as the core of digital transformation, it is predicted that AI will also be a valuable tool outside the factory, enabling continuous logistics and supply chain monitoring, providing route optimisation for inward and outward flow of materials and finished products, tracking customer expectations and emotional states through voice analysis at service call centres and providing personalised product recommendations for customers based on deep learning of their previous responses and social media footprint. The use of AI and advanced analytics is limited only by human imagination as newer customer journeys evolve and design thinking enables early anticipation of every need.

The good news is that the adoption of digital technologies in Indian manufacturing firms has been placed by recent research at 27 percent against a global digitisation level of 33 percent and is expected to cross 60 percent in the next five years. It is also heartening that thanks to an increasing awareness of Industry 4.0, leading industry associations such as the Confederation of Indian Industry are making smart manufacturing the core of their agenda, and there is a proliferation of scaling start-ups in the Internet of things and robotics space even Indian SMEs are placing digital and Industry 4.0 at the core of their agenda for the future. Small-scale solutions are being piloted and investment in automation and analytics are beginning to bear fruit.

However, a major commitment at national policy making level and also across industry sectors towards AI is needed to position India as a true leader in new manufacturing solutions. And the competition is already planning this on a gargantuan scale. China has committed to add over $150 billion to its economy through AI by 2030 and many announcements of magnitude have been made including an AI support fund of $5 billion in Tianjin and the Beijing municipal government declaring plans for a $2.2 billion AI development park. The research coming out of China rivals the US in quantity and quality and it will need a concerted effort by the government, academia, research institutions, industry associations and industry to make India a force to reckon with in AI-led growth and enable the manufacturing sector to finally stake its claim to global leadership.

Trends in BPM Industry

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India is among the largest offshoring destinations in the world and the BPM industry accounts for about 37 percent of the global outsourced BPM markets. According to a report by the Indian Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology, the Indian IT-BPM sector is estimated to expand to US$ 300 billion by 2020, at a CAGR of 9.5 percent.

Based on our research, the following key trends are re-shaping the BPM industry and driving business growth:

  1. More and more organizations are embracing digital transformation and BPM is taking a central role in the transformation. Driven by the need for speed and agility, in addition to the traditional needs of efficiency and optimization, organizations are now turning to BPM as a key driver of digital transformation. As a result, organizations are looking to work with partners that have innovative digital capability.
  2. The heart of digital transformation is a technology-powered re-alignment of organizations – to move away from internally focused business processes and look towards customer-facing engagement. With rising customer demands, companies are deploying BPM with cross-enterprise focus between front-end and back-end office processes in order to deliver end-to-end responsive customers interactions
  3. Organizations are seeing the value of adopting new business intelligence platforms and advanced analytics options providing greater data visibility to employees. BPM solutions need to ensure that the information moves seamlessly between users, thus eliminating the need for extra emails and similar communications
  4. Additionally, the year 2017 has witnessed an increase in the collaboration of IT and BPM players on the supplier front. The BPM vendor landscape is moving toward integrated/combined solutions with vendors offering case management and BPM in the same products while some vendors provide separate products for automation of different processes
  5. RPA has become the backbone of BPM, however, the industry will be further disrupted by other emerging technologies like AI, Machine Learning and cognitive technologies. Capitalizing on new technologies and re-skilling the workforce will help BPM companies to capture business especially in technology-focused sectors like banking, insurance and financial services

Managing talent needs commitment from the top: Ganesh Natarajan

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It is crucial for the management to also walk-the-talk, to bring in excitement and spontaneity, and finally, a different way of embracing and valuing employee expectations

The new way of managing talent needs commitment from the top
– Ganesh Natarajan, CEO, Zensar

From your point of view, what has changed in the talent management space?

The primary change has been driven by the expectation from the employee side. Traditionally people who joined the workplace were looking for a job, today that is not the case people are looking for much more than a job. They are looking for engagement, challenges, growth; this is true not only in IT/ITE but across the board. This change has made organization having to focus much more on making the work experience exciting. Companies have had to be innovative to engage people at the emotional level.

In Zensar for example, we have started many initiatives to bring people together and empower them thought a democratic environment, for example we run a program called “vision community”, where everybody in the organization has the right to contribute to the strategy of the organization by giving their ideas, those ideas selected then get materialized in projects and these people get to work in exciting projects that gives them visibility on the top. Another example on how important this focus is, we are hiring a full time person to be the Chief Joy O cer for the team. This person’s primarily objective will be to drive excitement among people in the organization, beside the regular responsibilities in handling HR policies and processes. See the shift that the HR Head is taking from HR policies and process to be the main goal to focus on engagement and fun, of course the other work needs to happen but that is a given.

Overall the focus that I see in talent management today is to create space for spontaneous expression, where employees and managers can share and show spontaneity and not be encapsulated in a program to be done in a given date and time. This new way of managing talent needs commitment from the top, the management to also walk the talk and bring excitement and spontaneity and nally a di erent way of embracing and valuing employee expectations.

Industry 4.0: Digitising the shop floor

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The rapid advances in Industry 4.0 technologies and the installation of fully integrated cyber-physical systems on the shop floor have enabled smart manufacturing to become a reality

Ganesh Natarajan July 04, 2018 Last Updated at 05:59 IST

One of the most powerful visuals I have seen of a fully automated shop floor with flexible manufacturing systems, robots and total flow manufacturing implemented is a dark screen with a small circle of light. One of the most intriguing visuals is a picture of a Japanese factory operating at full capacity in the night shift. The rapid advances in Industry 4.0 technologies and the installation of fully integrated cyber-physical systems on the shop floor have enabled smart manufacturing with minimal human intervention to become a reality in many factories worldwide and Indian firms are striving to catch up.

In the past six months and more, digitised shop floors have become the focus of attention and investment in many manufacturing firms with even boutique consulting and IoT firms like Kalzoom and Altizon struggling to cope with the escalating demand for audits, proof-of-concept programmes and full- scale implementation. Some cases of well-managed Industry 4.0 projects will bring the opportunities to light.

A leading manufacturer of auto-components in India has embarked on an ambitious agenda to improve throughput of their assembly line and plant by tracking overall equipment effectiveness automatically in real time and make measurement metrics available to shop floor planners for plant optimisation. The capture of significant shop floor events on a cloud platform and the resultant visibility of plant utilisation enables production scheduling decisions to be taken instantaneously. Within months, the firm has reported a 20 per cent improvement in plant utilisation and recovered the opex as well as training costs incurred.

A construction equipment manufacturing company in North America that has already automated its manufacturing lines, deployed PLCs (programmable logic controllers) and established predictive maintenance protocols was suffering unplanned downtime and low line throughput because of the inability to analyse the volumes of data emerging from the floor and make real time decisions. A comprehensive IoT solution with individual dashboards for all production planners and shop schedulers has enabled real time alerts and notifications with prescriptive analytics to be deployed. The company reports a 12 per cent improvement in line throughput enabled by data insights and real-time visibility onto assemble line performance. With IoT built on existing automation the real investment has been in creating actionable insights!

Another data and insights success story is that of a metals forging leader with investments in multiple SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) systems but the inability to connect various heterogenous machines resulting in mountains of data silos that have not been united. The design of a central data monitoring system that captures data flows and integrates for anytime anywhere analysis has enabled shop floor and ERP systems to be seamlessly connected and production monitoring and corrective action to be done real time.

The realised benefits of Industry 4.0 on the shop floor have been many and companies are reporting high double-digit percentage improvements — reduction in machine downtime, inventory holdings, cost of quality, maintenance costs and time to market, increases in forecasting accuracy and plant productivity and on a softer note, substantial increase in shop floor supervisor capabilities and morale. The quick wins obtained through improvement in operating efficiencies are now being expanded in many progressive factories through investigation of artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities to move from descriptive analysis to insight-based predictions and prescriptive transformations of the manufacturing process.

In simple terms, smart manufacturing and the use of the industrial internet to transform “Make in India” can be achieved and is being done by the early pioneers through a simple four phase implementation approach. The first phase should be a simple assessment of where you are — in data gathering and analysis, the maturity of the supplier eco-system and the connectedness of the machines on the shop floor and the shop floor itself with the overall enterprise resource planning process. This will involve doing a detailed capability analysis of machine inventory and associated hardware, and also PLCs, SCADA and all data collection devices. Having a documented process follows with data capture points through the process and current key performance indicators with baseline data will help in identifying shortfall areas. An understanding of the communications network with its current throughput and the effectiveness of inventory management, ERP and manufacturing execution systems will be the end of this phase.

The second phase involves collection of production and maintenance data and action optimisation through meaningful analytics, the third is more developing a data philosophy that uses real time data and timely analytics for decision-making at and beyond the factory floor. Finally, investing in organisational change and recruiting developing and retaining the right talent with a razor-sharp focus on the changing needs of B2B and B2C customers is a must for sustained success in an Industry 4.0 environment. Approaching these phases systematically will ease the Industry 4.0 journey.

Which brings us back to the picture at the beginning of this column and the obvious question — what was that little circle of light in a totally dark shop floor? The lone human in the factory, a security guard taking a round with a small battery torch, ensuring that all is well in the digital world of tomorrow. One wonders if this is what automation can do to human employment.

Originally Published in Business Standard on July 04, 2018


The author is founder and chairman of 5F World. He can be reached on

Data-driven competitive advantage

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Organisations no longer have the luxury of calibrated knowledge management journeys that guide us on the path from data to information to knowledge and wisdom

Ganesh Natarajan June 14, 2018 Last Updated at 06:23 IST

Three years ago, the digitisation of business processes and the exploration of social media, mobility, cloud computing and business intelligence was seen as the stuff winning organisations had in their DNA. Two years ago, the leading companies in every sector had already jumped the first few hurdles and were experimenting with big data, data visualisation and predictive analytics to meet the projected demands of all stakeholders better, faster and cheaper. In the last year or so, digital has truly become mainstream with most CXOs getting very comfortable with technology, engaging in design thinking and new customer journey management and embarking on major business process re- engineering programmes to truly leverage the power of both technology and data. So, what is the next frontier for the leaders?

The frontier is the data-driven organisation. In today’s highly competitive world, the success of any business is based on its ability to truly collaborate with IT to identify all possible internal and external data sources, build collaborative platforms that permit creative exploitation and exploration of all available data and content, analyse trends and patterns that emerge through this exploration to develop insights and use this intelligence across the enterprise to forecast, predict and prescribe meaningful approaches to satisfy every stakeholder.

California-based Systech, a boutique firm that specialises in advanced analytics has developed a progressive model for its Fortune 100 clients, which is also being used today by innovative firms in India and Asia. Calling it the essential transition from the traditional reactive “sense and respond” model to a much more pro-active “predict and act” approach, the firm has developed a unique iterative model with clients where the raw data from multiple sources is extracted, transactional reports and queries are facilitated and traditional descriptive analytics facilitated with dashboards and scorecards and then diagnostics provided with advanced visualisation and alerts to facilitate management decision-making.

breakaway data-driven opportunities start at this point, where most organisations feel that they have done whatever is necessary to exploit data and analytics. Organisations need to mine deeper into the data to explore new insights and use statistical and modelling tools to predict stakeholder behaviour in different market conditions. And then the big move from “what could happen” to “what should happen” as machine learning and artificial intelligence get deployed to move into the prescriptive domain. Cognitive computing is the name of the game today and its use truly brings data to life for the benefit of the organisation.

Take the case of a well-known manufacturing organisation which is taking a leaf out of the advanced data science models of financial services and retail firms and building a totally data-driven organisation. It boasts a fully wired up shop floor, data from CNC machines interacting with a constant feed from IoT sensors populating data lakes and an enterprise data warehouse and machine learning driven automation enabling predictive maintenance, self-healing machines and IoT analytics for production and maintenance managers. Add to this the total integration with the enterprise resource planning systems of the company and customer and supply chain analytics make the entire operations of the company transparent and truly data integrated. Many organisations eyeing Industry 4.0 would do well to approach cyber-physical transformation this way.

So, what really is the competitive advantage of becoming a data-driven organisation? There can be both optimisation and transformative benefits depending on the changes the organisation is prepared to undertake and implement. At the optimisation level, having a better handle on data and precision analytics enables a 360-degree view of the customer, precision in marketing campaigns, analysis of competitor strategies and success and a better approach to all stakeholders within and outside the organisation. A case in point is an insurance firm in Africa that has now launched its own wellness center chain and is helping the customer to stay healthy by tracking diet, fitness levels and recommending health regimes. This not only anticipates insurance needs, it also builds customer loyalty and it is no wonder then that this model is being taken to other parts of the world as well.

There is no better example of transformation than Ant Financials, an offshoot of Alibaba that has very quickly become the most highly valued start-up in the world with the last $10 billion funding round pegging its value at a $150 billion! Here is a truly data-driven organisation built to monetise every possible data source about the customer. Ant has access to Alibaba’s vast merchant and customer data and provides targeted solutions for financial services, insurance, wealth management, payments and credit. Apart from this, it also offers low-cost microproducts like merchandise returning insurance to Alibaba’s captive audience, yielding 37.5 per cent of its pre-tax profits to Alibaba for this data access! With over 500 million total active users and scaling rapidly, companies like Ant truly demonstrate the potential of data for building entirely new businesses.

In an increasingly competitive world, organisations no longer have the luxury of calibrated knowledge management journeys that guide us on the path from data to information to knowledge and wisdom. Capturing the power of data and using it for business advantage holds the key to competitive advantage — for firms, industries and nations!

Originally Published in Business Standard on June 14, 2018


The author is founder and chairman of 5F World. He can be reached on