Tag Archives: Aviation manufacturing in India

Quality awareness in Indian products

Recently, a German manufacturer refused to manufacture in India because he wasn’t convinced of Indian ability to meet his quality standards. He compared a simple switch board that was fixed crooked at an Indian public office to a German one that was perfectly in place. A UK based designer working with Indian textiles recently refused to source his products locally from Indian weavers due to lack of quality. This is in spite of the fact that bulk manufacture of Indian embroidery and textiles has a potential to woo international market. A customer at a jewellery store was disappointed with a custom-made silver plaque that was badly crafted despite initially promising good quality, and rejected the piece.

In India, you and I observe this lack of quality awareness in everyday life – be it with household equipment or a garment. In the examples quoted above, all it needed was quality awareness on the part of the electrician who fitted the switch board on the wall – he needed to not only know what was straight and what was not, but also feel the pride and confidence in his own work to ensure that he fixed it straight. The artisan creating the decorative plaque needed to feel pride in his work to ensure that he crafted a perfect piece – and the salesperson needed to know that if the piece was not good enough, he should not have even offered it to the customer as the reputation of his business was at stake.

So, what is good quality? Quality is not just a certificate (such as ISI or BIS) that can be given to products. It is an attitude that reflects the DNA of an organisation or an individual. Sadly, today the spheres of knowledge and performance do not work in synchrony. This emphasises the increasing need for quality awareness in the entire population, whether a factory worker, artisan, salesman or manager.

Holding financial constraints responsible for lack of quality is certainly not justifiable. A sense of pride in work and ownership associated with one’s work can overcome most constraints.

Craftsmen and technicians in India suffer from a lack of exposure to quality in production. The present day social environment has poor esteem for a blue-collar job in all work places across the country, and has very little respect for the dignity of labour. This acts as a demotivating factor for workmen and is hurting India in many ways. This is where China and other countries have an edge over India. Today, China maintains a work culture that is unbiased and treats as equally valuable, the contribution of every type of workforce.

Change must begin with the individual and spread across organisations. Even an average technician must be aware of good quality. He must hold a sense of pride in his work. Quality begins with design and continues through workmanship in the production process right to maintenance and customer service. China, which has a GDP five times that of India and a manufacturing sector ten times bigger, had a reputation some years ago in the international market, of producing poor quality goods. China has overcome that stigma by going on a war-footing and drastically improving quality. Here in India, if a locally produced item is shoddy and lacks basic attention to detail, we can neither aspire to ‘Make in India’ nor transform India into a global manufacturing hub.

The ‘Make in India’ initiative needs to leapfrog over the initial pitfalls of poor quality that China faced, and establish a global reputation of ‘High Quality’ for goods produced in India. This can be only achieved by a concerted parallel effort on several fronts, quality awareness being one of the foremost.

Challenges for MSMEs in HR strategy in the wake of ‘Make in India’

‘Make in India’ primarily focuses on manufacturing products in India. It is logical that this should include ‘Design in India’, ‘Innovate in India’, and ‘Support in India’. This therefore requires a holistic approach to not just managing HR, but creating HR right from schools, colleges and training institutions. Though this is a highly demanding task, there is no way we can avoid this. It is the only way that Make in India can succeed. Further, all these activities result in multiple areas of challenges as well as opportunities. The Governments (Central & State) too have their part to play in improving Industrial Relations and Labour laws, since manufacturing will certainly have to percolate to the smallest of MSMEs.

While MSMEs employ 40% of India’s workforce, contributing 45% to India’s manufacturing output, the main problem that they face is the lack of talent – most employees are non-employable for industry needs.

I foresee that soon, there is likely to be such a huge shortage of trained manpower across all levels of the manufacturing sector (operators, supervisors, managers, designers, etc.) that HRM itself can be a challenge for each organisation, especially the smaller ones. HRM will have also to build stronger bridges with educational/training institutions.

At a primary level, flaws in education system cost MSMEs a lot of their resources. Engineers, diploma holders, technicians, operators and clerks need to be given skills that train their mind to analyse and apply, before they can be productive. With this also comes the need to remain relevant at any point in the industry – therefore, the need to upgrade skills periodically. This applies equally to non-productive jobs like accounts and administration where online filing of monthly VAT returns as well as transportation documents are now mandatory in most states.

At a basic level, educational institutions are to be blamed for their flaws in skilling manpower. This, unfortunately, starts right from school. There must be a re-evaluation in the system with focus on understanding and application of skills rather than marks based on rote learning. The management in colleges remains unaware of industry needs and fails to incorporate skills that are required for industry. Thus fresh recruits from colleges lack skills to apply the knowledge gained – some even lack good foundation.

Graduating students are attracted to large MNCs which filter out the few who are capable of being employed. The Micro and Small Enterprises (MSE) are thus left with students who are not qualified for industry needs. If MSMEs employ their scant and precious resources of time and money into training their recruits, then employee retention becomes a problem. Skilling them would make them capable of meeting needs of larger organisations and MNCs. For fear of attrition, MSEs are reluctant to impart the necessary training, besides the time and cost constraints. Such a situation is clearly unhealthy.

The government has recognised the need for skilled manpower. ‘Skill India’ program was launched keeping in mind that only 2.3% of Indian workforce has undergone skill training. While these programs are viewed as being complementary to ‘Make in India’ initiative, they yet again focus merely on low-level skilling of fitters, plumbers, carpenters, technicians, etc. Skilling of graduates – especially engineers, has not been addressed. Further, the essential skills of critical and analytical thinking are not imparted, leading to a talent vacuum in the mid- and higher management levels of any organisation. This is felt most acutely in an MSME.

The growth of MSMEs is already challenged by lack of financial resources, poor infrastructure, and periodic and unfair harassment by various statutory bodies. However, the core problem to be addressed remains that of unskilled manpower.

We need to have a broader vision of Create, Innovate, Design and Make in India. To enable this vision become a reality, Industry, Academia, and Management experts need to work together to create a vibrant pool of real talent – talent that has strong basic knowledge of a domain, along with the skills for critical and analytical thinking. It is the development of these skills that will ultimately lead to the success of ‘Make in India’.