Automobile exports from India increased by 15.81 percent year-on-year in April-February 2017-18. During the same period, two and three-wheelers exports increased 20.30 percent and 37.02 percent, respectively. Indian automotive industry (including component manufacturing) is expected to reach Rs 16.16-18.18 trillion (US$ 251.4-282.8 billion) by 2026. Two-wheelers are expected to grow 9 percent in 2018. IT had become the uttermost integral part of the automotive industry. In the near future, most automobile manufacturers would deploy telematics, embedded software and in-vehicle infotainment to enhance their competitive positions.
A leading research report from security industry says, Until two or three years ago, automotive companies tended to see the security of vehicles, manufacturing plants, and enterprise IT systems as pretty much independent. “Security by obscurity” was a widely used paradigm. Security has recently come to prominence for several reasons. The diverse networks are prone to both cyber threats as well as technical glitches by connectivity issues, as suppliers are spread across multiple locations. The recent spate of attacks by DDoS, MITM, and spoofing makes it riskier to open the auto manufacturer’s internal networks and application access to their supplier for seamless supply chain management and keep the production line up and running. Also the risk manifolds with the threats of insider attacks, that can bring down the complete SCM to a halt.
Cell IT: According to a research agency, in 2015, the global IT spending was close to $ 2.54 Trillion. Automotive industry alone accounts $37.90 Billion. How, as a CIO of leading automotive industry you see this trend?
- This is not new, and this will happen in the future. This is luxury and unless one is convinced they will not spend the money. This also means, there is a passion when one goes for purchasing an automobile. This also means the different technology can offer a different advantage to end customer so the automobile industry is forced to go for new technology adaption to win the customers heart.
- The second aspect is to reduce the cost of production, increase the efficiency of man, machine etc. This means that different departments cost-saving initiatives have different purpose hence they go for some technology adaption to harness the benefit of automation and get cost benefit in the longer run.
- Further for quite some time now the different industry is entering automobile which is basically a software service provider who is dominating in this industry and they look and behave differently as compared to traditional automobile players, so automobile is forced to adopt technology as a game changer.
Cell IT: What are the ways, the role of an automotive industry CIO has evolved today? Can you please compare it from the day you started your career?
Ranganathan: Technology got evolved from a batch process to real-time data collection. When real-time data collection started happening, things got changed and business wanted decision support system expected when they are working on the real-time data collection process. Further, the data collection moved from transactional to across different departments, which grows into CAD & PLM which are core to business development. Now there is a system for the transaction, there is a system for core engineering, there is a system of social media and all got connected and draw business values.
Now another way of communication is happening because machines are talking to each other by way of exchanging data which is the new way of life and future is AI/AR etc.
Cell IT: What are the top priorities a CIO like you have in the auto industry?
Ranganathan: Priority is connecting machines to collect data at the central repository (MES), integrate MES System, PLM & ERP system and user Business intelligence to draw meaning full decision support system for different stakeholders of a different department.
Cell IT: What are the top 3 trends you notice in Indian automotive sector? How much is IT becoming an integral part of those trends?
- Integration of manufacturing to ERP to eliminate manual data entry.
- Collections of manufacturing KPI’s from MES system to build good planning & maintenance of different machines
- For future preventive maintenance will be eliminated due to machine learning and after some time only predictive maintenance will happen as per MIS provided by the system and definitely increase the productivity of the production floor.
Cell IT: How do business owners of the auto industry are considering RoI from technology and how much is their dependency on IT when it comes to business expansion?
Ranganathan: Mindset of procurement process has changed because everyone wanted to ensure the machines procured and open standard connections availability so that the machines procured are capable enough to provide data to any system it is connected to. Because of MES deployment, the visibility of the production floor is getting exposed to senior management, which in turn increases the process improvements part to ensure the cost of goods produced is reduced to the extent possible. The RIO calculation is very difficult and many non-tangible advantages are not getting converted to financial terms for anybody to provide the ROI. If we can find any good ways we can think about it.
Cell IT: With the concepts like Make-In-India, the nation is gearing up for local manufacturing of automobiles, spare parts, and ancillaries. With many and SME automotive industry cannot afford for a CIO, what are the top 3 IT advise you can provide for them?
- Think Small with respect to any ‘Make-In-India’ initiative or IoT initiative.
- Fail fast or Taste the success by doing POC implementation to cover the risk.
- Ensure before you start any project, understand, list down requirements, plan what is possible for the company, document requirement into a document and share it with a supplier who is going to help you get the demonstration happening.
Cell IT: What are the key challenges you handle both with internal clients(HR, marketing, manufacturing, logistics, branches) and external (suppliers, retailers, customers, service-centers etc)?
Ranganathan: Change is a big issue, only management can ensure that percolates down to different levels. Take the internal team also part of the CFT when you conceive the project, involve then when you go for POC, so that when the project is possible all different types of questions should have been addressed. CFT to have a person from IT, engineering, sourcing, finance so that when any new technology is offered, they are also in the loop to set things done right.