An online interaction with top IT official at Maruti: New digital paradigm

An altogether new digital paradigm has evolved to meet the challenges that surfaced post-pandemic, said Mr Rajesh Uppal, Member Executive Board (HR, IT and Safety), Maruti Suzuki India Limited. In an online interaction with Team Autoguide, Mr Uppal said the prevalence of digital culture in MSIL’s entire ecosystem contributed substantially to the carmaker quickly restarting operations and implementing contactless practices. He also spoke about various other digital initiatives. Edited excerpts:

Team Autoguide: What are the fresh challenges you are faced with on the digital front post-pandemic?

Rajesh Uppal: The primary challenge was to have business continuity and financial wheels running while ensuring everyone is healthy. WFH brought its own set of challenges like infrastructure requirement and connectivity amongst others. Another key challenge was to track employees’ health, managing gate-entry process for multiple staggered shifts and adherence to SOPs. Additionally, an important task was to review all operations to be contactless, whether the shop-floor, or with customers. All this gave rise to an altogether new digital paradigm.

TAG: Which way did Maruti’s digital preparedness help the company in coping up with the corona outbreak

RU: The most indispensable part which helped was our robust IT architecture. The availability of strong collaboration platforms helped us in swift transition to WFH. We already have prevalence of digital culture in the entire ecosystem including suppliers, dealers, etc. which substantially contributed in quickly restarting operations and implementing contactless operations.

TAG: Please list some recent digitisation measures.

RU: There are many digital initiatives taken by the company to cope up with the pandemic outbreak, such as a new mobile app (named Wellness Mitra), which was built to track employee’s health.  We also built an app for contractual employees, suppliers and dealers. A plethora of digital initiatives were taken for implementation of smooth WFH.  

TAG: Maruti was, perhaps, the pioneer in digital adoption. What are the key operational areas which were digitalised over the period? 

RU: At Maruti Suzuki, digitalisation has been done through value-chain, starting from product development, process design, production-to-supply chain, logistics, sales and service. We have also enabled our suppliers and dealers to adopt digitalisation, thereby building a digital ecosystem.

TAG: In which particular operational area MSIL has a lead over others in terms of digitalisation?

RU: We are a pioneer in multiple digital initiatives and have implemented these initiatives ahead of others. Some of these initiatives include customer journey management and digital factory etc. Our Just-In-Time inventory management system has been an industry benchmark.

TAG: How are the employees’ adapting to the digital thrust of the company? What steps have you taken for their reskilling?

RU: Robust digitalisation steps are being administered and employees have been quite positive in adapting to these. Leaders, managers and employees; all have been responsive in exploring and implementing these digital initiatives. For reskilling of employees, we have our Training Academy (MSTA) and in-house Learning Management System platform (e-Gurukul).

TAG: Where does Maruti Suzuki stand in terms of digital adoption on manufacturing shop-floor? Is Industry 4.0 implemented in all processes?

RU: All our production shop-floors are connected and integrated with our IT system. We have a Vehicle Tracking system (VTS) which is integrated with production planning and all line operations; from start to finish and quality check. Our systems are also well integrated with suppliers for traceability of components. Industry 4.0 is a journey. We are now on a journey of getting or scaling big data and analytics platform to manage manufacturing.

TAG: How significant is the role of robotics, IoT and ML tools in the manufacturing process?

RU: It is quite significant, especially given the current sentiments. We have connected our production shop-floors and tracking systems to track each and every component. 

TAG: To what extent have the dealerships adopted digitisation? Which way is the company helping them do it?

RU: We have continuously upgraded ourselves in the digitisation journey. We strive to become the enablers for consistent digital adoption across our dealers. Dealers have also adopted digitisation in many of their processes to ensure smooth running. Because of this, customers get consistent experience across our dealerships.