Mr Sudhir Rao is the Managing Director of Bartronics India Limited. Mr Rao joined Bartronics to establish and lead its marketing. He was later named Chief Operating Officer and then Managing Director. Before joining Bartronics, Mr Rao spearheaded the Indian operations of a software development company. Mr Sudhir Rao started his career with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Mumbai in the Management Consultancy Division. After TCS, Mr Rao joined a pharmaceutical exports company and then moved on to work with one of the leading pharmaceutical companies of India.
Today, due to governmental programmes over the years, every Indian can talk to anyone throughout the world. With mobile telephony, India’s people can keep in touch while on the move. India is now part of the ‘always connected’ world. After the technology revolution of the 1990s, Indian software engineers are working in large corporations around the globe. Every new technology is available in India within days, and newer, better, more productive business processes are used in every sphere of business.
India has made giant strides in information and communication technology (ICT) in the last couple of decades. The Government of India started moving the country in the right direction way back in the 1980s when a revolution in telecommunications swept the country. The Subscribers Telephone Dialing and International Subscribers Dialing booths (STC/ISD booths) at every nook and corner throughout the country brought much needed access to every individual. Every Indian then had access to, and could if they wish, talk to anyone else across the world. With the recent launch of mobile telephony, the Indian population now has access and can ‘be in touch’ with whomsoever they wish while on the move. The growth of mobile connections over the past couple of years is only an indication of how well the technology has been understood and absorbed in this country. With one of the fastest growth rates in terms of new mobile users, India is now truly a part of the ‘always connected’ world. The technology revolution in the 1990s followed the telecommunication revolution of the 1980s; this second revolution had a strong emphasis on building the ‘software skills’ among India’s increasingly young population. Today, as a result of this building of software skills, Indian software engineers are working in every large corporation across the world. Their skills, ability to grasp new concepts, and hardworking nature are much sought after everywhere. Every new technology that is launched worldwide is now available in India in a matter of days. The prime reason this change has taken place over the past few years has been largely due to the country’s urgent need to convince advanced countries everywhere to ‘outsource’ their programming and other technological requirements to India. Today, every leading software and hardware company has a representation in India often as an Offshore Software Development Centre or a Training, Research and Development Centre. Microsoft and Oracle, among others, have opened up large development and research centres in India that have contributed to almost every new product launched by these companies within the last few years. Besides making a worldwide impact, the Indian ICT sector has also been absorbing new technologies, albeit slowly. Newer, better and more productive business processes are being introduced by the sector in almost every sphere of business. These range from the automation of time and attendance systems, work-in-process, and production to logistics and distribution processes. Automation in these areas has been driven primarily by the use of Information Technology and communication. The huge number of multinational companies introducing the latest technology and processes in their Indian establishments has also driven these changes. Whirlpool is a very well known name in the international white goods manufacturing segment. Recently, Whirlpool India implemented an automated production tracking system. At the start of the manufacturing process, a unique barcode is generated for each item and affixed to it. This barcode is used to track the product at each level of the manufacturing process. When the product is finished, it is sent to a warehouse for distribution. The front-end software is linked to a database server that stores comprehensive data about each item. When dispatching the products, the barcode is scanned, the data is validated, and data about the dispatch is included in the database in real-time. With the help of hand held terminals, the products are scanned while in storage and the data sent to the server to audit the inventory in storage in the warehouse. The key benefits of this system have been: √ The reduction of cycle times by automating the entry of data; √ The ability to track production efficiency, machine performance and problems, including the mean time between breakdowns, and to generate and review the data whenever required; √ The simplification of inventory control and processing that barcodes make possible; √ The continuous availability of a complete product history. It is not only the multinational companies that have introduced the latest technologies in their manufacturing processes. Many Indian companies have also realised the benefits of adopting the latest technologies for their manufacturing and administrative processes. Tata Iron and Steel Company (TISCO), which is India’s largest private sector steel manufacturing company, recently upgraded its entire production unit. The company's four-phase modernisation programme has enabled it to acquire most modern steel making facilities in the world. The highly productive blast furnaces along with LD Converters and down stream continuous casting facilities gave Tata Steel a distinct edge and helped it achieve its vision of becoming the world's lowest cost producer of steel. Its coke ovens with stamp charging technology have helped it make blast furnace grade coke at the lowest cost in the world and drastically reduce wastage and emission of pollutants. As it upgraded its manufacturing facilities, Tata Steel also introduced automation for many of its other supporting processes. The most prominent amongst these has been the introduction of an automated steel coil tracking system. The application software generates the work orders based upon a process requirement generated from information contained in the master schedule of Tata’s CRM information system (CRM-IS). The work order is then transmitted through a high-speed fibre optic and a 2.4GHz FHSS wireless network to the crane computer (VMU 5055) through a local access point. The crane operator moves the coil from its source location to the target position using a laser distance meter to guide it to its destination. All this is done by way of a single start command. Ground supervisors carry the hand held terminals with barcode scanners and scan the barcodes, printed automatically using barcode printers, found on the stocked coils. Reconfirmation, exceptional handling and dispatch scheduling are also initiated using these hand held terminals. The key benefits derived by TISCO in implementing such a system have been: √ Real time updating of the coil/slab status in TISCO’s central database that can then be made available to top management or even to customers; √ Zero level errors in the placing and pickup of coils in the storage yard; √ 100 per cent assured coil dispatch to the right customer; √ Effective utilisation of material handling system and a drastic cut down in delays and lost time; √ 66 per cent manpower reduction in the yard level operations; √ Elimination of Human Errors in Yard Operations; √ According to customer statistics, return on investment expected within fourteen months from the effective start date of system usage. Another example where the use of digital technology has been deployed effectively is Hindustan Lever Limited’s (HLL) use of technology to resolve its logistics operations. Fast moving HLL is India's largest consumer goods company, with leadership in home and personal care products, foods and beverages and specialty chemicals. The leading business magazine, Forbes Global, has placed Hindustan Lever at the top, among the best consumer household products companies worldwide, for the current year. "Reflecting the compounding buying power in emerging markets, the company that tops this year’s A-list of household products is neither American, nor European, but Indian”, said Forbes. HLL focuses on FMCG–Fast Moving Consumer Goods–so there is always a demand for their products. Their ‘Algida’ project, for example, tracks the order booking and delivery of ice cream. Numerous dealers are associated with HLL to promote or sell the products. The daily processing of dealers’ orders is so tedious that, at the end of the day, the person booking the order either delivers late or finds no stock left in the central warehouse to fill the order. To break the logjam, a team was allocated to book the orders and a separate team was allocated carry them out - to deliver, invoice and collect the payments. To process these operations, the field staff uses handheld digital devices to book, raise or alter the invoice offering discounts, and a mobile printer is used to print the invoices. The company’s salesman books the orders from different outlets, registers any complaints, and inputs other product transactions in his handheld device. He downloads all this vital data to the company’s server computer. The following day, the salesman uploads all the processed order information to his handheld terminal and executes the order. The program in the handheld can process all the required validations, handle credit/debit adjustments, collection details and verify stock, among other vital items. These vital data are downloaded to the server to generate MIS reports. The key benefits accrued to the organisation included: √ Facilitated the order booking and delivery process; √ Management can keep track salesman productivity and know, for example, whether the salesman has visited the outlet or not; √ All transactions are digitally registered; √ The time spent at each outlet is routinely recorded; √ Invoice mismatches are eliminated. Similarly, such breakthrough improvements in performance have been observed across various industry segments throughout the country; all achieved due to intelligent use of information and communication technology. India has been climbing the developmental ladder–maturing, absorbing, and implementing new technologies. India’s drive for technological development will, quite likely, provoke a new revolution in the region a few years from now.