The automotive industry and those dealing with auto parts have been hit hard by the corona pandemic as demand for vehicles have fallen markedly and the immediate future appears uncertain. Despite that those that are taking the digital route are expected to survive this dramatic turbulence. India Pistons Limited (IPL), a 70-year-old company and the largest producers of pistons, piston rings, gudgeon pins and cylinder liners, and allied auto components, has recently achieved a milestone in its digital transformation journey. In an exclusive interaction with CXOToday, Siddharth Rao, Senior General Manager – IT, India Pistons Limited, explains, how India Pistons how this new initiative has helped the company in speeding up its process efficiencies, while at the same time helped in reducing costs owing to automation.
CXOToday: Can you please tell us in brief about your business?
Siddharth Rao: India Pistons Limited (IPL) is one of the flagship companies of the Amalgamations Group and we have maintained our leadership position in the domestic auto parts market since our inception in July 1949. Over the decades, we continued to maintain our pre-eminent position by expanding our customer base and consistently scaling up our engineering prowess and performance standards. We work closely with domestic OEMs, helping them set a firm footing in their engine development initiatives. IPL has established itself as the top exporters of auto components in the country, by achieving benchmarks of engineering excellence through our robust adherence to quality-oriented processes and application of cutting-edge technologies. Our customer list includes big names like Hyundai Motor Company, Maruti, Ashok Leyland, TATA Motors, Eicher Motors, Simpsons & Co., TAFE, Mahindra & Mahindra, Greaves, to name a few.
CXOToday: What made you undertake the digital transformation journey after 70 years of existence?
Siddharth Rao: Digital transformation has been a part of the IPL culture from the last few decades, and not a recent initiative. The leadership team has always been pro-technology and we’ve been early adopters of digital systems, platforms and technologies over the decades. Since we are in the business of supplying ancillaries to one of the most dynamic sectors, complacency was never an option. There have been sea changes in the automotive sector, and we have always been in sync with these changes. Our conscious effort to keep ourselves relevant under all circumstances is the main reason that we are going strong even today. We have grown tremendously since the time we started. Today, we have manufacturing facilities in four locations, and we are exporting to countries like Russia, the UK, the USA, Yugoslavia, Canada, and Germany. With that growth, comes the need to constantly strengthen our operations to support the business. The existing on-premise ERP solution was dated, worked with several different external systems, and we felt the need to converge to a single cloud-based platform so that we can view data on-the-go and make data-driven decisions. With evolving technologies like AI, ML, and IoT playing an increasingly important role in every sector, it made business sense to leverage these technologies in our operations as well.
CXOToday: What were the business challenges that you were facing with legacy infrastructure before you shifted to new digital platforms?
Siddharth Rao: With manufacturing happening from multiple locations and several lines of businesses, managing data from multiple applications and platforms was an issue, and harnessing the data for insights and analytics was a challenge. Besides the business challenges, from the technology side as well managing on-premise systems, long hardware refresh cycles and out of date infrastructure also made us look towards a cloud-based system to minimize effort spent on routine maintenance tasks and instead focus resources towards transformational tasks. Post implementation we can easily see the complete picture of our company’s finances and operations. We chose Oracle ERP Cloud that offers the broadest and most seamless functionality across organizational functions. Additionally, the solution is designed for scalability, so we do not need to worry about our increasing requirements for the future.
CXOToday: You are headquartered in Chennai, which is one of the hardest hit areas by COVID-19. How did the implementation happen during the lockdown?
Siddharth Rao: The past few months have been an extremely challenging time for all of us. Most manufacturing companies, especially in the automotive sector, are not geared to work remotely, and our first challenge was to enable those that could work remotely to do so. Though Oracle Consulting had started the delivery on-site, they switched to 100% remote delivery due to the COVID-19 lockdown situation. We were at the UAT stage when the first lockdown was in place, and once infrastructure was in place, both teams worked tirelessly together to ensure we went live with minimal delay. The SOAR migration tools helped to accelerate the implementation process and the standard method helped us to be well prepared for the whole process of implementation. Through this implementation, we are looking at increasing efficiencies and reducing costs by process improvement and automation.
CXOToday: How do you see digital technologies changing your industry in new normal?
Siddharth Rao: The automotive industry is one of the most dynamic sectors. Change in customer preferences, sustainability policies and new technologies have revolutionized the industry. With new technologies like AI Automation on the horizon, we are looking at a future where autonomous cars, electric cars, and connected cars will run on our roads. COVID-19 situation has underlined the importance of digital technology. The auto sector is also one of the most data-driven industries globally. A digital supply chain collects and uses data to serve consumers better. Digital supply chains allow more transparency, accelerates the process of designing, manufacturing, and delivery of the vehicles. Indian factories are not behind their global peers in setting up “smart” factories that will use advanced algorithms and AI to manage workflows, and where robots will work with humans on assembly lines. That would future-proof the business to ensure continuity of the current and future growing business needs.