“Now’s A Great Time To Make In India”

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In news and in current affairs relevant to the current geopolitical situation, India is emerging as one of the fastest-growing electronics manufacturing services nations in the world. But does one of the world’s largest EMS companies agree to the notion? Jabil’s Operations Director for India, BN Shukla addresses the equation!

Q: Please take us through Jabil’s operations in India during the last five years.

A: Firstly, a quick introduction to Jabil. Headquartered in St. Petersburg, Florida, USA, we are a manufacturing solutions provider with over 250,000 employees across 100 locations in 30 countries. Our operations in India began in 2003, in Pune. Today, we have more than 7,500 employees in India. 

We started with simple operations, and now we serve a diverse range of industries, such as consumer electronics — like mobility devices and accessories and digital home products — energy, industrial, and point-of-sale devices to telecommunications (4G and 5G) and AI-based networking products. 

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Q: What are your views on technologies that encompass IoT?

A: I believe in leveraging our economies of scale and further optimising robotics, modular automation cells, sensors, 5G + Internet of Things (IoT), and Industrial IoT (IIoT) to unlock new levels of efficiency through real-time feedback. Jabil invests in digitalisation and artificial intelligence (AI) in India and across our global footprint. 

Q: But how are you seeing the growth of these technologies in the sectors you operate in?

A: The local manufacturing industry is gradually regaining its footing after feeling the impact brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Increasingly, we are seeing seismic shifts with the convergence of technologies across operations, information technology (IT), and supply chain, creating a data-driven environment that enables us to deliver the future of Jabil’s manufacturing with opportunities for:  

⦁ Enhanced productivity through optimisation and automation with real-time data for real-time supply chains in a real-time economy. Powered by data analytics and business intelligence, there are great opportunities to deliver products and services to market faster and be more cost-efficient, with increased overall agility to drive customers’ competitiveness.

⦁ Greater business continuity through advanced maintenance and predictive monitoring possibilities, allowing manufacturers to anticipate issues before they arise. 

⦁ Higher-quality products are made possible with real-time monitoring, IoT-enabled quality improvement, and collaborative robots through machine-to-machine connectivity. 

⦁ Focus on people at the heart of transformations, be it through upskilling programmes, prototyping labs, centres of excellence (CoEs), or others. Talent development alongside educational evolution creates a growing pool of future-ready workforce. The human factor is a significant lever for transitioning and tapping into opportunities with the Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR4).

Q: Can you point out the most significant trends in electronics manufacturing worldwide?

A: We anticipate a growing demand for products that are AI-based. With that trend, there is a greater demand for electronic integration in every device. A growing focus on sustainability globally requires us to be mindful of how we manufacture responsibly, influenced by consumer demand for clean energy, and electric vehicles (EVs) alongside industry’s shift towards more sustainable production footprints. 

Advanced battery technology is currently also receiving attention from industries and governments. Increasing consumer demand for environmentally friendly and economical transportation options is driving the growth in advanced battery technology. 

Nanomaterials are gaining importance in manufacturing due to the growing demand for low-power, lightweight, and durable devices. Nanoscale technology is attractive to manufacturers due to its unique physical properties, such as superior electric conductivity and fantastic durability. Products from these novel materials promise to change how current consumer products are manufactured radically. Imagine the disruption in the printed circuit board (PCB) industry if devices made from printed graphene ink, a nanomaterial, replace traditionally assembled circuit boards.

Q: Do these also hold for India, or do you see any difference in the Indian vs the Global markets?

A: India is not any different from other global markets. We are well-positioned to drive these trends. India offers one of the world’s largest consumer bases and political stability. It is also a start-up hub and attracts many global corporations. Now is a great time to make in India.

Q: Many see India as one of the top contenders for China+1. What are your views on the same?

A: I speak from Jabil’s point of view. Businesses make rational decisions about where they put up their factories. These factors include accessibility to transport links, labour supply, business and financial infrastructure, geo-political stability, government policies, etc. Many manufacturers have invested heavily in specialised or custom-built automation to improve quality and efficiency. 

The ability of companies to transform and adapt to new realities will determine the future of manufacturing in India. India has a stable political climate, pro-business policies, and a highly educated labour force. The unique government-private sector partnerships put businesses in a very good position to react quickly to opportunities. 

Q: What segments are you the strongest in India? What segments will drive growth for you from here?

A:  Our business in India is quite diversified. We serve various industries, such as consumer electronics, digital home products, energy, industrial and point-of-sale devices, to the most complex telecommunications (4G and 5G) and AI-based networking products. 

Q: How many SMT lines function at Jabil India now? Is it true that you are in the process of setting up new SMT lines? How many?

A: Jabil operates on a unique business and operational model in the electronics manufacturing services industry. We are a very customer-focused company that works around customers’ needs, so the number of SMT lines changes frequently.

Q: Can you highlight the unique business and operational model where SMT lines change frequently? How does it work? 

A: Jabil is a customer-centric company; we size all our resources based on individual customer needs to ensure we focus entirely on their goals and deliver customised solutions. This means all lines are designed and tailored to a customer’s specific requirement(s) instead of having common resources used for all. Our standardised equipment qualification process and deep-rooted supplier partnerships enable an agile procurement process, and fixed asset balancing between sites is standard practice at Jabil.

Q: There’s a strong focus on the Make In India angle. Can India make it for the world? Would you be exploring exporting more from the country than you already do?

A: India reached US$418 billion in manufacturing exports in 2022, with rapid growth over the last two years. By 2028, India is expected to reach US1$ trillion in manufacturing exports. The manufacturing share of GDP in India is estimated to rise from 15.6% currently to 21% by 2031 and, in the process, double India’s export market share.  Jabil’s India facilities are already making the products that are exported worldwide, and we firmly believe that, with adequate government support, we can grow further. 

Q: What are your top goals concerning the Indian market (e.g., more clients, marketing, etc.?

A: Our focus is to ensure we are always ready to support our customers. We aim to make them successful in their endeavours to participate in Make in India for the world through the acceleration of digitalisation.  This will translate into enhanced production efficiencies, which can support the growth of manufacturers in the long term. In essence, the Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR4) creates what has been called a “smart factory,” and bringing this to life necessitates an ecosystem of ongoing automation of information and data exchange, cyber-physical systems, the Internet of Things (IoT), and cloud computing — creating connections between people, data, and machines as they relate to manufacturing.

Q: What about the challenges in implementing IR4?

A: Some of the critical challenges in implementing/advancing IR4, which we aim to mitigate, include:

⦁ Capital investment: Varying degrees of costs — from IoT sensors used on existing machines to purchasing large machinery with integrated IR4 solutions to enterprise-wide infrastructure adaptations, particularly in large-scale projects. 

⦁ Effective change management: Often overlooked, IR4 is changing the way we do things as we merge the physical and digital together. Strategies must be accompanied by a support structure for employees, empowering them with the right tools and skills — creating a culture ripe for transitions to IR4. 

⦁ Addressing the technical skill gap: Particularly with digitalisation, the roles, and expectations of the workforce, on and off the shop floor, are evolving. Talents that have ‘digital dexterity’ are ready to adapt and innovate in manufacturing processes and can adopt digital tools that support those processes to successfully implement new technology and maintain operations. 

⦁ Data growth, sensitivity, and security: Smart factories’ physical and digital systems make real-time interoperability possible. While large volumes of data are generated, challenges remain in data quality and management for decision-making. Looming concerns over data and IP privacy, ownership, governance, and an increased risk of an expanded attack surface as numerous machines and devices are connected to networks. \

Q: Please elaborate from your point of view and your partner’s POV.

A: We offer customers many best practices and opportunities in simplification, optimisation, and standardisation by leveraging automation to ensure high quality and minimise production risks. We have solid partnerships across our value chain — on and off the shopfloor, to build a digital factory where processes and equipment are connected. This allows us to drive the adoption of predictive manufacturing through integrated ERPs to manage change seamlessly and reduce non-value-added work. This, in turn, will enable employees to add value in other areas, including product, process, and system innovations, to serve our diverse customer needs.

Q: Do you foresee more collaborations among players like you, or will the competition increase from here?

A: A balanced dose of healthy collaboration and competition is needed to develop a mature and sophisticated ecosystem. We are happy to collaborate with all players to ensure a sustainable future for everyone.

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Mukul Yudhveer Singh
Mukul Yudhveer Singh
Mukul Yudhveer Singh is an Editor at EFY. He’s an experienced business journalist who is both an enthusiast and a cynic of technology. Believes in data, as well as hunch-based journalism. He defines journalism as- reporting facts which help the audience take their own decisions, not ones that influence them!

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