How has the Covid-19 outbreak impacted the Ace Micromatic Group in terms of business and operations?
As you know we are in the capital equipment (capacity) business. During this pandemic, it is not about creating capacity but about using existing capacity optimally. Our approach has been to help our customers utilise their existing capacity to its maximum efficiency.
This means offering support, service, modifications and more to help them make the best of their situation with our machines and services. We have done this through dedicating senior engineers for each area, offering breakdown support, spares support and other services.
From an operations point of view, we have been pushed to urgently adapt to the digital way of working through work from home. With more than 60 percent of our employees working on-site, having to deal with the disruption is a challenge. So we adopted virtual and remote methods of solving customer issues, improving and develop digital support tools.
We have used the lockdown effectively to put into effect a system of digital communication with members of our company, group and clientele through regular online meetings, webinars and social media. Now with ‘Unlock India’ slowly allowing businesses to operate physically, we run with lower on site staff and a cyclic system among the team. Besides this, strict sanitization of employees, temperature checks, social distancing is all in place to adjust our working to the new normal.
The MSME segment has been the worst hit due to this pandemic. What is Ace Micromatic Group doing to help its customers in this segment?
As soon as this issue began we knew that MSMEs would be the worst hit, the MSME segment are our most important stakeholders we initially started by extending the warranty period of all the existing machines under warranty. We also went ahead and extended AMC support to customers including those that were expired. Added to this, we announced a 50 percent discount for all Covid related calls to our MSME customers and a dedicated team of senior engineers in every location to offer technical support in emergenciess. We also sought digital methods to train our customers on programming and conducted eight webinars in regional languages for post-lock-down restart guidance. This saw more than 4,000 customers successfully learn how to troubleshoot their machines independently.
During this pandemic, we realised that the physical restrictions would not stop us from finding solutions for our customers.
What are your views on the Government of India’s ‘AtmaNirbhar Bharat’ campaign and the package announced along with this initiative?
An overhaul initiative of this sort was overdue and it was good to see the government respond and put an unfortunate happening to bring reform and reclassification that will certainly help in the long run. However, from an immediate survival perspective there are causalities and not much help has been forth coming for the already stressed MSME sector that works with very difficult circumstances against tough odds. This sector is the one that has been a large employer and a growth engine of the nation in many sectors but has not found adequate support from any quarters, not just the government.
With social distancing restrictions reaching the shopfloor, do you think it paves way for a higher degree of digitalisation and automation in the manufacturing plant?
Yes, it certainly does. It calls for a relook at manufacturing strategy, with better use of equipment backed by data. For example, re-layout of the shopfloor, manpower distribution into pods that keep in mind social distancing and more had to be figured out, implemented and continuously optimised along the way with appropriate automation and digitisation. This needs a 360 degree view and a perspective which necessitates digital automation. The application of IIOT and Industry 4.0 has to be perceived uniquely to suit Indian conditions and requirements, which is to enable people and not for eliminating them. The usual western models are more from a reduction or elimination perspective as availability and costs of people are very different from a local perspective.
I understand that the Ace Micromatic Group has a strategic alliance with JTEKT Toyoda Americas. Tell us more about this partnership and how the Group is leveraging on the same?
Yes we are working with them for marketing and providing support for our machines in USA. Also our grinding solutions company Micromatic Grinding Technologies Ltd manufactures a cam lobe grinding machine GC20M and an OD grinding machine Gl32 A/P 32 E machine under licence agreement with JTEKT Toyoda which are sold by them.
The Group had set up its first overseas Technology Centre in Shanghai, China about a couple of years ago. What’s the news on that front?
Not only was this the first from Micromatic but any Indian machine tool company from India. One of the important functions of this Tech centre is to provide our customers and dealers first-hand experience of our products. The centre of experience which is part of the International Machine Tool Park shares space with many other leading global machine tool players, we strongly believe this is the only way to get Chinese customers and channel partners experience modern Indian machine tool technology. They have been appreciative of the range of machines, along with required toolings for customer trails, as well as of our IOT offerings TPM-Trak and the customer friendly layout and experience with our local Chinese staff. We are slowly but surely making our presence felt.
There has been a substantial increase in the customer footprint from various parts of China resulting in enquires. Fortunately, China has been able to handle Covid-19 and mitigate the risk by the end of February 2020. There has been a good pull for our machines catering to manufacture PPE. Challenges in supplying, installing the machine during this period are of great learning. We hope that other locations too will follow up in mitigating the Covid-19 risks and to open up businesses soon.
Ace Micromatic Group has a long association with The Machinist Super Shopfloor Awards right from the first edition in 2015. Although the 2020 awards ceremony has been postponed due to lockdown restrictions, do you see a platform like this providing the much-needed boost of positivity to the industry?
As a company, and I personally, have been associated with the event since inception and are proud to have helped in its conception and fruition. It is a much needed celebration for the shopfloor heroes and a showcase of their great efforts. It certainly boosts and brings a lot of cheer and positivity to the entire manufacturing space. I am sure that it is a much anticipated event among the fraternity. It would be a crowning event this time around once the situation gets conducive for it to take place and it will herald a new beginning.
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