Maintenance is equally important and at par with ‘making’ the product, especially in a country where every penny counts.


India has multiple economic challenges, one of which is related to the sub-optimal capacity utilization of the country’s manufacturing potential. Such a situation was prohibiting the nation from developing requisite skillsets, multi-mode transportation infrastructure and desired economic growth. This subdued capacity of manufacturing created a condition where multiple smaller nations forged ahead basing their focus on manufacturing, but not India. In addition to some indigenous capacities, these economically oriented countries created an excellent ecosystem which attracted investors from the world over to establish manufacturing facilities, which resulted in their booming economic growth and generation of substantial local employment. India too needed to bolster its economy as well as employment generation for the local youth.
With this as background, India launched its most ambitious “Make in India” programme on 25 September 2014. It aimed not only to empower the indigenous industries but was also focused on getting foreign investors to establish their manufacturing facilities in India. Government clearances were eased, functioning norms were facilitated and the country moved towards making in India. Though some progress has been made in this direction, India is still far from realising its full potential. As countries scale down their ventures in China, and some shift out altogether, this is the right opportunity for India to fill this void in the supply chain logistics by emerging as the manufacturing hub of the world.
Make in India was intended also to offer direct and indirect employment to the youths of the country. Skilling, therefore, was critically needed to create a skilled workforce locally. This was recognised and the government launched the “Skill India Program” on 15 July 2015 within 10 months of the launch of Make in India. It should have ideally preceded Make in India or launched together as a skilled workforce is the most critical resource in the manufacturing sector. Despite both these transformational projects being good for the nation, the country still lacks the requisite quality impetus but at least, it is moving in the right direction.
And then came the need to become “self sufficient”, and thus was launched “Aatmanirbhar Bharat” on 12 May 2020, which is being facilitated with policy changes, leveraging the government wherewithal to the private sector, restricting imports and entering into the domain of exports slowly but steadily. Some green shoots have started already appearing.
Amid this, a larger picture is being missed out. India is producing a large number of equipment—from mechanized or electronically operated toys to satellites. The number of items are also being provided by the OEM of different countries in the high technology sector or being manufactured in India with offset clauses thus giving some opportunities to the MSME sector as well.
The most important question now is: what happens to these products with respect to their maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) after their production/procurement? The following issues come to the fore:
• Does design facilitate both ease of operation and ease of maintenance?
• Is design simple enough to give the right of repair to the user, which the user can undertake with limited skill sets?
• Is the design based on a systematic scientific study and has undertaken remedial measures to reduce the probability of recurrence of the fault prone parts of the system?
• Is predictive maintenance planned and catered for?
• Is predictive maintenance robust enough to reduce the need for repair if not eliminate it?
• Can overhauls be undertaken, where applicable, in a realistic time period?
• Do upgrade plans exist for the systems for longer life?
• Is the production based on minimum tools (based on universal specifications) and minimum oils/lubricants?
• Has the product factored in ecological concerns at all stages of its existence?
•And the list goes on.
Producing/manufacturing an equipment is one thing, while its maintenance for operational/functional efficiency is another thing. Not only this, maintenance is equally important and at par with “making” the product, especially in a country where every penny counts.
It was an inescapable necessity to start the mission “Maintain in India” a long time back but it is never too late. With eight years in “Make in India”, seven years in “Skill India” and more than two years in “Aatmanirbhar Bharat”, India cannot afford to delay the “Maintain in India” mission any more. Once the “Maintain in India” mission is announced and implemented with the requisite focus, it will bring down manufacturing cost by almost 30% and will reduce the lifecycle cost (LCC) by more than 50%. The longevity of the items will increase by a minimum 30%, if not more, though empirical data will need to be compiled and will have to be put through statistical analysis to ascertain these percentage advantages.
The concept of “Maintain in India” will create multiple local and remote network hubs capable of repairing anything and everything. This will not only address the national need but will also become a game changer for the world as India will be able to extend this advantageous support to other countries as well.
Now look at the employment generation capacity of “Maintain in India”. It will achieve two things simultaneously: one, it will upgrade the earnings of the “mechanic next door”; and two, it will offer maximum employment to the youth. If implemented in its fullest, both in India and abroad, it will generate at least one crore jobs directly/indirectly which will be evident after a thorough network is established. It will also require large scale skilling and networked approach to leverage the technology.
Here are some of the executive domain recommendations:
• Government should declare “Maintain in India” to be a new national mission at the earliest. In case of the same not happening, states can declare the mission “Maintain in (state name)”. All national and state parties can include this in their election manifesto.
• There are certain think tanks working as thought leaders in this domain, and can be leveraged to provide the overall architecture which can then be put in the open domain for views, comments and recommendations by the stake holders and the common public. After doing this, the mission should be launched with the due process of government approval.
• All individuals working in the domain of “maintenance” at any level should be networked, overlaps amongst them avoided for prudent economical approach and thus quality surge in this domain be ensured.
• Legacy knowledge needs to be honed to make up skill deficiency, besides using the concept of “train the trainers”. All superannuated persons should be co-opted with special focus on those who have worked in the maintenance field.
• Defence veterans can play a critical role in this nation building mission and the government must leverage this.
•More recommendations can be made/discussed if the idea is accepted. “Maintain in India” is an idea whose time has come and cannot be delayed any longer.
Major Gen Ashok Kumar is a retired Army personnel.