An important part of Industry 4.0, the Intralogistics sector is in an exciting phase – a perfect blend of innovative technologies and emerging opportunities. Some of the top companies providing solutions in this area are Dematic Corporation, Daifuku, Murata Machinery, Honeywell Intelligrated and KNAPP AG.
Founded in 1937, Daifuku, a Japanese material-handling equipment Conglomerate, is a world leader in the field of Automotive operations, Intralogistics, Cleanroom Automation, and Airport Technologies.
Daifuku marked its foray in India, under the able leadership of Mr. Asim Behera, COO, Daifuku India. Mr. Behera’s hard work, farsightedness, and in-depth knowledge, has catalysed Daifuku India’s growth in the Intralogistics business. In a short span of time it has become a market leader in the areas of Factory Automation and Distribution Automation. With multi-million projects to its credit, including the ASRS order, Daifuku India is today a force to reckon with!
In an exclusive chat with The Blue Circle, Mr. Behera shares Daifuku’s growth trajectory, the challenges he has faced, and his tryst with technology. Let’s find out.
TBC: You have been able to establish Daifuku a force to reckon with in India, for in-factory supply chain management. How have you managed that in the labour-intensive and price-sensitive Indian market?
AB: Our solutions don’t have a direct ROI (Return On Investment) in the Indian market just yet, because of the reasons you mentioned. Thus, we are creating a market rather than playing in the market. Companies which only evaluate the decision of whether to go with Intralogistics solutions championed by us, based simply on capex and ROI tenure, are the ones where despite trying our best we have not been able to convert.
However, there are other companies who consider intangibles such as safety, accuracy, ensuring FIFO (First In First Out), better utilization of the human capital etc. in the ROI. These companies are already our customers or potentials we are yet to meet. I am also fortunate to have access to founders/leaders of such companies who are true pioneers in their own right, especially when it comes to fantastic foresight and belief in technology as an enabler.
TBC: What are the main objections you have had to handle while dealing with the Indian market?
AB: India is a large country where the business nuances are different in every region. To be able to discern it, has been a learning in its own right. We consult for free in the hope that we can convince a customer to go for Intralogistics automation, and preferably with us. But many times, our consulting endeavours are sought for a different purpose. They are used not with the intention to go with an automation solution but more to enhance one’s knowledge. If we aren’t able to decipher this in a timely manner, we expend a lot of resources without any potential return. We do understand that this is a part and parcel of the process, especially in our market.
TBC: How far is your own Indian operation automation and technology-driven?
AB: From an IT perspective, we have embraced state-of-the-art ERP, our data is on the cloud, we have no physical servers. Beyond this, as we set up our factory in Hyderabad, we will be using automation and best practices from the Japan factory as much as possible for manufacturing.
TBC: What is the break up in your company in the workforce – bloomers, Generation M, Millennials, Generation Z? Do you feel generation Z is different from millennials and if yes, then how?
AB: Daifuku India Intralogistics division started in 2014 in India. In 2016, we shifted our base to Mumbai, and it was a deliberate decision to hire staff in Mumbai for the Mumbai office. Less than 2% are in the bloomers category, most are millennials and Gen Z’s. There is definitely a difference between the millennials and Gen Z, most pronounced is the latter having a short attention span or getting bored easily. The other difference I notice is Gen Z has a greater appetite to learn new things and pursue higher education.
TBC: You have earlier worked with automation solutions companies like DC Waters and Swisslog. Please share some insights from these companies.
AB: My first real job was with Swisslog in the US – it was a tremendous learning experience. The best part was, with the push of a button, you start to see things move in a synchronized manner. As an Electrical & Computer engineer (apart from some of the projects I did), most movement I saw was on an oscilloscope (kind of boring). From witnessing this to seeing ASRS (Automated Storage and Retrieval System) as tall as 30-m move; made me feel like a kid in a candy store. And since then I have been hooked onto this industry.
For a brief period, I worked at DC Water in the IT department. That experience gave me a perspective on how our work was fundamental to life itself- providing drinking water and sewage treatment. I thoroughly enjoyed working with people from various backgrounds and countries. While working at DC Waters, I realized my real passion was problem-solving so I came back to Intralogistics. The best part of my job is that I get to see factories, see how things are made – be it potato chips or tyres.
I have always been curious ever since I was a child. Being in intralogistics automation has been a blessing to satiate my ever-increasing curiosity of how things are made. The cherry on the top is, I get to work with such factories and enable them to do better.
TBC: What made you move back to India?
AB: I am not exactly sure. I guess I was lucky to be at the right place at the right time. I feel moving to India has been one of the best decisions of my life. As I really enjoy what I do now. I enjoy speaking to business owners about how to make their factory a smart one. The biggest joy is when a business owner who trusted his money and factory with us based on just a powerpoint presentation, witnesses the real installation work its magic.
TBC: You have done your bachelors in Electrical Engineering with a focus on robotics. How has technology changed since then and how do you keep up to date with the latest technologies?
AB: There has been a huge leap in the field of robotics. Terms such as IOT, Industry 4.0, Block chain are not only buzz words. But a real phenomenon which is changing the way we interact with machines. Of course, the biggest enabler has been IT (Information Technology) and the internet. In the field of robots, the latest trend is co-working or cobots as they are called. Human and robots working as one, to get a job done efficiently, is something which was only seen in a sci-fi movie. I love to watch YouTube and it has been a blessing for me to stay up to date on many things. Apart from this, as a company, we are introducing new solutions to address needs of the society; and this gives a constant exposure to the latest tech out there.
TBC: What would you advise the young Indian workforce?
AB: I would say – believe in yourself and master something. It’s very important to develop a specific skill set so that you are invaluable and contribute wherever you are. Further, I would advise them to look for opportunities to spend some time living abroad. Travel always brings in new perspectives. More importantly, it gives one something to compare with, and maybe to aspire to. It’s essential to look up to something and chase it.
TBC: How do you invest your time and money?
AB: Wisely, I hope. I travel a lot for business, so whatever time I get at home, I look to spend it with family. Regarding money, I believe in diversifying my investment portfolio. One can never be sure in an ever-changing world what will hold the best promise tomorrow.
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