Mr. Harshpati Singhania, Managing Director, JK Paper Ltd during his inaugural speech at IPPTA annual seminar held on 1st March 2012, in Kolkata, enumerated certain points where Indian paper industry has to look upon immediately like human resource management (HRM), sustainability, technology in order to meet its projections of 20 million tons by the end of this decade. He began his speech by giving the strong fundamentals that are pushing the demand of the paper, on which he said “the usage of high speed printing and copying paper machines are propelling in demand for high quality writing and printing paper. Simultaneously the change in the lifestyle, increase in demand of consumer goods and expansion of organized retail has led to the increased usage of high end packaging board.”
Addressing the audience on other points he said: The demand projection of the India shows that we are growing rapidly and likely to double our annual requirement from 10-11 million tons currently to about 20 million tons by the end of this decade. To achieve this, we have to entail substantial capacity additions and more importantly the investment will have to be made in modern machinery that incorporates high end technology. And, it is imperative from many reasons for instance to meet the requirements from increasingly demanding consumers for better quality, conservation of scare resource like water and energy etc.
On the path of growth and development, sustainability is very important which engross cutting down the cost and also to meet stringent emission standards. Today the new paper machines that are coming in India have broader widths, faster speeds, better automation and sophistication with state of the art equipments like shoe press, new generation calendars etc. I believe this trend will definitely accelerate but the challenge, which is in front of us, is how to absorb this technology. Today, machinery comes with the certain degree of embedded technology and we need to have certain scale and size to absorb this technology. It’s not just because of the volume reasons but also to meet the challenges of sustainability in terms of being able to minimize cost through energy, water and other resource conservations by applying good technology.
Now coming on to the human capital which everyone sitting here believes is very critical for the growth and development of the industry. We can buy machinery with money but not the human capital. We need to have high caliber workforce that is both talented and skilled and it applies both to technologists as well as to the operating crew at the shop floor. My apprehension is that the availability of high caliber and trained workforce will become a major constraint in the development of the industry if we don’t take adequate measures to address this issue. At present attracting new talent as well as developing the existing talent will have to take the center stage. To attract new talent we need to create well defined opportunities and compensate them adequately. The people whether new or existing talent must be trained properly on how to operate the high end technology. For this they can be trained with the help of leading technology vendors like Voith, Metso, Andritz etc and even with people who are involved in automation like ABB, Yokogawa, as all these things are integrated in a paper machine. People trained then can become internal trainers for other people.
Most importantly the industry has to change its mindsets. Clearly we need to give up the attitude of “chalta hai” if we have to operate on sophisticated high end technology to meet our requirements. More of rigor and discipline has to be inculcated in the workflow. I always look at the example of airline pilot, before flying any plane he has to perform all the checks, though he may have flown thousands of hours and hundreds of flights but he has to perform all the checks because of the system that has been created and that is what we need to apply to our operation and the way we operate. The air of fresh thinking has to flow on the way we deploy our workforce. A minimum prescribed qualification for the workforce has to be pen down like operating crew on the shop floor has to have at least an ITI certification if not a diploma. Similarly we need to decrease the layers in the hierarchy and have flatter organization structures for the smooth flow. If you visit any mill abroad one thing that will strike you is that where are the people and in India you go to any paper mill you see people crawling all over. So I believe some of these people have to be curtailed and gradually be eliminated. If many countries in the world can manage without them and can have multi-skilled workforce, then why can’t we? I believe it is we the managers who are often the biggest bottlenecks, as we are not convinced that we can operate in a different way or without the whole ladder of people. The idea is not just to reduce the manpower it is the matter of running the whole organization in much more efficient way. Just a few trained, knowledgeable and skilled people can bring the difference by running these high end machines rather having 100’s of people. This is something where industry has to think that to what extent the change has to be brought in.
Another point I would like to put forward is that we need to think about outsourcing the maintenance and other day-to-day activities to the third party. This concept is fairly low in priority in the Indian paper industry. Being a paper company we need to focus on our core manufacturing activities. There are already many success stories available in this regards from other industries in India but the issue is how we can learn from them and can adapt them to the paper industry. The models have to be rearranged to suit the aspects of the paper industry like most paper manufacturing facilities in India are located in the remote areas. We must develop parties who will execute outsource services and maintenance for us. We need to provide them with adequate business otherwise they will not survive. To enable this, paper industry may have to release some of the experts to these vendors. I would also like to invite the global vendors to set up shop for this in India.
Before concluding let me turn focus on the issue that has been given low priority in the Indian paper industry, which is wet end chemistry. It is changing with a great pace and is a weaker area for us where we must apply our technical mind to see how best we can use it to our advantage in improving product quality and reducing cost. I hope this area will get the much needed prominence and will get deliberated as often the focus is more on how we can get better machinery.