Why digital transformation is critical to RPG Group’s success

  • The firm’s core digital strategy: Connected Factory, Smart Products, Connected Customer, Digital Workplace
  • The group’s digital transformation exercise began in phases four years ago and, today, the RPG Group spends more than 100 crore annually on digital initiatives

If you happen to visit the RPG Group headquarters in Mumbai early this month, you may end up stepping on a “hot spot", which is basically a pressure tile that can detect a visitor’s presence. The pressure tile has in-built sensors and micro-controllers that will launch an application on a 20ft x 8ft LED digital screen, allowing you to control the narrative on the screen with your gestures that are tracked by a motion sensing device developed by Microsoft.

“The idea is to unleash our brand tagline ‘Hello Happiness’ in a digitally immersive and experiential way, and help people understand our story," says Samip Mutha, vice president and group head (digital and innovation), RPG Enterprises.

The group’s digital transformation exercise began in phases four years ago and, today, the RPG Group spends more than 100 crore annually on digital initiatives across all its companies. “Digital for us is about quantum leaps in efficiency, being able to navigate through new ecosystems and gain strategic advantage in the marketplace. It is the Charles Darwin moment for the industry, worldwide. Data, speed, complexity, volatility can either be your friend or foe in the new-age of industrial evolution. We have partnered with the best companies to be future-ready in the disruptive world," says Harsh Goenka, chairman, RPG Enterprises.

The group’s digital strategy, according to Mutha, is broadly divided into four categories—Connected Factory, Smart Products, Connected Customer and Digital Workplace.

The “Connected Factory" is RPG Group’s version of smart manufacturing (industry 4.0), which was set up at its Raychem-RPG transformer manufacturing unit in Pune with the help of Hitachi. “The entire pitch around smart factory is automation," says Mutha. For instance, till even two to three months back, operators and supervisors at Raychem-RPG would have a 10am call to fix their work schedule for the day. Now, the operators can simply access the priority list of their jobs for the day by clicking on a digital kiosk.

The operators use an RFID scanner to unlock a specific job and start on it. There are sensors (Internet of Things —IoT) in the machines that are connected to the digital kiosk, which also help in collecting data that is analysed later for patterns (machine learning). Since the operator can only choose that job which is marked “priority", “we can avoid penalties associated with late delivery of jobs", says Mutha, adding: “We are in the process of implementing this strategy in four other factories."

Supervisors, on their part, have tablets to track the job process while the digital heads can track everything on a 55-inch screen in their offices. These digital initiatives have resulted in a “10% productivity improvement, which will double next year", says Mutha. The group is also using advanced analytics to reduce scrap.

The group’s “Smart Products" category includes the concept of an “intelligent tyre", which the company is testing out, according to Mutha. CEAT, an RPG Group unit, has filed around 10 patents for the “intelligent tyre", which can help companies by providing a lot of information about the way a truck is driven, or how many times the brakes were applied, etc.

As an example of its “Connected Consumer" digital strategy, the RPG Group is using augmented reality (AR) for select products and dispensing with the use of “manuals in entirety", Mutha points out. Last, but not the least, the group is sharpening focus on the “Digital Workplace" by developing an app to “blacklist sub-contracted employees who have not delivered the goods (for example safety requirements)".

The group also has a Digital Academy covering subjects such as AI, robotic process automation, etc. “In the last nine months, we have got 40-odd project proposals out of this academy. We plan to implement 13-14 projects from these," says Mutha.

All Digital Projects in the RPG Group start with a problem statement, according to Mutha. The group, then, explores whether a digital team can resolve the issue. “We also examine the extent of the digital quotient in the project—if it is more than 60-70%, we term it as a Digital Project, else we give our recommendations and call it process improvement management, which makes it a routine manufacturing project," explains Mutha. He concludes: “Digital projects should not be done with analogue minds".