India is the 2nd largest producer of cement in the world, which plays a vital role in the economy as well. But due to the pandemic, the production of cement has fallen significantly with a recent Commerce and Industry Ministry report highlighting that production had declined by 13.5% in July. Despite India’s GDP declining by almost 24% in Q1, the manufacturing sector has shown growth with the HIS Markit India Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) exhibiting the sector’s activity rising from 46 in July to 52 in August. Recently, the government has announced the launch of the Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative to encourage and make India the next manufacturing hub.
Keeping these in mind, Walplast, which is one of India’s leading manufacturers of infrastructure and building solutions, is taking big strides in ensuring that all of its supplies are localised and it consistently produces quality products for its customers. Managed by a second-generation entrepreneur and CEO, Mr Milan Thakkar, the brand has grown at a CAGR of 14% for several years now, capturing international markets such as Africa and the GCC in the process.
In a market of 50 lakh metric tonne per annum or `7500 Crore run to a large extent (close to 60%) by the un-organised segment, Walplast has quietly built up a strong market share of 7.5 lakh metric tonne per annum. In fact, in the last 5 years, Walplast products have touched the lives and houses of more than 5 crore Indians, with the high point being the last financial year, where Walplast products were used in 40 lakh homes nationwide.
But due to the ongoing pandemic and lockdown, Walplast has been facing similar hurdles that the manufacturing sector across India is facing. This includes issues like labour shortage, trucks being lost in transit, different policies towards restrictions across different states and a lack of consistent demand in the market due to lower activity. Before the pandemic, the brand had been running its operations in a segregated manner wherein different departments had to be in sync with each other to complete its orders. The brand utilised ERP and WMS for its business processes but faced difficulties in managing them as the systems had different features. These issues were further amplified with the ongoing lockdown and its factories being shut
from March until early May.
Revamping entire processes
With the relaxation of lockdown norms and strict guidelines being set to restart manufacturing activities, Walplast slowly opened its factories to resume its operations. But with labour shortage coupled with the lack of consistent demand in the market, it was one of the biggest challenges that the brand had to tackle since its establishment in 2004. After many internal discussions and intense debates, Walplast came to the conclusion that they had to revamp their processes towards a new direction –digitisation and technological adoptions.
Many of their peers in the sector had pivoted towards different manufacturing processes or had simply adopted the latest advancements in technology to keep up with the dynamic market demands. While Walplast had similar plans before the pandemic, it accelerated towards this direction after taken inspiration from its competitors. This eventually led to the decision of ensuring that an advanced system is built for streamlining entire processes and that it can also help its business grow in the future. With a clear goal and belief to innovate its entire process, Walplast launched its new initiative called Supply Chain Control Tower (SCCT) which would provide a holistic approach over its entire system.
Supply Chain Control Tower
Utilising the latest trends in AI, data analytics and IoT, the supply chain control tower initiative has helped Walplast adapt a system wherein it has end-to-end visibility of its supply chain. The system has not only helped integrate its internal components but also its external components such as supplier and third-party services. The brand has also been able to measure its business activities and receives meaningful insights on its market. It has been able to upgrade its vehicle management system by placing external GPS devices on the trucks.
With the help of IoT and data intelligence, Walplast is able to gather data on the movement of its trucks and easily resolve any logistical hurdle, especially in the current times. The brand has also been able to plan its manufacturing processes as well due to this visibility and thereby schedule its entire processes basis the same. Utilising AI and analytics, Walplast’s sales and marketing team keep a track of the order and sales trends amongst its customers. This also helps them understand if there are any behavioural changes which helps them redress any issues and give a quick response.
With visibility of its incoming and outgoing trucks, Walplast has been able to provide its customers real-time data and transparency in the order management system. Catering to more than 500 B2C customers, Walplast has been able to execute last-mile delivery while customers are able to place, track and get a receipt for their orders. The system also helped Walplast reduce its average delivery time from 3 days to 2 days. This, in turn, helped its customers streamline their activities as per the delivery ETA provided by Walplast
With its manufacturing process streamlined with real-time data, Walplast has been able to reduce its buffer stock which in turn has reduced its inventory cost by 2%. The brand has been able to maintain records and information on product procurement from suppliers, shipment to customers, cost accrued and internal documents helping make informed decisions in the current market dynamics and customer demands.
While the current pandemic is one of the most unique challenges that many manufacturers have to tackle, Walplast is already at the forefront of adopting the latest technology trends to enhance its production and services.