Why Indian cement plants excel?
The Indian cement industry excels because of innovation. There is strong urge to think out of the box. The skill level is very high and training and retraining keep them abreast with the latest in technology.
Indian cement industry has something special, which makes the industry different from a global perspective. One has to agree that in terms of innovation India is among the top few. This particular trait is inherent in our psyche which helps us to succeed amidst several challenges. Other than adoption and amenable to modern technology there are some behavioral aspects of the men behind the machines which help the Indian plants to excel. The Indian cement industry has transformed from a crude state in the seventies to one of the most modern and respectable industry in India.
Hunger for innovation
There is an insatiable hunger to do something new. Here in India the sky is the limit. There is a constant ongoing effort of tweaking and optimising. Plants do it in a quiet manner without any fanfare. In developed countries there is too much thrust on standard operating procedures (SOPs). It is fine but many a times it kills the enthusiasm of innovators. Amendments have to be made in SOPs to incorporate changes which are time consuming process, where you have to involve so many people with diverse views resulting in loss of interest. The Indian 'Jogarh System' works very well in cement industry.
I have seen charge hands and foremen coming out with timely extra-ordinary solutions in emergency situations. There are no unnecessary presentations, fanfare etc. a small group deliberates on issues and with the plant manager's approval, thing are implemented/restored with minimum stoppage time. They are risk takers and always want to improvise. Except the workers most of the employees are highly educated. However the workers and are always keen to share their ideas. The plant management is always receptive and in many cases plant problems have been sorted out by shop floor workers. This is more so in plants not falling under groups/multinationals.
An instinct to do better than the predecessor
This behavioral aspect has deep roots in the plant management. All are keen to surpass previous best and create new records. Production is stretched more than rated capacities in spite of many challenges like difficult raw materials/fuels (poor grade of limestone/coal/ gypsum) technical issues etc. Also it is ensured that improvements are sustainable.
Focus and dedication
The plant staff are usually highly motivated with strong attachment to their respective plants. Cement is in their blood. Their children also reflect these characteristics as they see their fathers' dedication day in a day out. For them to get employment in cement plant is an ambition. These people are not polluted by the sparkles of city life and such children are too loyal. The Indian cement industry recruits wards of employees which has a positive influence on the dedication and loyalty of other employees. A blend of such dedicated employees and fresh highly talented students from reputed educational institutions create a win-win situation. Although the turnover of employees from urban areas is high, it is the core local employees who hold the fort under all circumstances. The dedication of these employees is unquestionable and this is one of the main reasons of Indian plants during so well. These employees have long unconditional loyalty and treat the plant like their priced belonging. Their focus is never diluted or disturbed unlike in an urban set up.
Reward and recognition
The plant staff is adequately compensated for good performance and rewarded and recognised in a timely manner. Now-a-days there are ample opportunities to progress at a faster rate. An array of designations keep them motivated as Indian society is highly sensitive to designations and status. Performance based incentives are given by most of the manufacturers which keep the workforce highly motivated. Good performers are rewarded and projected in important gatherings, which satisfies there self- esteem.
Healthy competition and benchmarking
Plants in a group are always competing to be the best in the group. Similarly there is a strong urge to be the best among competitors. Employees are conversant of what is going on in other plants and strive for the best jointly with management. A strong psychological thinking has emerged now-a-days that if they can why not us.
'Kitna Deti Hai' is the mantra
Whether it is buying a car or a refrigerator, Indians are wedded to this concept. That is the reason that our plants are the best in energy efficiency. Even the older plants are day in day out continuously improving their energy efficiency. The kiln production is continuously on the rise without diluting quality. Going the extra mile is nothing new for the Indian cement industry. Plants have been practicing it for quite some time quietly without fanfare. Running machines at stretched capacities is not easy. All plant staff are on their toes monitoring and taking timely actions. When it is energy saving everyone is so involved to find the slightest avenues of improvement in their own areas. This area is more or less the talk of the town. This area has top priority in daily production meetings. Stretching machines to over capacity does not necessarily mean shorter life. Many would shirk from it but our men take this risk because they are confident of their predictive and preventive maintenance and above all they have confidence in themselves and their respective teams. Each plant team works in a sort of military scenario where everyone is mentally and physically prepared to work extra, odd hours/ week ends, take calculated risks, work in teams and a follow the leader.
The Indian cement industry ensures that all achievements are sustainable. There is a growing desire to make the plants safe and environmental friendly. CSR activities are on the rise with some plants adopting villages around their sites. There is constant touch with locals, local Govt.administration etc. The plant renders all possible help to the stakeholders at times of need. They norture the locals as partners which helps in smooth operation of the factory.
Unlike some multinationals which are head heavy the Indian cement industry believes in nurturing the talent down below the ladder. They believe that the actual working hands are shop floor critical mass. This helps them to take faster decisions involving the critical mass. The mature Indian players do not leave their good retired staff because they know that these are the people who know the ins and out of managing plants in remote areas. They have stood the test of time and made industry successful. Age old autocratic style of management style has transformed into team best management where anyone gets opportunity to contribute. From an attitude of 'do not go home do not take leave" it is now "be efficient and enjoy life." Man management has evolved from purely personnel management to human resource management. Job enrichment has been given due weight age and compensation schemes have been made very attractive. The employees now see a well planned career growth chalked out for them.
Job security and welfare
Unlike in the West where the sword of Damocles always hang on your head, the Indian cement industry employees enjoy a much safe and secure employment. This helps them to focus on job and plan their future. Employees enjoy good medical facilities, children education allowances, scholarships, retirement benefits; leave travel assistance, bonuses, promotions etc. Lately the remunerations and incentives in Indian Cement plants have become very attractive which is further improving the motivation of the employees. Going to Middle East/ Africa is no longer lucrative.
The remarkable tenacity of the plant staff is worth mentioning. They are always available for exigencies 24x7x52. They never complain because their first objective is to keep the operations running smoothly.
Colony life and family support
Staying in colony adjacent to factory is one of the biggest trump cards. This breeds comradeship. The family including children sacrifice the benefits of city life. The ladies keep themselves busy by conducting various lady's club programmes. The Spouse of unit head takes a leading role. So strong in the attachment between ladies that no one is left to feel lonely. If anybody is sick, help is available from all members of lady's club. This type of comradeship may not be available in an urban set up. The families never complain about the long/odd duty hours of the men folk rather they support them by managing all house hold activities, grocery, children education etc.
The Indian cement industry excels because of innovation. There is strong urge to think out of the box. The skill level is very high and training and retraining keep them abreast with the latest in technology. The employees are focused and dedicated and are ready to sacrifice their personal well- being for the sake of the plant. They are voluntarily available 24x7x52. This does not mean that other industries do not have the same capabilities but the difference in cement industry is that most of the plants are located in remote areas with less number of people, small residential colonies lesser amenities etc. To excel in such environment is really commendable. With their extra ordinary feats in recent years they have elevated the Indian cement Industry to World class and made it highly respectable in India. The hunger still persists to make it the best in the world.