The central government’s flagship programme, Make in India envisions making India into a global manufacturing hub. It has led to huge investments in the railway sector through several big-ticket projects. With the three objectives of increasing traffic, reducing cost of transportation and enhancing profits, Indian Railways (IR) is taking a number of technology initiatives. Speaking at India Infrastructure’s twelfth annual conference on “Railways in India”, Shailendra Jaiswal, executive director, Research Designs and Standards Organisation, shares his views on Make in India, the Technology Mission for Indian Railways (TMIR) and the way forward. Excerpts from his address…
The Make in India vision for IR is to transform the country into a global design and manufacturing hub, thereby placing it at the core of the world economy. It aims to achieve this by developing advanced research and development capabilities for breakthrough innovations, transforming India from a net technology importer to an exporter, and becoming a technology incubation and commercialisation leader by creating innovation centres at various academic institutions in the country.
Make in India: Value creation
The essence of Make in India lies in shifting to the locus of value, which is depicted by a smiling curve. (The smiling curve is a graphical depiction of how value added varies across the different stages of bringing a product to market.) The curve indicates that the minimum value creation is in the assembly stage, while the maximum lies in research and development along with design. To create maximum value, IR aims to Think in India, Innovate in India, Research in India, Design in India, Invent in India, Make in India and finally sell globally, including India. To achieve this, brainstorming is needed. For example, to promote Think in India, Konkan Railways came up with the idea of the Skybus, a prototype suspended railway system. In order to sell globally, there is a need to leverage products in which the country has a competitive advantage. India is an exporter of milk, ice creams and liquid chemicals such as benzene. To promote these exports, the current requirement is to design and manufacture wagons to transport these products with technologies such as internet of things and supervisory control and data acquisition systems.
Besides, IR is currently engaged in a condition monitoring equipment installation programme across its network. While the equipment was imported, going forward, IR aims to develop it within the country with private participation. An improvement in condition monitoring will help IR not only in reducing its maintenance costs but also in increasing reliability. Moreover, on-train processing and production technology is another area that IR plans to indigenise in the future.
Technology Mission for IR
To provide an impetus to the government’s Make in India initiative, the Ministry of Railways (MoR) along with the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) and the Department of Science and Technology (DST) signed an MoU for the TMIR in January 2018. The MoU will facilitate co-financing by investment sharing in identified railway projects aimed at promoting applied research. The funding component of Rs 3 billion will be shared among the MoR, the MHRD and the DST in the ratio of 30 per cent, 25 per cent and 25 per cent respectively. The remaining 20 per cent will be borne by the industry. The industry partner for each project will be decided on a case-to-case basis. The TMIR aims to promote modern technologies related to monitoring, control, communications, design, electronics and materials. The expected timeline of the mission is four years, extendable by one year depending on the progress of the projects.
The way forward
In order to help realise the Make in India vision, IR plans to work on increasing its manufacturing capacity, and bringing technological innovations through private partnerships. It plans to develop indigenous technology for condition monitoring, wagon technology for export-oriented products, etc. Going forward, IR’s manufacturing will require significant changes for increasing productivity, such as improvements in the quality of plants coupled with greater integration with global supply chains, for India to transform itself into a manufacturing hub.