Green industries: Fusing skills, tech for manufacturing advancements in India

  • Articles
  • Feb 06,24
Integrating green technologies and innovative solutions is critical for India to foster eco-friendly industrial growth while mitigating the perils of climate change. Manufacturers must act now to secure green talent and catalyse enduring positive change says Sumit Kumar.
Green industries: Fusing skills, tech for manufacturing advancements in India

With a sizable manufacturing sector accounting for over 15 per cent of India's GDP, our nation is poised to become a dominant force in global manufacturing. However, the environmental footprint of conventional manufacturing processes has ignited an urgent need to embrace sustainable methodologies. Integrating green technologies and innovative solutions is critical for India to foster eco-friendly industrial growth while mitigating the perils of climate change.

India's manufacturing industry stands at sustainability crossroads
As one of the fastest-growing major economies, India aims to become a global manufacturing stronghold by 2030, with over $500 billion in annual exports. However, the environmental toll of conventional manufacturing approaches threatens these ambitions. With unabated greenhouse emissions, toxic industrial waste, and dangerous pollution levels, the current trajectory is unsustainable.

India now faces a dilemma: allow manufacturing to flourish at the expense of the environment or catalyse an industrial transformation to protect ecological balance. Tough regulatory actions may curb industrial growth in the short term, but with climate change consequences intensifying, doing business as usual is not an option.

The solution lies in rapidly transitioning to sustainable manufacturing models by harnessing emerging technologies. The good news is that Industry 4.0 innovations like automation, digitisation, and renewables promise cleaner, greener, and smarter production systems. On the other hand, the shortage of qualified workers with next-gen sustainable manufacturing skills remains a barrier.

Bridging the labour skill gap via work-based training programmes and forging ahead with eco-friendly processes powered by cutting-edge technologies offer a pathway for manufacturing to drive economic growth in sync with environmental stewardship.

The tech-tonic shift: How technology is enabling sustainable manufacturing
Advances in technology are catalysing a sustainability transformation across manufacturing operations. The evolution of smart manufacturing, underpinned by sensors, data analytics, and automation, allows for optimised utilisation of energy and resources while minimising environmental impacts. Access to real-time operational insights enables predictive maintenance, proactive interventions, and overall streamlined production with radically smaller footprints.

Artificial intelligence (AI) takes eco-friendly manufacturing to the next level by guiding fully autonomous operations for peak efficiency. Machine learning algorithms continually refine operations to reduce carbon emissions, material waste, and water usage to bare minimums. AI-powered manufacturing heralds an era of intelligent, optimised, and near-zero-impact production.

Beyond process optimisation, the proliferation of renewable energy unlocks cleaner and greener manufacturing shopfloors. Solar and wind energy integration diminishes reliance on fossil fuels, while bioenergy, geothermal solutions, and hydrogen-based processes offer viable, sustainable alternatives for energy-intensive operations.

Technology is indeed the driving force spearheading the sustainability makeover, with innovation in AI, automation, digitisation, and renewables promising a manufacturing landscape that operates in harmony with the environment.

Perceptive prudence: New trends that are anticipated
While sustainability consciousness has grown over the past decade, recent developments indicate that eco-friendly manufacturing is transitioning from a fringe concept to a mainstream imperative for industries worldwide. Surveys reveal that over 90 per cent of manufacturing businesses are actively engaged in some form of green practice today.

Progressive manufacturers are expanding beyond compliance with emission norms to holistic environmental stewardship programmes covering energy conservation, waste recycling, and sustainable sourcing. With brand reputation and long-term cost savings intrinsic to the green shift, sustainable manufacturing has evolved into a core business strategy rather than just an ancillary process.

India too witnesses a surge in environment, sustainability, and governance (ESG) investments, with funding for solar companies rising dramatically. The government offers subsidies for renewable energy adoption along with tax rebates for energy-efficient facilities.

As stakeholder expectations and industry standards realign around sustainability, manufacturers embracing comprehensive green strategies enjoy distinct competitive advantages. Those lagging risks include regulatory crackdowns, talent drain, and the loss of a social license to operate. The writing on the wall is clear: eco-friendly production is an inescapable imperative and no longer just an option.

Overcoming key challenges in mainstreaming sustainable manufacturing
Despite the environmental and economic merits of sustainability, significant barriers constrain large-scale adoption across manufacturing value chains. High upfront capital expenditures on upgrades to existing infrastructure or investments in new green facilities pose a major roadblock. Production disruptions during technology or process transitions also hamper the switch.

Additionally, organisational inertia and internal resistance slow down changes, despite top-down directives. Shopfloor workers are accustomed to legacy practices and uncomfortable abandoning old ways.

Another critical challenge lies in the shortage of green technical skills required to implement and operate new-age sustainable technologies. With India targeting net-zero deadlines, the yawning gap between current competencies and those demanded by future green jobs is alarming. Bridging this through rapid nationwide reskilling and upskilling is vital.

Sustainable manufacturing's new ally
Overcoming the sustainability skills deficit hinges on large-scale training programmes to create a talent pool ready for green manufacturing roles. Classroom courses build conceptual foundations, but work-based learning that offers immersive experiences in real-world operations is pivotal. Apprenticeships, on-the-job training, and sandwich courses with dedicated shopfloor components equip trainees with instantly applicable sustainable manufacturing skills.

With interventions spanning technology, infrastructure, and people, work-based learning addresses the most crucial barrier which are specialised green competencies. It allows organisations to nurture talent aligned with their unique operational contexts while empowering youth with future-ready and industry-relevant skill sets.

Moreover, these initiatives cultivate sustainability thinking across ranks, aligning employees with green objectives. This facilitates the smoother adoption of upgraded systems, technologies, and shopfloor practices.

Securing a skilled workforce for a sustainable manufacturing future
Work-based learning sits at the epicentre of the talent transformation strategy, which is pivotal to materialising India's sustainable industrial future. With the stakes so high in the race to net-zero timelines, fast-tracking nationwide campaigns to skill, reskill, and upskill millions is imperative. Academia, government, and industry must unite to catalyse programmes, amplify reach, and ensure genuine skill application post-training.

The payoffs of winning the skills battle are manifold. Sustainability initiatives are now possible thanks to the availability of green talent. Smooth technology assimilation and upgraded shopfloor conduct translate into optimised, cleaner, and leaner manufacturing. Energy conservation, recycling, and circular economy practices minimise environmental harm.

Most importantly, inclusive green skill development creates new livelihoods, boosts employability, and expands economic opportunity. Upskilled workforces gain future-proof and recession-proof careers, contributing to local and global sustainability targets.

A parting take
As India sets its sights on becoming a global manufacturing powerhouse, the parallel priority is establishing an equally towering reputation for green leadership. With stakeholder pressure intensifying alongside climate change impacts, sustainable manufacturing and the workforce transformation it demands have become indispensable. Technology lays the foundations, but ultimately, skilled teams steer the sustainability revolution. Manufacturers must act now to secure green talent and catalyse enduring positive change.

About the author
Sumit Kumar is the Chief Business Officer of TeamLease Degree Apprenticeship (India’s first and largest degree apprenticeship programme). He has work experience of over 24 years in HR services helping organisations build future ready workforce by leveraging experiential learning; and education/employability sectors.

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