Cross-continent digital supervision to install a lamination line

By Nitin Nalavade

Nitshaw was born out of a need to bring together top Indian furniture manufacturers and leading European technology suppliers and machinery companies looking for the right Indian customers.

Today, 10 years since its inception, Nitshaw is a leading player in providing highest technology woodworking machines and is considered a trusted technology partner by the woodworking industry in India.

Nitshaw has partnered with the world’s best and represents technology leaders in their respective segments. Among them are Weinig, Holzher, Wemhoener, Venjakob, Heesemann, IMA, Schelling, Baumer, Imos, Pade and Comec.

In order to act as a bridge of knowledge and service, Nitshaw has separate divisions for solid wood and panel processing technologies, surface and finishing technologies, as well as software and automation.

Unique operations

Nitshaw resumed business with the lifting of the lockdown following all norms of sanitisation and physical distancing. Majority of sales meetings are being conducted online, whereas technical teams are already travelling to customer sites by following all prescribed precautions.

Before and during the lockdown many of our machines had already reached our customers. These were very huge investments by our customers and we were expected to respond positively. So, as soon as the factories reopened, our teams immediately reached the sites and commissioned these machines.

During this time, we have also achieved a feat which I believe was never done before in the history of woodworking anywhere. For one of our major customer, Merino Industries, we installed and commissioned a large, sophisticated short-cycle lamination line from our partner, Wemhoener, by providing complete remote support.

Normally this would entail on-site presence of all the experts. The customer had huge export commitments and requested an extraordinary solution. So the Nitshaw team coordinated the whole operation between Wemhoener experts outside India and the customer’s technicians in India – entirely online!

Similarly, soon after lockdown was lifted, Nitshaw commissioned a big project in Kota (Rajasthan) for Hermosa Design Studio, and another big project for finger-jointed boards, Colonial Hardwoods, in Kerala.

Immediate priorities

The initial 2 months of lockdown were very discouraging. Like all other businesses, we were worried about the future; about new orders, cash flow and deliveries. Our immediate priority was our staff and their safety. Early on, we decided that we will not remove any staff and continue to pay their salaries.

We are happy that our staff has shown the same faith in the company and continued working hard during these difficult times.

Nitshaw has not faced any big challenges in terms of order cancellations or delays, because we were able to resolve it by speaking to our customers. In these extraordinary times, we have found that our customers realised that we both have to sail in the same boat with each other’s assistance.

So far as managing cash flow is concerned, Nitshaw is a very well managed and profitable company. Our reserves have helped us swim though these troubled times. We also took care not to spend on unnecessary things and curtailed all expenses that don’t add immediate value.

One of the first things we did along with our partners during the lockdown was training of our people on latest and new technologies. We also invested in productivity software and its training and implementation, to keep our staff busy, even though they were working from home. Once the office reopened, we already have many of the processes standardised to help us grow faster in the future.

Biggest challenge

The biggest challenge is the limited face-to-face interactions with our customers. This is giving rise to the use of technology, both from the customer side as well as supplier side. Video calls, online presentations and real-time demonstration of machines from the supplier’s factory are a normal feature now and will remain so in future.

Many of our suppliers have installed sophisticated cameras and equipment in their laboratories and demonstration centres to enable better online presentation of machines and trials to customers!

Customers, on the other hand, now expect more information, validation of that information, guarantees of machines performance, etc. because there is no visit to supplier factories to see the machines.

Involvement of machinery manufacturers directly is becoming important for demonstration of expertise and technology. This means that the machinery business will become more information based, specifications based and expertise based. Travel restrictions will also force customers to buy machinery from proven sources, reliable and trustworthy suppliers.

The major challenge the industry is facing is in terms of demand creation. When the end consumer starts buying furniture, there will be demand in the factories, which will push the machinery industry back on its feet.

Regarding re-examination of the sourcing chain, companies are definitely looking at alternatives, but drastic changes in sourcing patterns are not expected. Buyer-seller relations and mutual trust, developed over a period of time, will still play an important role.

New imperatives

The woodworking industry in India has always been very labour-intensive. During the course of this pandemic, due to reduced work force, there is now increased focus on higher manufacturing technologies as well as automation of processes in the business.

Manufacturers are looking to reduce dependence on skills, reduce excess manpower, eliminate unnecessary handling, optimise processes, automate material movements and increase real time control.

Our customers are now asking for better technology, automatic machines to meet international quality standards and better return on investment. Investments are also increasing in software to automate processes – from sales and design to manufacturing, sourcing, supply and installation.

Nitshaw’s automation division is a pioneer in introducing world class software and automation systems to customers for complete digitisation of business processes. The benefits of these software programs are seen in reduced costs, increased productivity and better control over operations.

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