Hitachi Vantara: making intelligent manufacturing happen
Hitachi Vantara is, in the words of Dev Ramchandani, Senior Director and Head of Global Manufacturing Consulting, “a global technology leader and a catalyst for sustainable societal change. We respond to global dynamic changes with insight and agility. Our unique approach helps deliver sustainable measurable business results and a better consulting experience.”
Ramchandani insists that while Industry 4.0 has been a buzzword, there are now material successes to point to. He breaks down the Hitachi Vantara view into three key areas. One: “We need to start with a business outcome or a business driven approach, not a technology driven approach. So we need to have the business objective in mind and then go ahead and identify the relevant technologies, which will help us achieve that.” Two: “We need to reimagine operations. We need to keep thinking of the technical limit in our minds, because that is what we are headed to. We need to figure out how we can disrupt the current cycle and reach there.” And three: “People. This calls for a different skill set and we need to nurture people.”
In what he calls the “five-box model” – process, mindsets, capabilities, technology, data – Ramchandani sets out his blueprint for the company’s approach to “sustainable behavioural change”, leading to sustainable impact.
Hitachi Vantara is one of RPG’s most important partnerships, and Ramchandani calls the experience of working with the manufacturing group a “pleasure”. “We at Hitachi have a very keen focus on harmony, sincerity and pioneering spirit, and these three elements are ingrained in RPG as well. Given the values were aligned, it has been an excellent journey working together.”
Two other key ingredients in the relationship are a win-win mentality and open and trust based communication.
“Values make a strong base,” Ramchandani notes, “but apart from that two other elements worth mentioning are a win-win mindset because between Hitachi and RPG it was never ‘I’m okay, you’re not okay’. That’s never going to work at all. At any given point in this partnership we have been thinking about a win-win mindset. How do we make each other successful? That has always been at the back of our minds. The second aspect, which is very critical, is open and trust-based communication. There are things which can go as-per plan, or not go according to plan. As long as we have open and trust-based communication, you can work around and find alternatives. But if that’s missing it’s very difficult to work together.”
That journey has been marked by a focus on ‘intelligent manufacturing’ leveraging a combination of business excellence methodologies, such as Lean, TPM and TQM, and technological enhancements like IoT, predictive and prescriptive analytics to better address the challenges of waste, variability and inflexibility across four key dimensions Ramchandani collectively refers to as “4M” (man, machine, material and method).
“I would say intelligent manufacturing for us is to find the next S-curve of operational excellence across the dimensions of SQPCDM (safety, quality, productivity, costs, delivery and morale). We go about doing that by addressing waste variability and flexibility. These are the core challenges, so we address waste variability and inflexibility across all the 4M dimensions. Each of these has some inherent waste variability and flexibility, so we try to address that in order to achieve the next S-curve of operational excellence.”
Asia-Pacific seeing surge in cleantech-focused VC funds
Cleantech became one of the hottest investment sectors among VCs a decade ago with cleantech VC deal volumes doubling between 2005-2007, according to Brookings Cleantech Venture Capital report. And while the global recession in 2007-2008 halted many investments in cleantech, the sector has gained traction over the last few years.
Asia Cleantech Capital is an early-stage investment firm focused on clean tech projects and companies in the APAC region; DreamLabs Innovation is a US$50m fund established to invest in disruptive, scalable, people-focused companies in areas including cleantech and energy; and ENGIE New Ventures runs a US$61.2m fund dedicated to making minority investment in tech startups in sustainable energy including across Asia.
More recently, in 2021, in light of the pandemic and increasing focus on sustainability, there’s been a surge of cleantech-focused VC funds being set up both globally and across Asia-Pacific with the aim of supporting startups that are developing advanced technologies to tackle global problems, whether renewable energy or food waste.
Climate Solutions Partnership unveiled
Just last week, HSBC, World Resources Institute (WRI) and WWF unveiled their Climate Solutions Partnership (CSP), which aims to unlock barriers to finance for innovators developing climate solutions with a focus on startups in Asia developing carbon-cutting technologies, projects that protect and restore biodiversity, and initiatives to help the transition to renewable energy.
Backed by US$100m of philanthropic funding over five years from HSBC, and part of the banking giant’s climate strategy, this partnership will help identify future business opportunities for sustainable innovations, and mobilise finance, including helping startups and next-generation new sustainable approaches.
Spotlight on Japan and China
Set to launch this month is a new cleantech-focused fund targeting investments in Japan, Europe and the US. Sony Group, Suzuki Motor, Mizuho Bank and 15 other Japanese companies have joined forces on a startup investment fund focused on companies that are developing technologies related to digital transformation and decarbonisation.
The fund, set up by California-based VC firm World Innovation Lab (WiL) with a maximum fund size of US$911m and a lifespan of 10 years, will invest in 50-60 startups in the first 3-5 years. Focused on the environmental sector, the fund is set to invest heavily in companies with digital technology, such as software and data analysis tools that can help streamline the operations of large companies, and those developing advanced technologies to tackle global problems, from water shortages to development of plastics-free products.
And the recently launched TDK Ventures, the corporate venture capital arm of Japanese multinational TDK Corporation, is scouting for more industrial tech investments in Asia and especially China, following the recent close of its US$150m TDK Ventures Fund II. This fund is targeting early-stage, global investments in ‘hard tech’ spanning the advanced materials, industrial, robotics, energy, autonomous vehicles, electric vehicles, clean-tech and health-tech verticals.
“This new fund renews our commitment to supporting hard-tech entrepreneurs creating innovations for the greater good,” says Nicolas Sauvage, managing director, TDK Ventures. The materials science field has always been part of the technology sector’s foundation, and as such, it can help the sector address some of the world’s biggest challenges, including sustainability.”
ADB Ventures brings a more sustainable future to Asia
Back in March, ADB Ventures, the Asian Development Bank’s venture capital arm, announced its first two investments since its founding in 2020. ADB Ventures, which aims to pursue environmental, social and governance (ESG) investments in verticals such as FoodTech, AgriTech, HealthTech, FinTech and CleanTech, revealed two green investments, funding Indian electric vehicle manufacturer Euler Motors and Indian CleanTech startup Smart Joules.
The firm is currently partnered with the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, the Climate Investment Fund, Nordic Development Fund, Korea Venture Investment Corp., and Korea’s Ministry of Economy and Finance to help bring a more sustainable future to Asia.
Nordic Development Fund managing director Karin Isaksson says: “ADB Ventures represents a timely complement to traditional development approaches through the involvement of the private sector in addressing critical climate change challenges. We are pleased to be working with the ADB on this important initiative that has particular relevance in the post-COVID recovery.”
And finally, while not exclusively tech-focused, last month Singapore-headquartered global gaming firm Razer announced the launch of its new (and first) sustainable US$50m fund. The Razer Green Fund aims to invest in environmental and sustainability startups with up to US$1m funding for startups in the seed and series A stages.