Cipla’s higher automation spends to continue for three more years: CTO

The company started its investment journey on the automation front two years ago, and has already been recognised for its work by multiple bodies

Cipla expects elevated capital expenditure on automation to continue for three more years, a senior official has said.

The city-headquartered company started its investment journey on the automation front two years ago and has already been recognised for its work by multiple bodies, Geena Malhotra, Chief Technology Officer (CTO), Cipla, told PTI recently.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) has recognised one of its four manufacturing units as a ‘lighthouse’ project for being replicated across the world, Malhotra said, adding that the company will be implementing the same across all of its 42 plants.

“On investments, we have done both regular capital expenditure and also additional investments. We have made a good amount of investments in the last two years and will be investing for about three-four years more in this journey,” Malhotra said.

The company, however, did not disclose the financial details of its automation spends.

The journey on automation has its roots in a decision Cipla took in 2020, where it started with reimagining technology and making it more cost-effective, Malhotra said, adding that it wanted to align closely with the organisation’s view of how it sees itself ten years down the line.

The aim at the organisation level is to “produce high quality products which comply with sustainability goals, which are affordable and leave the planet safer,” she said, adding that the three Rs of repeatability, reliability and resilience are its guiding force in this journey.

It had already adopted inputs like robotics in manufacturing, but automation was one step ahead, Malhotra said, pointing out that under the new paradigm, jobs like assigning work to employees at the plant are also decided by the system.

Earlier, it used to take manual intervention to assign work for every employee in a factory, whereas now, with the implementation of some solutions, there is a screen indicating who needs to do what, the tools to be used for the work, etc. This ensures a highly efficient workforce by increasing productivity, she explained.

“Our work on the automation side has helped us save power, be more sustainable and reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Malhotra said.

“We have moved from being predictive to prescriptive in our automation journey and the aspiration is to be fully autonomous at the end of the investment cycle,” Malhotra added.

A manufacturing facility generates a lot of data, which, if studied properly, can throw up insights which can help a great deal for a unit, she said, conceding that a lot of aspects on the technology front were new for the company.

“We hired consultants to help us hire for specialised jobs like data scientists, which was new for a pharma major like us. Simultaneously, we also invested in upskilling our existing workforce,” she said.

Helping the company through the journey has been the US-based company Rockwell Automation. Its Regional Director for the India market Dilip Sawhney said lifesciences is one of the key focus areas for the company.

Edits by EP News Bureau

CiplaGeena Malhotra
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