Saturday, December 31, 2011

Design … to improve manufacturing competitiveness

The importance and benefits of design can be best demonstrated through projects. Major emphasis of the design clinic scheme thus is on projects, with its over 60% fund allocated for design project support to the MSMEs. 

With the target to reach out to around 200 industry clusters, the scheme will support 400 design projects. This includes support to 300 professional design projects and 100 student design projects. Individual MSME unit or group of MSMEs can apply for the project support. Upon the approval of the project, the scheme would reimburse 60% of the design project expenses.  This includes design fees, model and prototype expenses as well as project related travel and documentation expenses. Individual MSME unit or a group of upto three units can get the financial support maximum upto Rs. 9.0 lakh, while a group of four or more units can get the maximum support of Rs. 15.0 lakh for the professional design project.

The scheme has received encouraging response from the industry and by now we have received 109 project proposals. These proposals are at various stages of their evaluation. From the 47 project proposals already approved, 6 projects have been completed and around 11 projects are in the final phase of their completion.
The scheme offers an interesting challenge to the country's design fraternity. The scheme is launched by the government of India for the country's large micro, small and medium enterprises, MSMEs as part of its National Manufacturing Competitiveness Programme, NMCP, with a specific objective to improve manufacturing competitiveness of these MSMEs.  The Design Clinic Scheme is one of the 10 schemes launched under the NMC programme and is financially supported by the ministry of MSMEs, Govt. of India.

The focus of the scheme therefore is on improving manufacturing competitiveness of MSMEs through the appropriate use of design. 

This subtle but critical difference in terms of design intervention approach to the problems/project is felt missed out by the designers and is visible in the project proposals submitted to the scheme. The proposals invariably stop at highlighting the design intervention towards developing a new product; improve the existing product in terms of its aesthetics, functionality, addition of new features etc. Over and above these benefits, each proposal is evaluated from the perspective of its potential/s and scope of design intervention to improve the manufacturing competitiveness of MSME unit’s product/ business, to increase export potential and/or its potential to reduce import substitute etc. 

Each of the proposals submitted to the scheme are evaluated at three levels. At the first level the proposal is reviewed independently by three external design experts.  At the second stage of assessment, this proposal is assessed by the Project Assessment Panel, PAP, comprising of designers, members from industry associations and from government organizations. At the final stage, the recommendations of PAP are discussed and reviewed by the Project Management and Advisory Committee, PMAC, of the scheme for its approval (details on ). 

The projects completed so far under the scheme support, have ably demonstrated the strength and capability of design to improve manufacturing competitiveness of the product/s and the businesses as a whole. While design interventions have helped improve these products from their aesthetics, ergonomics, functionality, addition of new feature etc. perspectives, these interventions have helped reduce material, weight, product volume, product floor space (foot print area), etc. Design interventions have helped optimize components as well as overall manufacturing process resulting in reduction in production cost and improved product quality. Standardization of parts and components, modular approach, ease of assembly, maintenance, optimized after sale services, etc. have been some of the added benefits of these interventions towards improved manufacturing competitiveness.  Design Interventions thus have provided holistic solutions resulting in incredible benefits and major value additions for their client MSME units to stand out from the competition. With the newly designed products now compatible for global trade, these interventions would certainly help develop strong brand value for their MSMEs.

The project proposal formats and the guidelines have been further refined to help MSMEs and designers include all the relevant and required information in their proposal/s.  The complete process of submission of the proposal as well as the information of its status will be very soon available online on the scheme website.  The scheme implementation team is constantly facilitating external experts and project assessment committee, whenever required to connect and get the necessary information/ clarifications from the MSME units and/or designer at the earliest.

Country’s large micro, small and medium enterprise sector, a crucial industry sector in the context of country’s economic and social development, demands holistic solutions to improve their manufacturing competitiveness and thereby survive and progress in the global markets of today. Design can contribute at a major scale to offer such holistic solutions and thereby help the country’s MSMEs to move up the value chain. Few of the projects completed so far have ably demonstrated this capability. I am sure, country’s design fraternity will rise to this challenge to be part of this major design movement. 

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