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Tech and digital will drive job demand in the auto industry

In the collision between technology and cars, auto companies find themselves hiring technologists and data scientists.

August 19, 2019 / 05:44 PM IST
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Job losses in the auto industry will continue in the months to come as car sales witness an unprecedented slump for almost a year. But, it’s not that auto companies are not hiring. The nature of jobs is changing -- most of them will be for technologists, data scientists and analysts, and electric and electronic engineers.

Maruti Suzuki, Nissan Motor Corporation, Hero MotoCorp, Hyundai, among others are scouting for talent that meets the changing mobility needs for electric, connected and intelligent cars.

Most experts feel that the recession in auto industry will last for the next two-three quarters. But, even after that, the new job requirement will continue to shift to skill sets that the auto industry does not have. With the government's emphasis on BS-VI and electric mobility - a drive towards cleaner mobility - automakers will have to scout for skills outside the auto industry.

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"Digital technologies are increasingly playing a key role, whether in product design, manufacturing or in sales and marketing. Electronics, electrical and software content in the vehicles are also increasing," said Vijay Sethi, Chief Human Resources Officer, Head of CSR & Information Technology at Hero MotoCorp.


The evolution of the auto industry would need more electrical and software engineers. "As the role of Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Data analytics increases in the design, development and marketing of products, more data scientists and mathematical talent will be needed, in addition to people with a blend of engineering and management skills," Sethi added.

The transformation of the auto industry is primarily happening for three reasons, said V Sumantran, Chairman of Celeris Technologies, who has written the book Faster, Smarter, Greener -- the Future of the Car and Urban Mobility. Sumantran, who was also the Vice Chairman of Ashok Leyland, said urbanisation, sustainability and digitisation are driving the shift.

"The value in the automobile is transferring from mechanical to electric and software," said Sumantran. The change was visible in global component makers like Delphi, ZF Friedrichshafen AG and Bosch, who shifted casting and machinery jobs to China, Mexico and India, where the labour was cheap, and they focussed on innovation and technology. This has been going on for two decades. But in the last few years, the pace of tech adoption has increased.

"Even for the BS-VI vehicle, systems will need to be extremely automated,” said Sumantran. "That will need fewer jobs but higher capital requirement for equipment… The value that existed in mechanical systems will decrease. Even the powertrain is either powered by a 32-bit or a 64-bit processor."

The shift will heighten if the EV revolution kicks in. An electric vehicle will have 80 per cent less moving parts - 24 compared to 149 in an internal combustion engine car. Even the wearing parts will come down to 11 from 24 in an IC engine vehicle.

As the auto industry evolves, automakers will have to shop for talent from outside the industry. "Auto industry does not have digital and electric skills… There is a shift from mechanical to electric," said Arun Malhotra, former Managing Director of Nissan Motor Corporation (India).

That is also what will drive success for automakers, their ability to adopt newer technologies and digital innovations. "In addition to the core skills… skills around software will become very relevant for the industry," said Rajesh Kumar R, Vice President – Automation and Head of Global Delivery (Retail, CPG and Manufacturing) at IT services firm, Mindtree.

As more vehicles get internet-enabled they are becoming part of a larger digital eco-system. Vehicle monitoring, preventive maintenance notifications, problem detection, alerts to critical failures, and even booking a service appointment, can be done "without human intervention", Kumar R added.

In future, because of the internet, the car can recommend a fuel stop or a lunch stop, and the businesses around the area where the car is can push advertisement to the people inside the car. A restaurant can pop-up a special discount to you, and a theatre can push a movie voucher. And all these notifications can land on the large infotainment screens inside the cars.

A lot of the jobs cuts are a sign of how the future of cars will be. The need for mechanical engineers is declining because of the increasing capabilities of computer-aided engineering software and simulation tools, explained Michigan-based Michael Ramsey, Senior Director with Gartner's CIO Research Group, an expert on smart mobility and the evolution of the automotive industry.

"Mechanical parts are increasingly being replaced with solid-state, by-wire electronics. This means that the jobs in need are more in electronics and software development," said Ramsey. In fact, many auto companies are trying to figure out how to create software development teams that continually release new sets of software for vehicles after they are sold, something which doesn’t come inherently to automakers.

But, is the demand of the new skill sets enough to offset the job losses? Perhaps not. "It will not compensate for the jobs losses. Maybe one job will be created for every 10 jobs gone," said Malhotra.

Recruitment agencies, too, agree with Malhotra. According to Rituparna Chakraborty, co-founder, TeamLease Services, auto companies will lay off 10 per cent of their workforce. "The new jobs won’t be able to compensate for the loss in volume terms," she added.

At the same time, the industry is witnessing a rising demand for technology jobs. "If you look at Kia and Morris Garages (which launched the MG Hector), they are focusing to be tech cars makers. The cars are positioned as intelligent cars," said Chakraborty.

The talent hunt for automakers won't be limited to cars. Even the manufacturing plants are becoming smarter. There is a focus on smart factories. "This means companies would need to induct fresh talent as well as reskill the existing talent pool in areas such as IoT (internet of things), 3D Printing, augmented reality and virtual reality, among other things," said Sethi.

And what will drive the car? A mix of data analytics, machine learning, and voice commands. To collect data the car will be fitted with a host of IoT devices (or data collecting sensors), and all the data will be sent to the cloud to be processed. The driver won’t vanish, not so soon. But, he will be monitored, for fatigue, cell phone usage while driving, and intoxication, for which vision computing will play a big role.

"All this means it will take a different kind of person with different skill sets to develop a car," said Rebecca Lindland, Founder of New York-based auto advisory firm, Rebeccadrives. As we move from analogue to digital, where everything changes -- the way car is unlocked and even started. "We don't need keys anymore," said Lindland.

So, we don't need the guy who made manufactured the keys.
Sunny Sen
first published: Aug 19, 2019 03:45 pm

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