SWAMY KOTAGIRI by company

Magna

Seetarama Kotagiri

President, Magna

Magna makes many products that end up in vehicles, like transmission, mirrors, and powertrains. Seetarama Kotagiri is leading the company’s efforts to use artificial intelligence and other emerging technology to overhaul how those parts are built.

From virtual-reality-based training to drones that fly around the warehouses to check quantities of raw materials and finished goods, the company is trying to stay on the cutting edge of the manufacturing industry’s pivot to “Industry 4.0,” the sector's term for the next industrial revolution.

“If you connect the dots and you bring it all together, you start heading towards solving a much bigger problem and advancing the industry to the next step,” Kotagiri tells Business Insider.

Internet-enabled sensors on products, for example, can help pinpoint earlier which parts may be at risk of breaking down, which could help better plan out maintenance schedules. And training robots to work collaboratively alongside humans can alleviate the need for employees to focus energy on more mundane factory tasks.

Those are both advancements that Kotagiri is helping to deploy in Magna’s operations. Initiatives like those, however, have also forced him to usher in a cultural change at the organization where employees feel empowered to learn the new skills necessary to thrive in a more high-tech environment.

“If you’re able to explain to people that they’re able to upskill to protect jobs and do more interesting things, there's a lot of buy-in,” he adds.