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G Ganapathiraman, Country Manager, ARC Advisory Group India

Image: ARC Advisory Group

Automation as a strategy “Automation requires methodical planning”

May 7, 2018

“The development of an automation investment strategy should be approached with the same dedication and focus as a sales, marketing or operational strategy” - G Ganapathiraman, Country Manager, ARC Advisory Group India

Do you see any challenges while making automation as a fundamental part of the overall business strategy in the Indian manufacturing enterprises, in both SMEs and corporates?

Through government initiatives and skill upgradation, automation in India’s manufacturing sector has got a boost. Still, fundamental challenges remain in this sector. These include:

  • Hesitation to shift to a new way of doing things

  • Automation industry players in India always have to justify investments towards automation; and as the initial cost seems expensive, the buying decision is deferred

  • Integration of various automation platforms in a manufacturing environment, to avoid automation islands

  • To convey and realise the true value of the offered automation solution to the user, avoiding commoditisation in the process

A better approach to automation investment begins with a strategic vision that drives a methodical approach to business improvement. What would be your recommendations?

An investment in automation is the starting point of a business improvement plan. The development of an automation investment strategy should be approached with the same dedication and focus as a sales, marketing or operational strategy. Automation requires methodical planning and can result in significant cost and labour savings. A few recommendations for an effective automation strategy include:

  • Selecting automation that is right for your process

  • Understanding the RoI calculations of your project; the best RoI comes through the development of automation solutions that enhance manufacturing processes

  • Knowing production requirements and operator needs

  • Create goals for long term production requirements, product mix, and workflow

How easy/difficult is it to align business & automation strategy in a manufacturing organisation and ensure the two are closely linked in the long term, especially in the SME sector?

Aligning business goals and automation strategy depends on the planning and vision of the company. It is easy if an automation strategy is formulated when the business is conceived; and difficult if it is a stopgap or a “let’s try it out” arrangement. A big part of any strategic plan is measuring results versus projections. Manufacturers must look at automation from the top down, first identifying the strategic challenges of the business, and then finding ways in which automation can be used to meet those challenges and attain business objectives.

Consumer demand and relentless global competition have resulted in shorter product lifecycles and a renewed emphasis on quality and cost reduction. Can you highlight the current developments that address these areas?

To compete on a global turf, where the emphasis is on quality and cost curtailment accompanied by reduced turnaround time, it is imperative to deploy new technologies. In my opinion, the current trends that address these areas are Artificial Intelligence, analytics and intelligent apps, Digital Twins, Edge Computing, and immersive experience technologies like Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR).

The effective execution of your automation strategy requires the right partner to help guide and drive the process. How can the partnership between solution provider, system integrator and end-user be more effective to further overall business objectives?

A strong linkage between the solution provider, system integrator, and end user will provide a roadmap to invest in automation solutions that will yield the highest RoI. The partnership can be more effective by creating awareness about new technologies, developing a strategic technology roadmap, upgrading skills, providing end-to-end visibility and justifying RoI.

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