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Sudhir S Kalkar, General Manager - Technical, ACG Pharma Technologies

Image: ACG Pharma Technologies

Automation as a strategy “Automation will keep enterprises ahead of time”

May 3, 2018

“Young successors are showing an interest in process automation, because they are aware of its key benefits and are willing to invest” — Sudhir S Kalkar, General Manager - Technical, ACG Pharma Technologies

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?

Most SMEs prefer to get along with the existing semi-automatic version of automation. The psychology is that it works and hence, there is no push to make automation a part of business strategies. Traditional business professionals do not want to explore future business benefits as they see the investment as a risk. At the same time, young successors, with many SMEs, are showing an interest in process automation, because they are aware of its key benefits and are willing to invest. Another challenge faced by SMEs is integrating their legacy machines, which are based on different platforms and their need for proper upgradation.

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

Manufacturers, mainly SMEs, would prefer avoiding high investment in the beginning. Therefore, the ideal way is to follow a systematic approach and look at ideas to integrate the automation in their existing processes, without drastic changes. Many SMEs and other industries have opted for this approach — identifying the routine processes, applying the automation through simple techniques, optimising the routine processes, experiencing the benefit, and then going for scaling of automation.

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

It comes down to the psychology of the leadership team – the level of investment capability, risk-taking appetite, and patience to wait for the system to deliver the targeted results. Business leaders need to break away from functional silos and guides for cross-functional collaboration to create a seamless integration in automation process, where the output from one stage will be the input for another.

The realisation has set in that automation will definitely keep enterprises ahead of time. Therefore, it is important for them to adopt the right automation solution which provides the desired output. This includes looking for solutions that will integrate vertically and horizontally, both. They need to choose a system that will be upgradable for future automation level enhancements.

Consumer demand and relentless global competition have resulted in shorter product lifecycles, a need for reduced turnaround time, and a renewed emphasis on quality and cost reduction. Can you highlight the current trends in automation solutions and advanced technologies available that address these areas?

Every business looks for bottom line improvement. Global competition has forced the industry to review their processes. Cost improvement and focus on quality has become crucial and thus, automation has to be adopted in any kind of manufacturing process. From digital marketing through information systems to large-scale automatic industrial automation, solutions for almost all the industrial processes are now available. Evolution has reached to the Industry 4.0 level, where robotic devices and cloud-based technologies are providing updated tools for automating the processes.

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

It is important for the user to appoint a right partner, who shows an interest in understanding the product and required level of integration. The solution has to be properly tested and validated so as to guarantee the right approach, while keeping the product lifecycle in consideration. Furthermore, both the partners should be able to apply risk assessment process at each stage of development and integration.

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