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DIGITALISATION Collaborative approach for success

Jan 8, 2019

It is being increasingly recognised within the automation sector that there has been a shift towards collaborative partnerships in order to enable organisations to remain at the forefront of their industry. The viewpoint section seeks to explore what is leading to these collaborations and how can enterprises of various sectors work together in order to combine their expertise for a collaborative success.

“Boosting mutual confidence” - Naresh Kantoor, Managing Director, Encon Systems

Automation works on the principle of integration of the right technologies so as to meet the requirements of specific automation solutions. Many plants already have multi-vendor products in use. In such cases, it becomes imperative to collaborate between automation systems suppliers so as to share the respective technologies in order to make automation successful. This becomes challenging at times because of the competitive nature of the business. It has been tried by us earlier, however, the success has not been complete as the respective vendors find it hard at the moment to co-share their expertise, fearing loss of business. Again, collaborative approach is successful wherein an end-user is engaged with a partner company, who are co-developing the solution. We have done a few in this pattern and with complete success, including getting appreciation from end users. However, once it becomes multi-vendor tied to one end-user, the challenge of suspicion crops in.

In developed countries, the complete funding for R&D projects comes from companies. In India, the R&D expenses cited by universities, particularly those which have strong R&D capabilities are such that many companies shy away from it. There is still a mindset in Indian companies that R&D efforts, the risk of re-work and cost associated with it are high and thus, there is reluctance to join hands. We also face the same problem with big corporates, barring few, who do not value the cost of development and feel that ‘brain’ is free. If there are examples of collaboration between competing companies, it is a welcome trend. Once successful results are available, mutual confidence will boost and can lead to positive growth.

“Fostering further collaboration” - Ravi Agarwal, Managing Director, Pepperl+Fuchs India

Need for digitisation, visualisation, singularity of data source and demand for availability of data through the process/controls has pushed for mutual compatibility of equipment, standardisation and hence, to an extent, collaborative models in automation. Mutual compatibility, open source and information driven manufacturing warrants seamless integration and therefore, is giving impetus to protocols, such as, OPC-UA protocols and is fostering further collaboration.

In the new world, markets and customers are the “For” and “End” of every product and service. Largely, the market/customer demand for quality, features and full-time availability of products and services at all times at multiple geographical locales is driving as well as fuelling seamless integration. The physical layer aside, most of the products are embedded and software-driven so that it facilitates duplex operations for a huge spectrum of products/ services across the board.

Two factors dominate this point—first is that the demand of features and expectations of the users are driving better specifications, which are difficult to meet within the rapidly reducing product life cycles. So, IP rights and development knowledge from various quarters have to not only collaborate but need to be protected. Hence, returns on investments and IP rights start to enter a grey area. This is difficult and needs elaborate discussion/layout and sorting. The best examples of this can be seen from the business domain of mobile telephone equipment.

Secondly, issues related to software developments, collaborative platforms, supply chains, etc have dogged this approach and may escalate the cost of development and production of such products whereas the market pressures are completely counter to it. This puts the participating companies under tremendous pressure with reducing guarantees of success.

Much has been said and discussed on how laggard India is on this front. Well, that is in fact a good beginning that we all have become very sensitive towards it or the lack of it. On the backdrop of industry-academia collaboration in the country, in the last 5-10 years, we can see a lot of dialogue and green shoots of progress in the country. Opening up of the education sector has fostered good investments, thinking and industry collaboration with the educational institutions. It has also brought in an element of competition amongst these institutions.

The new administration, research and commerce-oriented staff, good infrastructure in the laboratories are turning out to be very good catalyst of what may come. Product and appropriate technology solutions for our country would have to be developed from within the nation and no other better place for it than our academic and research institutions. Coming times will demand and nurture it further. Take a trip to our professional institutions today—you would see them buzzing on this sector. We all must further support and encourage it.

“Meeting the desired compatibility for challenging IIoT needs” - Uday Jadhav, Chairman UL Group of Companies

The synthesis of various vast technological landscape under the umbrella of Industry 4.0 is the driving force pushing companies to come forward with their strengths and collaborate with others to mitigate the areas where they are not strong enough. This means that the client gets the best from all collaborating partners. Another aspect to this are the industrial companies, who are dealing with OT technologies needed to partner and who are strong enough in IT technologies and vice versa, while keeping the core strengths. Thus, the collaborating parties from OT and IT are getting the desired compatibility for the challenging IIoT needs. The needs in the industry are varied where the real-time solution comes with the end-user’s application knowledge and expertise in operational technologies with the addition of internet and software technologies. This means that to ensure the business value beyond doubt for the clients, the three pillars mentioned above need to unite together.

With edge computing, cloud computing with technologies like AI, ML and AR has given a boost in the phenomenal possibilities of enhancement of productivity, efficiency and ease of management in existing businesses. Every company coming from the IT side to the industry needs strong partners from application and industrial technologies and for the same reason, industrial companies need software/IT partners. This means that the partners have to ease out the assimilation in changing their approach in designing the solutions so as to have seamless combined solutions. Our company, UL, with its experience with institutes observed that there is a need for the education sector, universities and even government agencies looking over them to meet the challenges that technology is providing by creating the required flexibility and speed to match with evolution. Rigid hierarchical systems and clearances need to be eased out in order to provide the autonomy to institutes within prescribed boundaries aimed at the technological revolution happening in the industry, which some private universities in India have initiated and are bearing the good fruits of such initiatives.

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