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Automation as a strategy Drawing a full roadmap

Apr 1, 2016

To examine automation as a strategy for increasing productivity and reliability in manufacturing operation, one has to draw a roadmap to balance between the investment costs attributed to the implementation costs of knowledge-based engineering or engineering automation software & hardware, and the real-time benefits of automation in terms of payback. The cover story features a series of interviews with the industry experts, highlighting their views on the key trends and the desired roadmap to drive automation & robotic technology in the existing supply chain, thereby, walking a step ahead towards achieving future-ready factories in India.

“Digitalise, rather than digitise”

What would be the key trends vis-à-vis market requirements that will drive automation & robotic technology in the years to come?

Digitalisation of the manufacturing process has become a vital lever of growth in almost all industries. For example, connectivity and interaction among parts, machines, and humans are expected to make production systems as much as 30% faster and 25% more efficient, and elevate customisation to new levels. Manufacturing will be transformed from single automated cells to fully integrated, automated facilities that communicate with one another. This will be an evolutionary process for Indian manufacturing companies to be globally competitive.

How do you make sure that you are prepared with the right technology and strategy to ensure the success of the automation project?

We believe that manufacturers must weave a digital thread from ideation (conceiving the product), to realisation (producing the product) and utilisation (operating or servicing the product). It is not enough to digitise—mimicking processes digitally for incremental improvement. You have to digitalise—make the digital thread a proactive agent in driving your business. With a fully optimised ‘Digital Enterprise,’ manufacturers are better equipped to initiate or respond to disruptive innovation.

What would be your recommendations on drawing a full roadmap for automation as a strategy in the long term?

The seamless integration of data along the entire production value chains will gain more and more importance, becoming a key criterion for the survival of developing/manufacturing companies. Siemens Digital Factory (DF) division offers a comprehensive portfolio of seamlessly integrated hardware, software and technology-based services in order to support manufacturing companies worldwide in enhancing the flexibility and efficiency of their manufacturing processes and reducing the time to market of their products.

What are in general the challenges posed by manufacturers while leveraging automation? How do you address them?

The growing inter-connectivity of machines, products, parts and humans will require new standards that define the interaction of the elements in the digital factory of the future. Industrial automation vendors and most machine tool manufacturers have built significant software development capabilities, but Industry 4.0 will require more. The vendors will have to compete with IT players that are moving into the growing market for shopfloor and production-related applications and data-driven services. The key measures can be uniformity in standardisation, managing intricate systems, proper training for employees and environment & people safety.

Do you think the factories in India are future ready? Are they equipped enough to adapt to advanced technologies in the existing supply chain? What would be the first step going forward in this direction?

The expanding role of software and electronics in what have been traditionally mechanical products is driving new levels of product innovation and intelligence. Profound changes are expected in products and the way they are designed and manufactured, which will cause the global manufacturing sector to look very different in the future from how it looks and operates today. Next generation technologies – Big Data, Cloud, IoT, 3D printing, robotics, which are transforming to days products have an even greater opportunity to be leveraged across all phases of product development, production and delivery. This, therefore, is the key to successfully bringing new innovations to market.

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