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Sunil Mehta

General Manager, e-F@ctory (IIoT) Promotions, Factory Automation & Industrial Division, Mitsubishi Electric India

President, Automation Industry Association (AIA)

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AUTOMATION IN MANUFACTURING SECTOR It is essential to develop automation-ready businesses

May 12, 2022

…strongly believes Sunil Mehta, General Manager, e-F@ctory (IIoT) Promotions, Factory Automation & Industrial Division, Mitsubishi Electric India and President, Automation Industry Association (AIA) in an interview with A&D India. He shares his insights on the co-existence of automation and human in the manufacturing sector, how businesses need to be ready for digital transformation, demands and expectations from the government and plans to place India as a superpower on the global manufacturing landscape. Excerpts…

Israeli historian and philosopher, Yuval Noah Harari, said, “Just as the industrial revolution created the working class, automation could create a global useless class, and the political and social history of the coming decades will revolve around the hopes and fears of this new class.” Do you agree? Are we all gripped by automation anxiety?

Technology has evolved so much over the years that popular sayings do not hold a valid ground. There is no automation anxiety in our society considering the current socio-economic situation. India is at the cusp of a manufacturing revolution. The industry realises this phenomenon and from top management to line engineers all are adopting new technologies and tools that can increase the efficiency and reduce human risks in hazardous processes. We must understand that industrial automation alone can never work and give us finished products. These machines will be run by workers and many processes will always need the human check. The only difference it makes it that it increases productivity and efficiency dramatically which benefit businesses.

The pandemic has encouraged many manufacturers to invest in automation to minimise human intervention. So, there’s always a fear of being replaced by automation, but automation will also create new jobs. What would you like to comment on this?

Manufacturers have started investments in automation since long time and we have witnessed increase in factory automation products businesses for PLCs, HMIs, VFDs, and servo and motion products gradually. Many of the brownfield and greenfield projects have already utilised automation products in their factories. The pandemic has encouraged many manufactures to invest in systems where data can be gathered at one place from different machines for productivity and quality monitoring purposes. The requirement of remote monitoring increased during the pandemic as there was a need to monitor production done with limited resources. Automation has created opportunities for jobs; the difference is that now it demands upskilling and reskilling.

An automated factory needs to have better skilled workforce that understands technology and data, utilised to optimise production. What is at stake is the redundant jobs in manufacturing which can be replaced with upskilling of the manpower that will eventually lead to better manpower remunerations for better quality and quantity of output for manufacturing. Industrial automation will lead to safety of manpower by removing them from hazardous jobs.

Do you think developing automation-ready businesses is the need of the hour? Why?

To keep pace with the changing business dynamics, it is now essential to develop automation-ready businesses. Manufactures need to produce components and products keeping an eye on quality and cost. Our manufacturers are expanding the business by exporting our products to different countries. To accommodate changes in design and quantity depending on customer needs, automation-ready businesses will be necessary. Automation-ready businesses will also help to monitor energy consumed per component and will help to utilise energy in effective ways.

According to ResearchAndMarkets.com, the Indian industrial automation market is expected to register a CAGR of 13.12% over the forecast period (2022-27). What does this mean for the manufacturing industry in India?

FY22 allowed enough recovery and base to grow further. Indian manufacturing industry is growing, and we are exporting products manufactured in India globally. As the manufacturing industry will grow gradually, demand for industrial automation will grow. The CAGR of 13.12% over 2022-27 indicates the same thing. Other than manufacturing industry, industrial automation will be required for process automation, steel industries, infrastructure developments, budding automation, and data centres. The government approved PLI scheme will boost India’s manufacturing capabilities. The launch of the ‘Make in India’ programme will help us place India on the world map as a manufacturing hub.

Do you think manufacturing automation will dominate 2022?

Even though industrial automation demand in manufacturing sector is growing rapidly it may not dominate 2022. We need to understand that in last few years industrial automation is already deployed in various manufacturing facilities across India. Further demand is for smart manufacturing and digitalisation (e-F@ctory). It will require automation at various levels. This demands small to large scale IT systems that includes SCADA, MES packages and integration of shop floor to ERP level. We have observed increase in demand for automation products like CNCs and robotics for manufacturing sector and it will certainly grow further.

What are your tips on avoiding mistakes & errors and setting up manufacturing automation processes the right way?

In today’s competitive environment it is required that automation applications in the manufacturing industries should be done perfectly. To achieve perfect automation, it is important that there is clear understanding between requirement and development of automation applications. Appropriate engineering and selection of automation components will be correct if the objective is clearer. Automation product knowledge of application engineers also plays a key role in successful implementation of factory automation products.

What are your immediate goals for AIA?

Automation Industry Association (AIA) works mainly on three objectives: campus connect, government connect, and industry connect. AIA is working with various associations to promote automation. AIA is focused on enhancing skills of faculty members and engineering students of different disciplines. One of the immediate goals for AIA is to bridge the gap between academy and industries by various activities. AIA supports factory automation products manufacturers and technology suppliers to leverage latest technologies for being globally competitive. With emergence of Industry 4.0 and smart manufacturing, AIA is supporting various events and webinars to enhance necessary skills for IIoT.

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  • Sunil Mehta started his career with Messung Systems in 1989. In 1995, Messung Systems became a distributor for Mitsubishi Electric giving him an opportunity to work with factory automation products. Currently, he is promoting the e-F@ctory concept of Mitsubishi Electric – Japan for smart manufacturing. He has additional responsibility as a Chairman of CLPA India (CC-Link Partners Association).

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