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Jitendrakumar Kataria, Managing Director, Beckhoff Automation

Image: Beckhoff Automation

Automation as a strategy “Moving from mass to customised production”

May 4, 2018

“As SMEs are mostly run by a small team of entrepreneurs, it is an appropriate field where the business strategies can be merged with automation implementation on the shop floor” — Jitendrakumar Kataria, Managing Director, Beckhoff Automation

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?

Automation, if planned and implemented correctly, can become a catalyst in achieving competitiveness directing to business growth. Currently, most of the companies have automation as islands of controls viz. machine automation, handling system automation, process automation, etc. The challenge is how to get the current implementation incorporated at a strategic level for complete plant automation/enterprise automation. Deriving the strategic importance of projects and calculating the payback period is also a challenge which manufacturing enterprises are facing.

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

Enterprises should first define the existing challenges and improvements, which will be relevant for achieving their business goals. Once this is defined, they should brainstorm on how automation can be used for achieving these objectives. While doing so, they should also create an organisation-wide automation culture, which will make them adaptive to future needs.

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?

As SMEs are mostly run by a small team of entrepreneurs, it is an appropriate field where the business strategies can be merged with automation implementation on the shop floor. It is important to decide on an open control system platform, which has the connectivity features of networked automation, enabling it to be future ready.

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 the automation solutions and advanced technologies available that address these areas?

We are moving from mass production to customised production. In this scenario, one should think out-of-the-box and make the manufacturing processes so adaptive that we can produce with lot size one with the similar efficiency of mass production. To drive this transformation in the market, automation is key, which can be achieved through connected equipment/machines and developing a smart factory.

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?

The traditional route of technology decision needs to change. Traditionally, the end user has a need and the same is discussed with the OEM/SI or a consultant. They, in turn, discuss these needs with the technology suppliers. This method of technology decision limits flow of information, is open to error, and doesn’t involve all the stakeholders and promotes silo behaviour.

A better model would be to involve the end user, OEM/SI, consultant and the technology supplier together in defining the present and possible future requirements of an automation project. This will lead to a more transparent understanding of the needs by all stake holders and result in a solution most suited to the end user requirements both technically & commercially. Execution times can come down as well. This would be a win –win situation for all stake holders.

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