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“Selection of the right technology and its timely implementation is the key. Minimum time to transfer from old to new technology and wherever possible in the running plant will give confidence.”

Vivek Gupta, General Manager, DCM Shriram

Automation as a strategy “Selection of right technology is the key”

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.

“Selection of right technology is the key”

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

Using machine-learning technology, manufacturers can identify and diagnose glitches in plants in real time, ability to better monitor & control technical faults that improve efficiency and, hence, enhance productivity. The concept of Totally Integrated Automation allows efficient inter-operability of all automation components in the production process. Robotic technology is gaining wide popularity, but cannot replace manpower. It can be used where conditions are hazardous and exposure to human being is not advisable. Further, it can give good repeatability and, thus, same quality material.

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

Selection of the right technology and its timely implementation is the key. Minimum time to transfer from old to new technology & wherever possible in the running plant will give confidence. At DCM Shriram-Kota, we moved to DCS from Pneumatic Control System in Urea plant with no shutdown.

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

Innovations, improving product & material performance and improving productivity are the prime pointers. Higher production is not enough. It should be with lesser energy, better efficiency, smart manufacturing and most importantly, safety for higher productivity. Basic Process Control System (BPCS) & Safety Instrumented System (SIS) on the same platform helps a lot in this direction. Project management from Concept to Commissioning (C-to-C) and beyond is the key. For an automation project to deliver its full value, it must be conceptualised, engineered, installed, commissioned and maintained well. MIMO (Multiple Inputs Multiple Outputs) technology used in Advanced Process Control (APC) provides least human intervention and, thus, process operates near to set point. This also saves energy, which is the key ingredient of the profits. Energy-intensive processes like oil & gas, fertiliser & steel plants should order APC at the time of ordering main automation package.

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

Large companies are investing in automation projects (revamp/upgrade/forced due to obsolete technologies) to stay competitive in the market, but small & medium companies cannot. Probably, market conditions are stopping them to do so. So, government policies have to be more transparent so as to encourage them to come forward and invest in automation projects. Also, RoI needs to be clearer in respect of automation.

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?

Indian factories are not fully ready. ‘Make in India’, ‘Digital India’, ‘Smart Cities’ are some initiatives that will help in this direction. Choice of appropriate technology for the manufacturing philosophy aptly supported by strong innovation culture will be the key characteristics of future-ready factories.

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