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Bipin Jirge, Managing Director, ifm electronic India

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Automation as a strategy “Skilled manpower is part of automation strategy”

May 4, 2018

“On manufacturing front, more trends are seen towards the direction of Industry 4.0, so that predictive maintenance of machines can directly contribute to reduced downtime” — Bipin Jirge, Managing Director, ifm electronic India

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?

Most of the Indian corporates are now well aware of the advantages of automation and concepts like Industry 4.0, etc. We do not see any major challenge with these big companies as they know the advantages of automation and they have already implemented automation in their shop floor in the past and also have the desired manpower to handle automation. However, with regard to SMEs, we do see a challenge, in terms of initial investments (including RoI calculation) and qualified manpower required to handle automation.

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

I recommend planning a strategic roadmap for implementing automation in small steps as follows:

  1. Identifying the processes to be automated so as to get the maximum benefit in terms of efficiency, cost reduction, etc

  2. Extent of automation as it is not necessary to do 100% automation for every process

  3. Calculating the amount of investments for each step

  4. Having the skilled manpower in place to handle automation

  5. Estimating the required timeline for implementing each step of automation

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?

In Indian context, we see more SMEs are now becoming aware of the long term advantages of automation. Also, the customers (mostly big corporates) of these SMEs are driving them towards adopting automation. So, it may not be difficult to align their business strategy to automation, at least in small steps to start with. The strategy, however, requires to have skilled manpower in place and moreover to retain them.

Consumer demand and relentless global competition have resulted in shorter product lifecycles and a renewed emphasis on quality and cost reduction. Can you highlight the current developments that address these areas?

We see wide-spread use of CAD/CAM/3D printing and design & analysis tools being used by many SMEs as well. This will certainly help to shorten product development time. On manufacturing front, more and more trend is seen towards the direction of Industry 4.0, so that predictive maintenance of machines can directly contribute to the cost reduction and reduced downtime.

The effective execution of your automation strategy requires the right partner to help guide and drive the process. How can the partnership between solution provider, system integrator and end-user be more effective to further overall business objectives?

I believe that once the strategic roadmap for step-by-step automation implementation is well defined by the end user of the plant (with the steps as mentioned earlier), the execution of this roadmap, which is well understood and agreed, becomes the blue print for the automation service provider as well as the system integrator. While implementing, there may be addition of some changes, but the direction and cost/time guidelines should be clearly understood by the whole team. This will provide a clear overview of the predefined and pre-calculated RoI, which in turn paves the way for the next steps.

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