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Sujata Tilak, President, ISA Pune Section & Managing Director, Ascent Intellimation

Interview “Strengthening systems against cyber threats”

Jan 4, 2017

Sujata Tilak, President, ISA Pune Section & Managing Director, Ascent Intellimation, in an interaction with Megha Roy, highlights the wider level of implementation of the IIoT systems in the large as well SME sectors. Excerpts…

How is ISA addressing concerns like cybersecurity and safety issues? How do you see the current status of this in the Indian industry?

With the convergence of IT & OT, security of cyber-physical systems has become a real concern. ISA has published ISA 99 / IEC 62443, Standard for Industrial Automation and Control System (IACS) Security’, that provides security policies and procedures for control systems right from design, engineering stage to operations and maintenance. There is a greater awareness about cyber security in Indian industries. However, this awareness is yet to be translated in allocating budgets for strengthening systems against cyber threats, which is especially true for the SME sector.

The vision for the future in automation is Industry 4.0 and IIoT. How close are we in India to realising a factory that truly embodies these principles?

Currently, IoT is at the peak of Gartner Hype Cycle. But the user industry is at the initial stage of awareness in India. Some challenges here include connectivity with existing systems and availability of connectible automation products, clear identification of business value, buy-in of all stake holders’ right from operators to management and integration of IIoT systems with production excellence programs. I won’t measure success by existence of totally integrated and automated plants. More important is wider implementation of IIoT systems in large and SME sectors.

Can you brief us on the education & training initiatives from ISA for automation professionals in India?

Globally, ISA has a wide range of training & certification products, but these products are not yet available in India,mmainly due to US$ pricing being unaffordable. ISA District 14, the nodal body in India, has started initiatives to change this. The first step was the publication of four ISA books in India at very reasonable prices. We are also doing free webinars on various technical topics, and each section conducts conferences, tech talks, etc. The role of IT on manufacturing shop-floor has been expanding in a big way.

The vision for the future in automation is Industry 4.0 and IIoT. What are the emerging trends in this area? How is Ascent Intellimation adapting to these trends to cater to the customised requirements?

Today, industries have started realising the role of IT on shop floors. IIoT systems can help industries in areas like performance/OEE improvement, predictive maintenance, energy optimisation, etc. Also, there is an integration of shop floor to top floor and horizontal integration of vendors, manufacturers and customers. The aim here is to help manufacturing enterprises become agile, demand-driven and competitive, and produce goods & services of high quality.

Ascent Intellimation has been propagating convergence of IT and industrial automation for many years and offering solutions in this area. So, rather than adapting these trends, we are helping in generating and evangelising these trends!

Can you brief us on the journey of developing and growing Ascent Intellimation's flagship product, PlantConnect?

PlantConnect is an IoT platform, conceptualised several years ago, even before IoT became a buzz word. This concept was presented in 2003, but it was way ahead of its time and didn’t get much commercial success then. In early 2011, we re-started our efforts and released PlantConnect platform in 2012. But we changed our strategy and released products that address specific business needs. Thus, in last four years, we came out with four products based on PlantConnect—EnviroConnect, PlantConnect Insights, PlantConnect RAMS and PlantConnect SFactory ☐

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