Today, IIoT systems are dramatically benefitting from the localised data collection. The more granular the data localisation, the better business decisions can be integrated. Therefore, it is imperative to device a cost-effective implementation of IoT practices, which also happens to enable widespread deployments and ensure a reduction in the overall business costs.
In this context, B&R Industrial Automation India and A&D India magazine had organised the Technology Day at Coimbatore, recently. The conference provided a deeper insight on various aspects of cost-effective implementation of IIoT & Industry 4.0 in brownfield plants, making machines and factories smart, benefits of using web-based visualisation, secure remote diagnostics & maintenance possibilities and end-to-end connectivity via open source, vendor independent solutions. The event in association with ITAMMA (Indian Textile Accessories and Machinery Manufacturers’ Association) and IPI (Indian Plastics Institute) consisted of the conference, presentations, panel discussion and products display & demos from B&R.
PV Sivaram, Managing Director, B&R Industrial Automation India, inaugurated the conference with the announcement of the opening of a B&R branch office at Coimbatore. Following this, the theme of the conference was set by David Hemetsberger, International Sales Manager, B&R India. David shared insights about implementation of Industry 4.0 in his company, and highlighted the current trends witnessed in this area. “In terms of the current market trends, majority of the companies in the end-user & machine building sectors focus on the cost of ownership. This also highlights concepts like Industry 4.0 and Big Data. Machine builders, therefore, need to pave a roadmap and a change management strategy should be implemented across business models to reap apt benefits,” he narrated.
Moving ahead, S N Bharathi, Managing Director, Air Master Technologies and an ITAMMA member, briefed on the ongoing activities of the association, while S Srinivasan, Head—Manufacturing, Roots Polycraft & Treasurer, IPI, discussed the latest technology developments in the world of plastics. Further, discussing the global scenario with respect to Industry 4.0 executions, Ninad Deshpande, Head–Marketing, B&R India, spoke on the initiatives of the company towards this journey. “Our company has adopted an automated production of electronics module and an assembly of system configurations for our global production systems. In India, we are in the transition phase,” he summarised and further evaluated the possible benefits of Industry 4.0 from an Indian perspective.
Industry 4.0 & IIoT – What is in it for me?
The highlight of the conference was a panel discussion on ‘Industry 4.0 & IIoT – What is in it for me?’. The panelists of the discussion were Sridaran R, Head–Manufacturing Engineering, CRI Pumps; Sushanta Pattnaik, CEO, Lakshmi Ring Travellers; TS Sundaram, Joint Managing Director, Super Machine Works; M Vijayakumar, Head–Facility Development & Automation, Roots Industries; Jayakumar Venkatesan, Head–Global Repair Operations, Rieter India and P V Sivaram, Managing Director, B&R Industrial Automation India. The discussion was moderated by Shekhar Jitkar, Chief Editor, A&D India Magazine.
The discussion was themed around underlining the challenges faced by manufacturers in terms of implementing automation and advanced technologies and, thereafter, designing a roadmap for cost-effective implementation. When Jitkar asked the panelists to highlight such challenges, Sridaran opined that there is no standard solution available when it comes to automation. “Primarily, we need to understand the needs of an organisation and accordingly devise a solution for it. This is a major challenge in most of the cases. Generally, the management discusses on automating their factories at length, but in reality, they end up assessing how much of automation can be executed. Based on the ROI, the level of implementing automation has to be decided,” he explained.
He further pointed out that having a knowledge-base on the current manufacturing processes is imperative, where the next step is to find a suitable partner. “Traditionally, the acceptance from workers on the latest technologies was a major challenge. This is no more a constraint at the moment. The scenario has changed manifold and today, people vouch for automation technologies as it eases their work to a large extent. In general, the percentage of automation implementation in the Indian manufacturing industry would be around 25-30% today,” he added.
Detailing on the challenges, Pattnaik, who believes that 5-10% of automation is deployed currently in the industry, noted that the problem lies with the older machines. “What should we do with the old machines that are still performing? Should we scrap them, should we invest in only new machines or should we work with both the models?” he asked. Moving towards Industry 4.0, he stated that the systems, and more importantly—the data need to be connected.
Voicing the SME segment, Sundaram stated, “In our company, automation is implemented for the end products. Since we work with the process of batch manufacturing, we are not able to achieve full-fledged automation. In order to implement IoT, inspection should be the primary phase. We have to track the components that move from the first channel to the next. Thus, inspection allows to assess the infrastructure and other requirements related to data.”
Adopting advanced practices
Today, IIoT provides a huge potential for designing new technologies. However, it is not yet clear which of those technologies will actually be accepted across the industries alike. When Jitkar asked the panelists on the acceptance level of adopting advanced technological concepts like Industry 4.0 and IIoT among business leaders, Vijayakumar emphasised on four components—customers, manufacturing, management and workforce. “We need to provide solutions to customers as per their demands, where flexibility and speed are essential. For manufacturing, quality is the focus and here, the data flow is important to ensure the desired level of quality. For management, the cost component is the most critical factor. Lastly, for workforce, providing training to employees is vital.”
Opining on the current scenario of the acceptance level of such advanced concepts, Sivaram identified that there are societal and evolutionary changes witnessed in the industry. “Today, we have to compete globally to achieve a prominent place in the market. Thus, automation is no longer a matter of choice, rather it has become a matter of survival. If an organisation has derived the benefits of energy, quality and efficiency at a lower price, there will be a demand from other companies to achieve the same,” he said.
It is certainly not an easy task to convince customers. When asked, Venkatesan indicated that handling customers is a sensitive matter. “The requirements may come from a technician or the decision makers. So, managing customers at various levels needs to be addressed differently. For example, the shopfloor workers prefer a simplified solution, whereas the top-level management prefers cost-effective solutions that can be executed with minimum workforce. There should be a balance between both ends. Automation in the Indian industry will extend to around 90% in the coming years. The only challenge will be the openness of people to adopt it,” he justified.
Right time for Industry 4.0?
Whether it’s the additional features available in cars or mobile phones, today, we, are already at a point where it is no longer possible to imagine a world without such connecting technologies. Thinking about it, this technology has been around for a long time, but it is only recently that this has been addressed as the ‘Next Thing’ with the advent of IoT. When Jitkar asked the panelists whether this is the right time to embrace the technology, Sridaran mentioned that an appropriate infrastructure should be ready in order to take the leap towards Industry 4.0. “In a working environment, machines should be available that can ease an operator’s job. This helps them to collect the required data. It should be a step-by-step approach, wherein the operator workload is reduced as well as the machines are connected to the centralised system,” he averred.
Commenting on the readiness of the Indian manufacturing industry towards adopting such advanced concepts, Pattnaik opined that the manufacturer’s level of understanding new technologies is growing, but the acceptability rate has to improve. “Taking the stakeholders into confidence is important,” he specified. Vijayakumar agreed to the same and emphasised the importance of training workforce in this regard. From the management perspective, Sundaram observed that inventory control is the basic requirement for any company to grow. “In manufacturing, achieving an edge will be in terms of time, price and accuracy levels,” he said. Further, stating the importance of automation in the current scenario, Sivaram highlighted that the roadmap should be clear so as to what needs to be achieved.
Implementing the concept of IoT is not an easy task for many reasons, including the complex nature of the different components of the IoT ecosystem. Once decided, addressing the concerned supply chain, security and data monitoring is crucial. When asked on the management strategies to address such issues, Sivaram suggested, “Advanced concepts like IoT is a percolation process. As such, a suitable level of awareness is required, which needs to be circulated well. This also includes a revised curriculum in the engineering colleges across India.”
Secondly, amidst differentiating the right solution for different requirements and then addressing the current issues faced in the industry, one also needs to make sure on the effectiveness of IoT applications. Emplacing this, Venkatesan highlighted that effectiveness of any application is based on its awareness level. “With an analysis of the current acceptance level of technologies along with the help of benchmarking, one can assess the effectiveness of an application,” he cited. He further explained that customers should be aware of any periodic changes in the system so as to ensure effectiveness of an application.
Path forward towards success
Today, it is of utmost importance to have direct access to the internet right from the engineering environment. Plant & factory operators desire latest technology, connectivity and look at leveraging the benefits of Industrial IoT, but higher costs of implementation act as a major deterrent. With regards to suggesting a roadmap for this, Vijayakumar highlighted the need to connect machines with the internet, while Sundaram pointed out the need to evaluate the feedback received at every stage.
Speaking from the engineering point of view, Sridaran remarked, “Everybody employed in the task should be trained & educated on the benefits of such concepts. Earlier, it was important to monitor machine utilisation. Now with IoT, data utilisation needs to be monitored. This is required for an effective utilisation of all data in an organisation. This makes the entire factory efficient & intelligent.”
According to Pattnaik, the primary challenge is to accept the change. “We can achieve this by a three-step process. First, the SMEs should be aware of the existing gap between their current status of automation deployment and their desire to achieve full fledged automation. Secondly, automation solution providers should educate the SMEs on the benefits of applying automation practices, followed by a proper execution of the entire process. On similar lines, Venkatesan believes that automation is a necessity and organisations should start implementing it.
The discussion was concluded by Sivaram’s remarks where he noted the importance of cluster approaches as a roadmap to achieve the desired levels of automation. “In successful industry verticals, such as, machine tools or automotive, a cluster-based approach has provided a host of benefits. Such a cluster entails a platform to discuss & share experiences on a regional level,” he concluded.
Roadmap for cost-effective implementation
Discussing further on ‘Industry 4.0 & IIoT: A roadmap for cost-effective implementation’ was Arjun Balachandran K, Sales Lead, B&R Coimbatore, who detailed on the importance of advanced concepts in today’s scenario. Citing an instance of CISCO, he stated, “The reason for IIoT implementation was asked by CISCO and the details of the report claimed a real economic value—that the value is immense is the message incorporated in the report. To reap such values, we need to have smart machines & factories. Our company covers the entire gamut of requirements for smart machines, and as such, we are an ideal partner for IoT implementation.”
Jitkar summarised the discussion in terms of understanding the real-time challenges in implementing such advanced technologies & concepts. This calls for a roadmap to achieve operational excellence and meet the desired level. Manufacturers need to understand that being globally competitive is the need-of-the-hour and to be on the global radar, it is a pre-requisite to switch on the ‘high-growth mode’.