Currently, in India, the majority of factories & plants are operational for decades. Automation is used extensively in these set-ups, but what is still required are the efforts to make them IIoT-ready. The amount of cost, time and risk involved in upgrading these existing equipment acts as a major deterrent in considering such upgradation. In addition, factory operators, who wish to adopt these new technologies, are also faced with a lack of clarity on possible business models and the return-on-investment (ROI) that can be expected from adopting these disruptive digital technologies.
With this in mind, B&R Industrial Automation, along with A&D India had organised the Factory Automation Forum underlining the theme of ‘Industrial IoT for brownfields’ at Delhi and Pune, recently. The conferences offered a mix of keynote address, technical presentations, panel discussions and demos, which looked at the different areas of smart manufacturing, digitisation and Industrial IoT for brownfield installation and possible cost-effective solutions. It focused on the digital transformation journey towards smart, connected devices with security, analytics and cloud solutions. Industry experts shared their experiences & recommendations on various IIoT and Industry 4.0 topics, such as digitisation in manufacturing, technological trends and business-model transformation. The conference also highlighted implemented case studies from B&R India on the Indian factories and the journey towards IIoT.
Towards a smart endeavour…
The Pune wing of the conference was inaugurated by Sudhir Gurtu, Managing Director, Leadec India, who spoke on the Indian manufacturing sector and the ‘Make in India’ initiative of the Indian government. He emphasised that the government is trying to push manufacturers so as to take Indian manufacturing to the next level and added, “To take a leap into the next-gen manufacturing, there is a change in mindset required among the manufacturing fraternity with special focus on skilling the labour force and automating plants & factories.”
This was followed by a talk on smart factory by Ninad Deshpande, Head—Marketing, B&R India, and another presentation on ‘Industrial IoT solutions for brownfields’, by Prabhat Sengar, User Sales—Pune, B&R India. In his presentation, Sengar touched upon enabling IIoT solutions for factory automation end users, and also elaborated on the offerings by B&R in this context. Next, Hafner briefed on the ‘Industrial IoT solutions for factory automation’, which was an extension of his presentation from the Delhi wing of the conference.
Focusing on brownfield developments, the conference witnessed a panel discussion on ‘Achieving smart factory upgradation’, where the panelists were Manish Kulkarni, Director, BDB; Sudhir Kalkar, GM—Technical, ACG; Nandan D Shanbhag, Manager—Production & development, Electronica; Dattatraya Navalgundkar, Chief Strategy Officer, Kirloskar Pneumatic Company, Ludwig Hafner and Mukund Patil. The session was moderated by Shekhar Jitkar, Chief Editor, A&D India Magazine.
Jitkar started the discussion by stating that with the current march towards digitalisation, the Indian manufacturing sector is going through a makeover and the industry, as a whole, needs to think of the next steps ahead in order to address the required journey of digital transformation. He also focused on the brownfield projects and the challenges that the factory managers are facing today.
Awareness of IIoT technologies
Shedding light on the level of awareness when it comes to the implementation of IIoT technologies, Navalgundkar stated, “In our survey with senior leaders across the country, we found that 68% of companies are not aware of Industry 4.0. So, the general awareness is low.” In order to overcome this, he emphasised that the Indian government is taking steps such as the ‘Make in India’ initiative, which focuses on making factories agile, competitive and cost-effective. “Also, Samarth Udyog initiative is one more approach that would support & encourage smart and advanced manufacturing practices in India,” he added.
Further elaborating on this was Kulkarni, who mentioned that 27% of the Indian manufacturing sector belongs to the automotive sector, where the awareness of IIoT technologies is high—quite similar to the food processing sector. “However, in the tier-2 and tier-3 cities, the awareness and adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies is very low,” he observed.
Upgrading to smart factory
The next part of the discussion focused on the challenges being faced by manufacturers in order to upgrade to smart factory. Speaking on this, Kalkar opined that the adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies is made easy by adopting an approach of collaboration. “Integrating the data, technology, processes and people along with their knowledge skills is key in order to seamlessly upgrade to a smart factory,” he shared. He further stressed that it is the mindset of the people that remains a challenge and not the skillset of the workforce.
On similar lines, Ludwig emphasised, “If the workforce remains resistant to these new technologies, they will lose out in the global competitive market.” Patil further shared that the awareness of these technologies is a major challenge. “When it is a top-down approach, there is a major resistance from the operations team. Thus, it is important to learn these pain points and derive solutions accordingly,” he noted. Agreeing to the change in mindset required, Navalgundkar averred, “We have many uncertainties that still remain in our factories. We can resolve this through automation and not look for cost effectiveness in this regard. Thus, management approach has to change so as to take this forward.” Shanbhag was of a similar view as well and stated, “To effectively implement automation, mindset has to change.”
Automation in brownfield projects
Directing the discussion towards the parameters required when it comes to implementing automation in brownfield projects, Hafner highlighted, “We must start by drawing a plan and then testing, acknowledging and downloading it. It is important to have a checklist and analyse which data is important for our client. We prefer going to our customer directly to understand their target and analyse why they want the connectivity and where do they want to reach.”
Also discussing the pain points that factory managers in brownfield projects face, Patil informed, “In terms of infrastructure, they are mostly 90% ready—all the resources are automated, however, some form of island automation exists as well. Every company is aware of where they are going wrong and people are slowly opening up to having this discussion related to pain points being faced by them.”
Stressing that there is a long way to go for Indian manufacturers, especially in brownfield projects, Kulkarni opined that most manufacturers are getting confused with all the buzzwords. “There is a need for integrators to join in and provide customised solutions. The challenges being faced need to be solved through digitisation strategies. IT and OT integration and integration with ERP systems is important along with an analysis of how to utilise data effectively.”
Also discussing the expectations that OEMs have from solution providers, Kalkar shared, “We face the challenge of having access to new talent. Perhaps solution providers can start partnering with academic institutes so that they are aware of the current market technologies.” Navalgundkar also spoke on the initiatives being taken to give students a much-needed industry exposure. Shanbhag agreed to this and further suggested, “Solution providers and manufacturers have to join hands. Customers expect turnkey solutions. When customers see this benefit coming from such initiatives, it will become a mass movement.”
Enabling data security
Pointing out challenges that will be faced in securing data when automating plants, Hafner advised that programmes have to be made safer – an analysis of programming, which constitutes security at the programming level is necessary. He further stated that the interface level security is also important to be considered and it should be driven from the software suppliers’ side.
Concluding the discussion, Jitkar summarised that under the ‘Make in India’ initiative, the Indian government aims to increase the share of the manufacturing sector to the nation’s GDP to 25% by 2022. Keeping this in mind, he encouraged manufacturers to help the government achieve this target by taking action and adopting digital technologies in their factories.