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DS Ravindra Raju

President – Manufacturing

Deepak Fertilisers & Petrochemicals Corporation

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CHEMICAL & FERTILISER We have to adopt an agile methodology with continuous improvement

May 6, 2020

says DS Ravindra Raju, President – Manufacturing, Deepak Fertilisers & Petrochemicals Corporation, in this interview with Juili Eklahare. The company is among India’s leading producers of fertilisers and industrial chemicals. Raju discusses how the company is continuously seeking inputs from industry experts to improve its performance, the kind of automation systems it uses to run its plant at full capacity in the current pandemic and how modern day Industry 4.0 technologies should be smartly adopted. Excerpts…

DFPCL’s Taloja Plant in Raigad district, Maharashtra, is functioning at full capacity since Isopropyl Alcohol (IPA) is manufactured in the plant. IPA is a key ingredient in hand sanitiser manufacturing, which is now essential to fight against the coronavirus. Do you see any challenges/roadblocks to operate the plant at full capacity in the current situation?

The very fact that we didn’t compromise on anything while building our state-of-the-art facilities has today emerged as a key strength to us. This means that, even though we are facing challenges in terms of availability of physical manpower, our plant continues to operate at full capacity, with bare minimum people present for running the plant and required maintenance. From the downstream supply chain perspective, we aren’t facing any challenges.

Can you provide us more details on what kind of automation systems and safety measures are deployed so as to run the plant at full capacity in the current situation?

As for the safety measures that we have in place to run the plant at full capacity, we have SOPs developed for dos and don’ts – prevention of COVID-19, guidelines on use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and guidelines for resumption of operations after the lockdown. We have also taken steps for the safety of employees – for example, Information, Education & Communication (IEC) posters being displayed across the plant to spread awareness, separate swiping of attendance cards and ensuring social distancing. What’s more, only skeletal staff that are required to run the plant is called in & handheld thermal scanners are placed at the entry gate.

When it comes to the automation systems, we have brought about paperless movement of delivery orders and weighbridge systems through SAP Hana enablement, to avoid driver contact and save on time. We have also implemented remote monitoring of process parameters and critical process failures & installed cameras at key operating points to keep a track of field readings. Moreover, there has been a strict implementation of auto controls for tripping, in case of any deviation from SOPs in the protocol.

Without time for extensive planning and pilots, how can manufacturing and technology leaders move quickly in the current situation, while being confident that they are taking the right approach to advanced automation technologies? Would you like to give examples of best practices in the current situation from your organisation?

We are adopting a culture of Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) and continuous improvement in an agile manner, supported by Information Technology, so that we can accelerate the adoption of advanced automation technologies. In the quest for operational excellence, we are continuously seeking inputs from industry experts and industry benchmarks to improve our performance. We are also extensively adopting Information and Communications Technology (ICT) for smart collaboration and seamless communications – with a combination of integrated data, voice and video technologies, along with collaboration technologies and knowledge/document management systems. For example, we are enabling paperless movement of inbound/outbound logistics and virtual capabilities for auditors to remotely verify plant process parameters and operations parameters. We have deployed a fully automated Online Continuous Emission Monitoring Systems (OCEMS) to monitor critical emission parameters in real-time and communicate these seamlessly through internet technology.

Digitalisation technologies like AI, ML, robotics, etc have been said to bring in ease to work in the production processes in the future. However, during the present crisis, do you think these modern day Industry 4.0 technologies could be used to run the manufacturing & other operations independently with distant human monitoring, until things settle back to normal? What are the initiatives from DFPCL in this area?

Yes, modern day Industry 4.0 technologies should be smartly adopted (wherever it makes business sense) to reduce the dependency on physical presence in plant premises. For that, we have planned and are in the process of implementing many Industry 4.0 technologies. Some of the key ones are automation and remote monitoring of critical process parameters, process automation for production accounting (and loss monitoring), remote technologies for monitoring critical process failures (for example, smart cameras and image analytics), vehicle movement/logistics tracking inside and outside the plant, predictive maintenance & remote monitoring, paperless processes, integration of Industry 4.0 technologies with ERP and DCS, digital twin for simulating plant operations & predicting process/equipment failures and Big Data platform for descriptive & predictive analytics.

India has been lagging to a certain extent in adopting digitalisation and to be fair, we are still at a nascent stage. How do you think the industries can speed up with the best practices and adoption of Industry 4.0 technologies during this crisis and adjust operations in real-time?

This is an excellent opportunity (albeit forced not planned) to evaluate new ways of working & collaboration and change the equation between man, method and machine. We have been forced to think innovatively during this crisis to reduce the dependency on manpower and increase the machine efficiency through Industry 4.0 best practices and technology adoption. We have to adopt an agile methodology with continuous improvement, supported by technology adoption, in order to allow us to adjust the operations in as much of real-time as possible.

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  • DS Ravindra Raju has over 30 years of experience in the field of manufacturing and has served as the Whole Time Director at Paradeep Phosphate. He holds a Post Graduate degree from XLRI Jamshedpur and the Indian Institute of Technology, Chennai. He has also been on the Board of Industrial Development Corporation of Odisha.

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