Tech Trends for 2020
Published by : Industrial Automation
Industry experts and technocrats express their views on Tech Trends most likely to dominate the discourse during 2020. Excerpts…
The New Year invariably brings in a host of predictions about technology trends most likely to be witnessed over the next 12 months. As this edition was getting ready for the press, a year-ender statement from HCL Technologies arrived by mail. A company that helps enterprises reimagine their businesses for the digital age, HCL predicts IT spend will see an increase in 2020 with growing concerns over security, technology buyers upgrading their infrastructure and a steady transition towards everything-as-a-service (XaaS), which comprises capabilities such as platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and software-as-a-service (SaaS). Almost every prediction has something to say about 5G and its impact on the networked world. In India, the policymakers are still working on the 5G roadmap, with trials likely to commence soon.
Industrial Automation sought the views of domain experts about the leading trends most likely to impact the factory/process automation segment in 2020. “Players in factory and process automation have either already embarked on their digital transformation journey or are planning their next steps. Factories and plants are consistently looking to improve efficiencies, productivity, enhance and optimise operations, reduce waste and thus improve profitability. These market needs are acting as enablers for advanced automation technologies such as virtualisation, digital twin, predictive maintenance, energy and condition monitoring, process data acquisition, mass customisation, edge computing, artificial intelligence, machine learning, business intelligence amongst others,” says Jhankar Dutta, Managing Director, B&R Industrial Automation Pvt Ltd. “The need for horizontal and vertical connectivity is driving the need for open communication technologies such as OPC UA, OPC UA over TSN, MQTT, Ethernet POWERLINK and openSAFETY,” he adds.
There are enough technologies available to the industry today and often it is a matter of picking up the right one for a given application. “There is a lot of useful data in the shop floor that is not fully harnessed and utilised today. These are spread across as islands of information in PLCs, control systems, manual log books, quality inspection reports, etc. Too much of manual effort goes into consolidating and making sense of all this data. The integration of OT and IT is the new trend in the field of automation,” opines Ramkumar R S, Director Marketing, Kore Mechatronics Pvt Ltd, a unit of the Koremec Group that provides end to end plant automation and turnkey project execution in a wide variety of industries and processes, combining multi-disciplinary engineering expertise.
According to Aniruddha Shahapure, Chartered Engineer & Certified Industry 4.0 Professional, control of industrial machines, equipment and devices with the help of advance systems and software with its processing defines industrial automation today. “The digital revolution of manufacturing and process automation have not transformed at the same rate though. However it is changing and there are visible trends with integration of industrial automation into business information and control architecture, enabling manufacturers to compete successfully. The functions of FA and PA which will prominently see growth in 2020 are: Supply Chain – Design, manufacturing and packaging; Tracking and Tracing – Identification, tracking of goods; and Basic Parameter Sensors – Temperature, pressure, etc.,” says Aniruddha.
While some of these changes are already being implemented as part of digital transformation initiatives across the industry, a few are likely to be disruptive. “From automation in manufacturing industry context, we are likely to see a major change in the area of Machine Vision. Robots will actually see and move, and therefore become ‘aware’ of surroundings,” says Sivaram PV, Non-Executive Chairman, B&R Automation India, who has been associated with the company since its inception in India. “The second area where we shall see a sea-change is in Intra-logistics – the manner in which products are conveyed in the factory by new-age assembly line technology like ACOPOStrak. A third area we shall see a major change, in the context of more of Edge/cloud technology being deployed, is proliferation of open protocols like OPC-UA. Interoperability and communication between diverse controllers is imperative, and coming together of major companies to support a vendor-neutral communication platform is a big step,” asserts Sivaram.
“Increasing digitalisation and intelligent networking of components, machines and processes will remain the dominant trends in industry. Following this path, we will witness a huge potential for increased efficiency and productivity,” says Sagar Bhosale, Managing Director, Schmersal India Pvt Ltd, a 100% subsidiary of the German specialist in safety switching appliances and systems for the protection of human life and machines. “Companies that exploit the opportunities of digitalisation will be able to gain a competitive advantage in national and international markets. They will be more flexible, faster, more resource-efficient and thus more cost-effective to serve individual customer needs,” he adds.
If manufacturing has to grow exponentially, one area that is perhaps ripe for a major thrust is the electronics industry, which is also a prime focus area for the government. “In 2020, in the light of the US-China tariff war, India should make greater efforts to position itself as an alternative manufacturing destination. The Indian government should look at tax holidays, capital subsidies, and reimbursements on investments to make India a more attractive alternative to manufacturing in China,” says Manu Tiwari, Program Manager, Industrial Practice, Frost & Sullivan. He also says that growing internet penetration is driving online retailing of the Consumer Electronics & Appliances (CEA) segment. “The future of the online CEA market in 2020 will be shaped by several digital payments and technology trends. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning will be leveraged more to assist with product recommendation engines, virtual assistants, and warehouse automation. As technologies grow and see better adoption in 2020, online retailing in Consumer Electronics & Appliances will grow further,” says Tiwari.
For Dr Sanjeev Rasal, Managing Director, IDEMI – Mumbai, the tempo of change and adoption of automation technologies is increasing. “Fuelled by the democratisation of innovation, the impact will be felt in electric vehicles in automotive, which will affect the manufacturing technology. Additive manufacturing will affect metal manufacturing and plastic part manufacturing. In addition, emerging technologies like IoT, cloud computing, artificial intelligence and virtual/augmented reality will affect all sectors gradually from training, marketing, analysing and manufacturing,” opines Dr Rasal.
“Digitalised technologies such as IIoT have increased the bandwidth of industrial automation and utilisation of resources,” says Peush Mahajan, former Director, Engineers India Limited. Mahajan, who has more than 42 years of experience in Project Engineering and Management, having executed various projects in India and abroad, outlines the leading technology trends that include: IIoT Technology in Process Industry, Growth in MES (Manufacturing execution system) Segment, Growth in IIoT connected Devices, Growth in Robotic Technology, Development of Open Systems and Embedded Cybersecurity. “While automation and artificial intelligence will bring a major transformation in the work space, it will have to fight with the challenge posed by the data security,” cautions Mahajan.
With the growing proliferation of digital technologies, is the formal education sector in India prepared for this leap in terms of skills required? “Our education systems has not undergone necessary changes in step with evolving technology. There is a huge gap between knowledge gained by students after passing out of colleges and requirements of industry. I would recommend that it is essential for institutions and industry to work together in order to prepare an updated curriculum. It is also essential for professors to consistently keep them updated with latest trends and technologies. B&R Education Network is a well-structured program of collaboration to improve the employability of engineering graduates, to promote cooperation between technical training centres, colleges, universities and B&R,” says Jhankar Dutta.
“It is indeed true that bulk of our engineering graduates are not employment ready, particularly for the export led IT sector. Even those who were employed by the Services side of the IT industry are no longer suitable for the products, deep-tech and IP centric domains the IT Sector is moving in. The IT Sector is also concentrated in urban centres like Bangalore and Chennai,” concurs Ramkumar.
“Education is one of the central resources that will determine future growth opportunities and competitiveness of a country. Therefore, improving the quality of schools and educational institutions and increasing investment in education to improve the educational level of the population is of considerable importance to each country. Digitalisation will massively change the world of work; therefore, lifelong learning is required in order to adapt and keep pace with these changes. This requires more resources not only for the classic education in schools but also for occupational training at the workplace. Also, employees must be encouraged to acquire digital knowledge and to be open for lifelong learning,” opines Sagar Bhosale.
Sivaram PV also agrees that a major constraint is the amount of manpower trained in automation. According to him, in a brownfield project, as the industry embarks on a journey of connectivity to obtain real time data, quickly it gets recognised that more automation of the production machines itself is also needed and beneficial. “In other words, in the journey towards Industry 4.0, need is felt for strengthening the infrastructure with concepts of Industry 3.0! Alas, here one comes up against shortage of automation skills. This is one revolution that is needed, as a pre-requisite for all others – a project of upskilling in matters of Industrial Automation,” he argues.
Are the SMEs keeping pace with their larger counterparts in digitalisation? “The adaptation of digital transformation in India at presents is quite fast. Most of the SMEs realise that the strategic shift to digitalisation can result in greater efficiency, consistent accuracy and repeatability, reduced costs, streamlined operations and more productive workforce, however there also know that there are some compulsive barriers to implement digital transformation such as cost of transformation, data security implications and work force change management which force them to restrict the digitalisation process. Therefore while the new and start-up companies are readily utilising the digitalisation to strengthen their business, older and more traditional SMEs want to transform their legacy infrastructure progressively to keep pace with increasing competition,” Peush Mahajan.
“SMEs adopting digital transformation have about twice the revenue growth in comparison their offline competitors. SMEs in India are aware of this, but are still at the doorstep of digital revolution, not yet inside. The process of digitisation of SMEs been looked as large opportunity by tech companies, where they can profit tremendously. However, by helping SMEs grow through technology innovation the process can be expedited to reach the goal faster. In my opinion we need to give some more time and outreach help to SMEs to adopt digitalisation,” expresses Aniruddha Shahapure.
As India is catching up with the developed economies on the automation front – industrial robots are witnessing a rising trend in India – will this impact the job market? “If anyone says we are losing jobs due to robotics, it means they do not understand the aspirations of the youth in Tier 2/Tier 3 towns. No one wants to become a machine operator doing repetitive jobs. They would rather be an Ola/Uber driver in a metro city. What we need is more software and hardware centric jobs in the manufacturing sector. The advent of Industry 4.0 and Digitisation in the manufacturing sector is the best source of jobs for these engineers passing out of Tier 2/Tier 3 colleges, where they can get a job closer to their home base,” says Ramkumar.
“The effects are twofold: For one thing, robots could take on many routine, simple tasks in the future and they can relieve people of monotonous, exhausting or even dangerous work. In addition, the growing use of robots makes Indian companies more competitive. On the downside the increasing automation and use of robots can lead to changes in the labour market and the loss of jobs. But the trend towards expanding automation which is reflected by the growing use of robots may at the same time create a demand for new key qualifications such as IT experts, data scientists, data analysts or IoT solution architects,” says Sagar Bhosale.
“In case of largest automobile manufacturers in India the adoption of industrial automation and robotics is increasing to great advantage. Robots are utilised on manufacturing shop floors for different applications like welding, painting, assembling, fabricating, etc. However, the adoption is not uniform and differs from sector to sector,” says Dr Rasal.
“Historically technology itself has been a net job creator. It is expected that increased use of industrial robots will bring business dynamism and productivity growth in the country, creating newer job opportunities which cannot be predicted upfront. Objectively, the new occupations and opportunities may account for as much as 10 to 15% per cent of jobs created by 2030,” concludes Peush Mahajan.
(Note: The responses of various experts featured in this story are their personal views and not necessarily of the companies or organisations they represent. The full interviews are hosted online at https://www.industrialautomation.in.com/interviews)