Adoption of automation and digitalisation is uneven among businesses
Published by : Industrial Automation
Dharmender Singhal, Global Head, E&I, Haldor Topsoe India Pvt Ltd.
From global MNCs to local companies, frugal innovation has spawned many success
stories. Time to devote more effort and resources in this direction?
Some areas are highly complex, high capital costs and safety aspects are of prime importance like Refinery and Chemical plants or aviation industry; I think for these areas structured innovation approach with specialised teams is a must. While talking about frugal innovation, it is important to understand the meaning of frugal innovation – what the literature is defining and the innovation community also tries to explain it. In my opinion, it is a low cost or good enough innovation. Frugal innovation is a way that organisations can create good enough quality products with limited resources. During Covid situation we observed stoppage in production as well as huge disruption in supply chain partly or fully, when the immediate requirement arises for innovative solutions to continue business. Working from home, remote assistance, automating man-power intense work to avoid social distancing, and training manpower while using AR/VR technologies suddenly accelerated. Innovators and start-ups in India fulfil these demands with simple, cost effective solutions, which can reach millions of consumers. Emerging economies can greatly benefit by investing efforts and funding in this direction, training to nurture innovators and access to the market can produce desired results.
Computers and mobiles are examples of over-engineered products that also now have no frill versions. Can this be extended to industrial hardware?
Thousands of makes and models are available in the market for computers and mobiles, I will not say over-engineered but I think advancement in technology and desire to get more features made high end products popular among consumers. Today one can buy a mobile phone ranging in cost from Rs 1000 to a hundred thousand rupees, and you will be able to talk with your loved ones by both versions! Similarly, industrial hardware is also having a broad span of features and based on applications that users can select.
At a time when India is trying hard to scale up manufacturing, can there be more organised efforts in this direction?
India needs to manufacture at low cost but not low quality, it should be good enough quality. Understanding the consumer segment is a necessity for Indian manufacturers. Governments also need to allocate funds to support individuals or organisations that bring key innovation from prototype version to commercial product. Better financing terms, faster approval processes, relaxed taxation, exposure to higher education, access to international market can act as accelerators in this direction.
In recent years, some automation companies are also propagating hybrid systems with manual workstations rather than full automation. Does this make better sense?
Hybrid systems can be a compromising solution and sometimes acceptable where one needs to achieve productivity at minimum investment. In my opinion industry can get full potential of technology and exponential gains by full automation. It's not a one fit solution for all, it is very important to understand the present resource situation including human factors. ‘No automation’ to ‘full automation’ is a journey and hybrid can be an intermediate step of this journey but industry needs to be wise, I mean hybrid should not become a huge burden once industry owners are ready for full-automation.
Apart from policy changes, what are the essential requisites for a self-reliant economy?
I would like to quote five I's mentioned by the Prime Minister to make India self-reliant, and these are Intent, Inclusions, Investment, Infrastructure and Innovation. I think a self-reliant economy requires a lot of work at ground level, somehow the gap between industry and academia needs to bridge. Our work-force should be industry ready with an innovative mind-set, and should be willing to invest their energy to bring a lot of good enough innovations along with some specialised innovations. India needs to establish an ecosystem of innovation, we should be
a source of solutions.
How do you see automation transforming the future?
India is one of the largest and fastest growing markets for automation and digital products, but adoption of automation and digitalisation is uneven among businesses. By many measures, India is well on its way to becoming a digitally advanced country. Most of the big manufacturing units are ready to adopt technology advancement, from last many years they are already utilising advance technologies around automation, i.e., DCS/ESD, Asset Management Systems, ERP in their factories, etc. Adopting Industry 4.0 and advanced automation will influence how engineers
and operators undertake their daily work. We don't have a crystal ball to see the future but definitely adopting artificial intelligence, machine learning and other advanced automation will change the whole landscape of industry and our lives.
Dharmender Singhal is leading the Haldor Topsoe Global Team located at Denmark, Moscow and India of Electrical & Instrumentation engineers to execute the technology projects, equipment supply, inspections, site commissioning, pre commissioning and trouble shooting. He collaborates closely with other engineering departments in Denmark, Delhi, and Moscow, as well as the departments in the business units. Singhal was instrumental in establishing Smart Engineering department in India to promote global digitisation initiatives, team will work for Product Configurator, AI & ML, VR/AR initiatives, optimising engineering tools and processes.
#Septmber 2020 Magazine Cover Story
Frugal Innovations – Scalable Automation How frugal innovations and scalable solutions are helping build a self-reliant India. The Prime Minister’s call for a self-reliant India has inevitably brought into focus several issues faced by the domestic manufacturing sector, and its reliance on imports for critical technologies. Poor spend on R&D has long been a weak link in India’s manufacturing chain. It is against this backdrop that Industrial Automation invited a panel of technocrats to offer their views on how frugal innovations and scalable automation can help the industry overcome some of the challenges. To read the full cover story Please click here