Automation technology is the only tool for protecting the health of the enterprise
Published on : Tuesday 01-09-2020
Ramani Iyer, Serial Entrepreneur, Instrumentation and Automation.
From global MNCs to local companies, frugal innovation has spawned many success stories. Time to devote more effort and resources in this direction?
Frugal Innovation is really the spontaneous response to find ‘on the spot’ solutions for impediments in many industrial environments. It combines some knowledge of field sensors and how the process would respond. The right way forward would be to encourage field/shift engineers to seek local solutions and reward them handsomely. That is the investment required. Some of the ‘Kaizen’ methodologies can be employed profitably.
Computers and mobiles are examples of over-engineered products that also now have no frill versions. Can this be extended to industrial hardware?
Most industrial hardware is indeed designed for ‘no-frills’. By applying ideas similar to mobiles and computers the same hardware can be adopted through innovation to provide outputs that make it user friendly. So outputs from completely different process locations can make the industrial hardware user friendly and much more attractive.
At a time when India is trying hard to scale up manufacturing, can there be more organised efforts in this direction?
Scaling up manufacturing and innovations are two different things. Innovation is really fostered by encouraging younger people to think differently whether it is designing new products to replace existing ones or allow tinkering of designs of hardware of integrated systems. Investments in human resource enhancement is key to innovation.
In similar vein, Scalable Automation is a concept that is often in focus. How does this work in practice?
When you start automation implementation in one end of the process, it connects/depends on inputs from other parts of the system to keep abreast. That pushes for automation in other parts and that leads to scalable automation. Then the whole process, not just the basic process, but other arms like utilities, packaging, warehousing also get into the automation loop. Scalable automation may also involve upgradation of automation technology tools when an enterprise makes investments to scale up production.
In recent years, some automation companies are also propagating hybrid systems with manual workstations rather than full automation. Does this make better sense?
The automation market is very competitive...so instead of pushing for full range automation, if processes can accept certain degree of local management, hybrid systems come into place. By itself it does not mean fewer benefits from automation. It fits the glove to the hand.
Apart from policy changes, what are the essential requisites for a self-reliant economy?
Automation technology has always addressed the needs for increasing the process throughput, with efficiency, optimised raw material use, consistent product quality, energy and water efficiency, etc. But with increased pressure on environmental concerns and regulatory implications, automation technology is the only tool for protecting the health of the enterprise.
How do you see automation transforming the future?
The automation revolution has been led by the industry in India which has brought the best of technologies from all over the world. Automation technology in the past two decades has depended on advanced miniaturised sensors with remote connection, IIoT sensors, controllers with variations of PID-multi-PID-data sharing-multi cascade controllers, feed forward controllers, decentralised local process control, sophisticated control valves, dash boards- mimics-local displays, etc. Automation has revolutionised the Indian industry.
But the digital age has brought new tools of Industry 4.0 through IIoT-Artificial Intelligence-Machine Learning, universal connectivity, inter-operability and localised dash board management. Increased use of digital twins, simulation has brought higher orders of process design efficiency. The brick and mortar automation technology has digitally integrated with the enterprise MES and IT landscape. Enterprises in Pharma/FMCG sectors depend on large scale automation in packaging The Manufacturing sector has extensively embraced automation in the shop floor for ensuring quality manufacture of commercial vehicles, etc. Shop floor robots and cobots are essential part of manufacturing automation. Automation technology rules the world of Information Technology sector. From mere number crunching earlier, IT today connects all aspects of enterprise business management
Manufacturing-Marketing-Distribution-Finance-Human Resources. With all data in digital formats and high degree of interconnection policy management/policy automation is the rule of the day. Robotic Process Automation tools are available for effortless efficiency.
Your feedback on how Industrial Automation, magazine, the technology platform is doing being an industry voice and promoting/covering technologies?
Industrial Automation has always been at the forefront of publishing articles, news and information. The curated themes specific to specific sectors has been the major source of knowledge and information to industry professionals. In addition it works closely on making some these matters ‘live’ through the annual ‘Automation Expo’ of IED and that makes a vibrant and live contribution to make it come alive for not just customers, but also to government and other stakeholders. ‘Automation Expo’ brings the best of technology from all over the world.
Ramani Iyer is a Serial Entrepreneur in stringing several industrial product businesses in post independent India and in particular in Instrumentation & Automation sector, post 1991. He is very adept in ‘connecting dots’ across the stakeholder spectrum. Highly committed to water and water policy issues, involved with central/state governments, Industrial and Building Sectors to bring about water use efficiency through technology. He has conceptualised strategic direction for the urban water area towards making clean drinking water available to every domestic tap. Mr Iyer was District Vice-President (2017-2018), Asia Pacific District 14, International Society of Automation.
#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