Sustainability is finally changing from a buzzword to actionable reality
Published by : Industrial Automation
Krishnadas Manjaparra, Business Head for South Asia, Middle East and Africa, ABB Industrial Automation, Process Industries.
Technologies including AI and data analytics are currently driving decision making in many leading companies. Other than these, what do you see as the main technology trends that will shape 2021? What about the impact of 5G?
Artificial intelligence and advanced analytics have been touted to be the key value drivers behind digital transformation. In the future digital enterprise, everything is connected. Data flows seamlessly between operational systems and business systems, enabling new capabilities such as process optimisation, opportunity loss management, activity-based costing, predictive maintenance and other data-driven decision making. On the other hand, cyber-attacks and hacking incidents have been on the rise this year and could undermine organisational continuity plans. As the degree of connectivity increases and the degree of global geo-political tensions increase, I think a major technology trend that will emerge in industry is investment and implementation of an in-depth cybersecurity strategy. My personal assessment of cybersecurity preparedness in most operational systems is that they are vulnerable.
Assistive technology such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) has made it possible for technicians to provide remote assistance by sending customers’ AR- and VR-enabled devices and walking them through advanced troubleshooting and repairs. So, AR/VR would be the other trends that will pick up. Low latency connectivity is ideal for such applications and 5G, when the infrastructure is ready, has a big part to play in accelerating the adoption of all these tools.
What will be top of the wish list of the manufacturing industry over the next 12-18 months?
Lower energy consumption, cheaper energy, less downtime, higher product quality, better asset utilisation, improved safety, agile manufacturing...the industry’s wish list is long. Yet it is also realistic. My pick for the topmost priority would be Agile Manufacturing. During and in the aftermath of this pandemic, uncertainty will remain a constant. Uncertainty in market demand, uncertainty in supply chains and uncertainty in logistics. Organisations need to be able to rapidly change production plans, order mix, resource allocation, etc., with minimum effort and overheads to deliver stakeholder value. Our scheduling and optimisation solutions help deliver on this wish. As a technology leader, we also focus on all sustainability areas where we can make the biggest impact – reducing carbon emissions, preserving resources and promoting social progress. Our solutions and responsible business practices drive sustainability across our value chain.
There are clear challenges in working from home for the manufacturing industry. What challenges have you overcome and which steps are being taken for the future?
We have done our best to facilitate and manage changes as they happen. ABB is committed to supporting both: protect people, while helping businesses to stay operational during these challenging times. The health and safety of our employees, customers, partners and the societies we operate in remain our number one priority.
As businesses have limited site work, the need remains to ensure that assets continue to operate across industries. We are working with customers to ensure access to field operators and service engineers who cannot be on-site at this time, by delivering control room livestreams, operational insights, process data and plant key performance indicators to users working from home. To ensure continuous operations, customers can access a suite of ABB remote-enabled solutions, including remote condition monitoring of critical assets; augmented reality maintenance support; online tools for training and spare parts stocking; and self-diagnoses that mitigate risk to assets, processes and security. This suite of solutions is packaged under the Collaborative Operations Centre portfolio and we have launched it across most industry verticals including Metals, Cement, Paper and Mining.
We now perform Safety Observation Tours remotely. Like every cloud has a silver lining, this is one of them. We now perform these Tours remotely across geographies and this means that best practices from a Mining site in South Africa is now available for use in a project in India.
What are the trends that will shape the way people live and work in the near future?
Sustainability is finally changing from a buzzword to actionable reality. The need to conserve our world and urgently find the balance with the environment is critical. We need to learn to work with nature and not against it. This will need major changes in how we do things in industry. I sincerely hope that this one goal, or trend if you may call it that, will completely change the face of manufacturing from what it is now.
What are the roles technology will play in catering to the demand for basic daily life solutions for safety at work and home?
Delivering on the safety value pillar is a key aspect of Automation and Digital. Technology has truly helped reimagine the ways of our living. For example, in Mining, ABB has worked on a game-changing technology, wherein ABB’s autonomous remote charger robot automatically detects boreholes and fills them with explosives and detonators without the presence of humans. And if people really need to go into enclosed or hazardous work environments, asset and people tracking technologies are available so you know who is where at any time for emergency action or before performing any major operation.
We have often come across news reports of industrial explosions that caused a lot of fatalities. These can largely be avoided by implementing safety solutions in hazardous environments. This is a mature technology that is often used in the Oil & Gas industry, but rarely in other process industries that handle equally hazardous substances. Recently we worked together with one of the top steel producers in India and implemented our safety solution for a blast furnace gas holder. This is another low hanging fruit to improve the safety record at work.
What do you see as the path ahead for campaigns like Aatmanirbhar Bharat and Startup India?
The vision to build an India for the world is highly commendable. Startups and technology innovators will play a key role in accomplishing this mission. Of course, the success of these campaigns depends very much on fixing the fundamentals… revamping our education system so youngsters are employable, making it easier to do business, reduced bureaucracy, increased diversity in our workplaces, better infrastructure, etc.
ABB has always seen the value of localisation in India. We have an extensive footprint in manufacturing, engineering and R&D and have been working towards localisation for several decades. In fact, our R&D centre in Bangalore for Automation and Digital is the largest centre for us globally.