Why adopting Factory Automation is essential
India’s factory automation adoption exhibits a promising upward trend; however, it is evident that numerous Indian factories continue to lag in automation, particularly when compared to developed nations. Several factors contribute to this disparity, including automation technology expenses. These factors include insufficient skilled personnel availability and restricted access to capital resources.
mojo4industry, conducted a development debate and discussed why adopting Factory Automation is essential, where experts from the industry shared their views on this topic. The session was supported by Ease of Doing Business.
While highlighting some of the challenges associated with automation adoption in India, Sachin Sanghi, Principal Architect – Manufacturing, Google Cloud, said, “When examining the profile of a typical small to medium-sized company with a tenure of approximately 15 to 20 years, several initial challenges in implementing automation arise. One prominent issue is the limited availability of resources to handle diverse automation data types. Many of the machines utilized by these companies are sourced externally, often comprising used equipment with varying data acquisition capabilities. In addition, the data confinement within these machines presents the primary obstacle for potential competitors seeking automation. Their major impediment emerges as their automation provider grapples with obtaining the necessary volume of data from these machines.”
Sanghi further added, “The scarcity of affordable capital hinders companies from embracing automation. Access to cost-effective funding is lacking, hindering automated systems adoption. Additionally, automation’s Return On Investment (ROI) remains a controversy. Directors, managers, and engineers responsible for overseeing these systems face difficulties demonstrating financial gains from automation investments.”
Added his views on the challenges associated with automation adoption in India, Sandip Roy, General Manager, German Engineering Federation VDMA India, said, “The introduction of computers into society brought about certain apprehension among individuals, as they feared the potential loss of employment. This sociological factor influences the decision to adopt factory automation in the Indian market. India’s traditional business culture exhibits resistance to extensive change, as it is deeply ingrained in the societal fabric. However, India has seen a noticeable cultural shift towards automation, which is necessary for progress. An essential prerequisite for automation implementation is the establishment of reliable and widespread data connectivity throughout the country. Currently, India faces challenges in terms of adequate data connectivity, with instances where 5G networks cannot provide seamless communication experiences both indoors and outdoors.”
Sharing his views on the topic, Sudhagar M, Sales Manager – Chennai, ifm Electronic India, said, “The current adoption of automation technology by our customers appears to be widespread, indicating a lack of significant challenges in its implementation. However, the transition from automation technology to Industry 4.0 poses a paramount ROI question. Providers of Industry 4.0 solutions are uncertain about the specific ROI they can guarantee end-users, thereby presenting a substantial challenge. Consequently, users consistently express concerns regarding ROI and require a clear understanding of how to assess improvements in the operational efficiency (OE) of their production processes. Achieving clarity in this regard is imperative.”
Talking about how Google can address ROI, Sanghi said, “Google actively collaborates with startup enterprises, providing them with the necessary infrastructure and financial assistance to facilitate the development of their sensors. Through our support, these startups can further leverage our Industry 4.0 Gateway to create innovative applications. By alleviating gateway and sensor production burdens, these companies can engage with Google Cloud. This allows them to access potential benefits such as startup program qualification. Such initiatives ensure that their businesses receive a solid foundation, enabling them to successfully establish themselves in the industry.”
Talking about how ifm approaches small and medium companies, Sudhagar said, “We establish a close partnership with our customers, diligently assessing their downtime and calculating the associated costs of production loss. However, we understand that data privacy concerns, as expressed by Mr. Sachin, can hinder cloud-based solutions adoption. To address this, we have developed an innovative solution that allows for on-premises analysis, storage, and processing of Industry 4.0 data on the customer’s servers. This empowers our customers to maintain control over their data, eliminating the need for external expertise in programming or data analytics.”
“Furthermore, we have developed various add-ons that seamlessly integrate with existing SAP systems, enhanced by AI intelligent software. By enabling customers to handle these tasks autonomously, we not only provide them with increased control but also position ourselves for greater success in this challenging industry landscape,” he said.
When asked why more and more MSMEs should adopt factory automation, Sanghi said, “MSMEs face significant challenges when acquiring and affording sensors and applications, especially if they have a limited number of machines with a small number of rotating parts (typically not exceeding seven or ten). Consequently, there is a growing market demand for a user-friendly solution that offers affordability and ease of implementation. For instance, some companies operating in Mumbai, Delhi, and other locations have partnered with Amazon, rather than Google Cloud, to cater specifically to MSMEs. These companies offer cost-effective sensorization services for machines, focusing on real-time machine status updates. The subscription-based model enables MSMEs to access features such as condition monitoring, predictive maintenance, and anomaly alerts while eliminating upfront sensor costs. Upon subscription termination, MSMEs must return the sensor.”
While talking about how VDMA along with ifm encourages MSMEs or other companies to adopt automation in their facilities, Roy said, “In Germany, MSMEs play a vital role as the cornerstone of the industrial sector, often referred to as the ‘metal star.’ Recognizing the significance of this sector, we actively promote German MSMEs in India. To facilitate this, we collaborate with esteemed members such as ifm, leveraging their expertise as our knowledge partners to share valuable insights. Through a direct exchange of views and experiences, we dispel misconceptions and debunk myths surrounding automation in factories. This fosters a clear understanding of its potential benefits beyond ROI. In this endeavor, VDMA assumes a concrete role in nurturing innovative ideas and fostering their development within the Indian market context.”
Why adopting Factory Automation is essential
Sanghi said, “The widespread implementation of factory automation becomes readily apparent through the exceptional sensors offered by IFM and the dedicated efforts of VDMA in promoting German technology. Embracing factory automation is no longer a matter of choice but a strategic imperative as our country advances to greater heights. We are driven by a strong desire to compete globally and position ourselves favorably among our counterparts. The China Plus One strategy has proven advantageous, further enhancing our prospects. Our progress extends far beyond what we may currently envision, as we strive to realize the full potential and rapid advancements within our reach.”
Roy said, “The anticipated widespread adoption of automation in the world’s most populous country is similar to the computer’s introduction and subsequent adaptation in the 1990s. This forthcoming automation era will serve as a compelling case study for the rest of the world. It will illustrate the successful coexistence of a large population and occupational dynamics. It will shed light on how this harmonious relationship can be achieved on a global scale. It will offer valuable insights and lessons for nations worldwide.”
Sudhakar said, “The integration of automation technology within the manufacturing sector is an unavoidable progression. The current era witnesses significant technological advancements. Notably, during today’s session, Mr. Sachin provided valuable insights regarding integration, which proved to be an enriching learning experience. Participants likely gained substantial knowledge from Mr. Sachin’s presentation. Furthermore, Sandeep delivered an insightful analysis of the market prospects associated with these automation technologies.”