The Future of Automation
By Anamika Sahu, Managing Editor, siliconindia | Friday, 31 July 2020, 07:24 Hrs
No industry remains untouched with the imperils that COVID-19 brought to the world. Automation is another industry that is badly hit by COVID-19. According to Rajeev Sharma, Chief Strategy Officer, Mitsubishi Electric India, & Hisahiro Nishimoto, Director – Division Manager – FAID, Mitsubishi Electric India, the automation industry has been hit hard with closures and mothballing of capacity at production plants, warehouses and mines across the globe. So what does the industry hold in the coming days? What trends will ride through in the years to come in the automation sector and how will Mitsubishi Electric India play an eminent role in this sector? To find answers to these questions, I interacted with Rajeev and Hisahiro. Read to know what they have to say.
1.What are the latest trends in the automation industry? What is the future outlook for the industry and how should companies prepare themselves for it?
In an industry like automation, trends keep fluctuating. According to me, one of the best but not necessarily the latest is the IoT/IIoT based digitisation which is helping the automation industry move towards integration of automation components and IT. As stated, the trend is not current and in the past various end customers have worked upon this for integration of various equipment to the IT layer. Unfortunately, it didn’t work as plan as it may not have been implemented for the entire plant, but in bits and pieces as per the requirement. For example, many two-wheeler manufacturers have already installed various solutions such as Andon, Picking Systems, Traceability Systems and Energy Management Systems in different shops.
As India’s manufacturing sector is growing rapidly, the competition between manufacturers forces them to adopt advanced automation solutions to produce higher quality products in larger number with less human intervention. The size of the Indian economy, the changes in the age structure of the population and the relatively high economic growth make the Indian subcontinent an important market of the future. There are still market constraints to overcome: missing or poorly developed infrastructure and the lack of quality technicians will complicate sustained growth.
2.With collaborative robots being appreciated overseas, do you see a market for it in India? Why should the companies invest in it?
Increasing investments in automation of manufacturing processes has led to further expanding of the market into new territories, with small and medium-sized industries adopting automation, thereby creating demand for cobots.
There are many different reasons why a manufacturer/company may choose to invest in it. Some of the reasons may include productivity, flexibility, safety, automating the tasks assigned and pushing the bar for automation capabilities. In the coming times, we will see advanced form of interactivity and collaboration which will lead to driving the long-term market growth.
3.With SMEs struggling to get a grip on the automation industry, how can companies like Mitsubishi Electric help them in such times?
The market is expanding into new territories with SMEs and start-ups adopting automation, thereby, creating demands for industrial robots. The availability of high-precision and cost-effective Robotic solutions from Mitsubishi Electric is enabling the penetration of robots, even in the SMEs. We support our customers to implement the most appropriate automation systems, well supported by our experienced Channel Partners.
Most SMEs and start-ups in India have good technical capabilities, however, they need to implement and improve their processes of Design and Quality Measurement. This will help them to expand their horizons and help them explore markets in Asian countries, other than India. Apart from helping them with technological assistance for automating the workflows, we also partner with our customers to help build a sustainable solution for issues related to the modern industry floors.
"Increasing investments in automation of manufacturing processes has led to further expanding of the market into new territories, with small and medium-sized industries adopting automation, thereby creating demand for cobots"
4.What challenges lie ahead for the industry and how to prep for it?
The automation industry has been hit hard with closures and mothballing of capacity at production plants, warehouses and mines across the globe. Large industrial firms, which remain the largest consumers of automation technology, have slashed capital expenditures for 2020 to counter the collapse in consumer and material demand during the global lockdown that took place due to the pandemic.
Globally, Mitsubishi Electric’s Factory Automation team has contributed towards helping society to overcome the current challenges during pandemic conditions. Therefore, our factory staff and several groups have come together to create a library of basic programs, function blocks and servo set-ups as sample programs, that can be used, copied or adapted to help make a functioning control system for a ‘disposable face mask’ production machine. The application package is derived from iQ Monozukuri Facemask. It correlates with Mitsubishi Electric’s Smart Manufacturing solution - e-F@ctory and establishes foundation for future IIoT integration.
Joining forces to fight against COVID-19, the company has initiated a slew of measures that are specifically made in India which can come in handy during these times. For example, Graphic Operation Controller (GOC), designed, developed and manufactured in India can be effectively used to automate a manual ventilator, and control various parameters like air pumped to the lungs along with option for selecting 10-100 percent pressure operation in the health care industry.
There is no denying that COVID-19 has taken the world by storm and we are working on a business continuity plan as well with a 360-degree approach to make everyone a part of the idea, implementation and decision-making process, so that the business continuity plan is supported in a bottom-up approach and we are able to realize cost optimizations.