Mr. Ramnath S Mani, Founder, Automation Connect related to Industrie4.0, IOT &Robotics
He also speaks on how automation and industry is placed in India in the light of 'Make In India' boost by the government and the potential ahead for automation and industry alongwith measures for skilling
Q1) There is a lot of hype over Industry 4.0 and Industrial Internet of Things leading to some confusion in the minds of the average user of automation in industry. Can you explain if there is any difference between the two and how it differs in the way we employ automation in manufacturing today ?
A1) Both these terms Industry 4.0 & IoT (Industrial Internet of Things) is used interchangeably. However, the difference lies in the origin and the scope of these terms. Basically the roots of Industry 4.0 term and concept was originally started by German government Whereas IoT, as it is called in US Forums, started more from US & even from Japan and is more wide in terms of its industry-led origin. Also, from usability & usage point of view, Industry 4.0 primarily focuses on the manufacturing industry whereas the IoT encompasses not just manufacturing, but even non-manufacturing sectors & services too.
Q2) Do you think from Industry point of view, is there any difference in the usage or as you said rightly it’s the same thing & it does not matter if you call it Industry 4.0 or IOT as far as end user is concerned.
A2) As far as the manufacturing industry is concerned; I don’t see a major difference. It’s just like having a different term for the same thing.
Q3) The Government’s initiative for “Make in India” will encourage new manufacturing units being put up in India. Do you think this initiative will enable Industry 4.0 to get a faster footprint in India. If so what are the areas in automation that will be the enablers.
A3) I think the manufacturing industry with this Make in India initiative will bring more & more industry setups in India. And the environment in which the new industries are being setup is quite different from what existed a few years ago. The work environment and its dynamics are more globalized in nature now. Movement of goods and services and even ideas are happening at a much faster pace across the international borders, today, than any time before. So even though an organization is manufacturing in India, it has to manufacture for the world meeting the global standards. Even though the organization may have no intentions of exporting its produce but it has to compete with a global product and world-class manufacturers because the global product is going to compete with your product on the Indian Market shelf. That is when Make in India will be successful.
Hence, for world-class manufacturing it has to invest in world-class automation which goes up to the newer technologies like IoT/Industry 4.0. Even if not fully, a certain level of automation has to be included in the manufacturing set up. This, I feel, will certainly give a boost to the pace of IoT / Industry 4.0 absorption in Indian manufacturing industry because as the new ones start to utilize it, start to experience the productivity gains, other organizations and industries are likely to follow the suit. OMRON also offers solutions like Quality inspection and Machine Safety that can be collaborated with IoT which are becoming an essential for Industrial Automation.
Q4) Lot of development is going on in the area of Artificial Intelligence (AI). While countries like Japan are ahead in its application usage, how is India positioned to make use of this technology for manufacturing and what are Omron’s plan for India.
A4) AI is something which we have been using and experiencing in our daily lives. For example, Google Maps. To me it’s a very simple and relevant example of AI because its continuously evolving & learning almost all by itself.
However, in the industrial environment, it’s picking up gradually. As far as Omron is concerned, we are moving in the right direction and are working on this. Some components of AI have been built into some of Omron products. It is an ongoing process for us and is expected to yield good results in future.
Q5) As a committed player in the Industry, what are the areas where Omron could assist the end user to make a transition to the new age technology without disrupting the present level of production.
A5) It’s a very pertinent point that you have raised and I think it’s a pretty valid concern that much of the industry has. But if one asks can the disruption be made ‘Zero’, answer is ‘No’. Can we make it inconsequential by merging it with their existing shutdown plans or maintenance plans, I think the answer to that is ‘Yes’.
And so what it does take, based on our experience in India, is a meticulous amount of planning which involves the customer right from the word ‘go’. So the customer & Team Omron collaborate together & plan how they are going to do things, make sure that all the schedules are met, & then the design is tested before it is executed on the manufacturing setup. We even take care of small things like planning and doing the work during the scheduled shut downs / off period so that the operations are not affected. There are some automotive clients for which our team has worked during night shifts or on Sundays for weeks at a stretch to ensure that the customer did not suffer any production loss. It indicates that the key requirement is building up a high degree of trust, confidence, planning & the ability to have tested the design before without taking it to the shop floor of the customer.
I would also like to mention here about OMRON’s ATC (Automation Centre) at Mumbai. This is one of our facilities where we have all our automation products and staging area available. Our team does a lot of testing here to gauze and thoroughly analyze the complete performance of a project before it goes live. Besides, we also plan the training requirements with the customer and train their personnel in advance so that the learning curve is shortened.
Q6) When we talk of Industry 4.0 or IOT we talk of a solution which has lot of products that are in built into it like sensors, gateways, communication etc. So what all areas Omron work on? Do you work throughout the entire network or work on certain areas?
A6) At OMRON, Customer Satisfaction is always the top priority. The customers will always have an upper edge with a complete solution. So we aim to provide complete end-to end solutions to the customers (including the IoT platform) and we do that with a very strong suite of products. Our products starting from Sensors which are IOT enabled to the I/O link to capture the data to the PLCs which can actually work on this data & also connect PLCs that can directly connect to and exchange data with an SQL server, MES, ERP, etc. This is a glimpse of the stage that Omron works in.
From shop floor ground ‘Zero’ i.e., sensors up to connectivity with the ERP layer – we provide a solution for this entire range. Sensors are just an example. It could also be a robot or a drive for that matter.
Q7) New technologies need new skills. Does Omron have any plan in place for imparting such skills to the end users.
A7) The lack of availability of skilled resources is a pertinent issue in the industry impacting the growth of industrial automation in India. People are qualified but, unfortunately, not skilled and industry-ready in many cases.
Omron has training centres across India in 3 locations -Gurgaon, Mumbai & Bangalore- where we impart training to our customers, channel partners, employees and budding engineers. We are also in the process of setting up a network of training channel partners who will actually start to provide training to wider audience – such as fresh graduates from college, students in their final year in engineering colleges and so on.
The third level we are working at is getting associated with Industry Bodies like AIA (Automation Industry Association). AIA has a Campus Connect Program wherein the training interventions are for various colleges & also help to setup labs for these colleges. Omron is engaged with this as well. We share our curriculums, equipment and sometimes even our resources to help train & conduct training sessions at colleges.
Lastly, at the fourth level, we involve ourselves in training interventions at some specific institutes. E.g. we conduct faculty training session at premier engineering institutes across the country.
All this gives an insight into the kind of multiple levels at which Omron is trying to contribute towards this challenge of skill development.
Q8) I would like to hear from you if you have any broad views on where the Indian Industry is going today with specific reference to automation & how it’s shaping up.
A8) In my point of view, it is an exciting time for the Indian Industry because, I think, as a country we are on way to boost our manufacturing level and expanse. Today there is lot of technology available on the automation front to help increase the productivity, efficiency and quality of manufacturing set-ups. We can say that the Indian manufacturing industry is at an inflection point. The manufacturers can and should make use of these technologies to deliver world class products. The Investment for many industries if we look closely, may not be high because the overall level of manufacturing is not very high or complex as compared to other countries. The countries which have already touched high levels of manufacturing will need high levels of investment to go to the next level. So for them the cost involved is pretty high whereas for many of the Indian industries, it may not be so high at this point of time. This indicates that the Indian industry actually has the opportunity to ‘leap frog’ this Automation Curve to take full advantage of the automation technologies that are available today and to turn out world class products.
We, at Omron Automation, are the enablers to this process. We are the Enablers to ‘Make In India’ and we are very excited to make the best use of these opportunities to assist the Indian industry gear up for the new challenges.