Sameer Gandhi, Managing Director, Omron Automation, India

How can IoT help Indian companies achieve higher productivity and efficiency?
An IoT enabled shop floor is much more intelligent than a conventional shop floor and hence it is more productive and efficient. The machines in such shop floor communicate not only with each other but also with the people working with them in their environment via a well-knitted and intricate network of products, systems, platforms, and applications.  This results in smart optimisation of the industrial processes so as to enable the manufacturers to make the most of this industrial internet revolution. At the core of the technology are varied smart sensors and PLCs that can connect to the MES/ERP layer facilitating access to real-time information exchange and allow for higher productivity through greater OEE.

Imagine an automotive assembly line, which would typically have a few thousand sensors. Now, if any sensor fails, the entire line could stop working, which will require manual identification and repair/ replacement, leading to non-productive time. With IoT, a manufacturer is enabled to connect the sensors in a way wherein we are not only getting information from the sensor but also about the sensor. So, it is possible to look into ambient conditions affecting the sensors and other deeper aspects like predictive maintenance. It allows the makers to predict the failure before it actually happens thus reducing disruptions due to unscheduled downtime.

Not only this, the rapidly evolving end-customer landscape demands a strong push to the Indian manufacturing capabilities in the form of design & energy optimization, finest asset utilization, big data & analytics, worker and machine safety and not to forget zero-defect production. For all this, a connected shop-floor with connected supply chains and connected customers is the need of the hour.

How feasible is it for SMEs to adopt smart solutions when most of them are still struggling to enhance their capacity?
There is a step-by-step approach that should be followed while climbing the ladder of automation. It is not required to make a big one-time investment. However, it is important to have a vision and a proper design in place before embarking on this step by step approach. Tying up with a reliable automation partner who has the capability to provide complete solutions would be helpful in this.

Also, this technology is evolving and hence also turning out to be a great leveler that can actually help the SMEs leap frog and take on the larger and more established manufacturing setups with minimal investments.

For example, quality control by experienced operators (difficult for an SME to retain) may be replaced more effectively by an investment in a vision system. Automation can also allow the SMEs to produce in small batches but with high productivity allowing them to develop local niches for themselves. Possibilities are immense.

The role of connected technologies and IoT in India’s industrial development.
India is striving to make its manufacturing sector contribute 25% of the GDP by 2020 and reach USD 1 trillion by 2025. It is like the next big leap of faith for the sector as this ambitious target will require it to achieve unprecedented levels of productivity, efficiency, reliability, perfection, uniformity, flexibility, customized solutions and above all a perfect match with global regulations and quality standards. And we’ll have to achieve all this not in a protected environment like some other nations (China, Japan), but while facing stiff global competition. So, we must produce world class products. All this is not feasible without keeping up with the latest Industry 4.0 technology trends and the most optimum level of industrial automation.

Also, I would like to talk about the nationwide and important initiative Make in India here. Emerging as the calling card for investors to become a part of India’s manufacturing led growth story, this sector-based initiative along with the newly introduced reforms in policies and the positivity in the economic atmosphere may lose steam if the manufacturing capabilities are not developed in the right manner.

What can the government do to propel the adoption of IIoT in India?
IIoT implementation will likely require skilled workers and operators as well as may displace some of the low-skill jobs and hence require re-training. The government must play a significant role in setting up institutes to provide these skill-ups. Additionally, the government can encourage the implementation of IIoT either by lowering taxes or by providing some subsidies as is being done by some of the SEA countries.

Please tell us about the current scenario of Indian manufacturing sector regarding adoption of IIoT.
It is picking up rapidly. Obviously, some sectors like automotive are leading, but others like FMCG are also picking up by investing in robots and other technologies. I think the key drivers would be the desire for productivity gains and as more and more organizations realize these gains, we’ll see the uptake increasing.

Overview of OMRON’s products and solutions in creating an enabling ecosystem for the government’s missions.
Omron is known as one of the leaders in advanced industrial automation. We have the widest portfolio of smart sensors, robots, vision, machine safety, PLCs, servos and drives, based on our renowned ‘i-Automation’ concept (‘I’ stands for intelligent, integrated and interactive). They are working towards‘enabling the Indian manufacturers to make world-class in India’ in the wake of the rising and demanding Industry 4.0 expectations. This sumps up our vision and rationale of existence in the country.