Role of Automation in Manufacturing – Impact of Covid-19

Covid -19 has created a situation where the Manufacturing sector is facing several unprecedented challenges including the absence of labor and social distancing practices. With automation being the need of the hour, VDMA India, in association with the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), recently organized an online interactive panel discussion on the ‘Role of Automation in Manufacturing - Impact of Covid-19’. The webinar aimed at offering an in-depth insight into the readiness of Indian manufacturers to adopt automation.

The panelists included Prof Dr Amaresh Chakrabarti, Senior Prof & Chairman, Centre for Product Design and Manufacturing- IISC, Bangalore; Bipin Jirge, Managing Director, ifm electronic India Private Ltd; Ravi Agarwal, Managing Director, Pepperl & Fuchs Factory Automation Pvt Ltd; Jitendrakumar Kataria, Managing Director, Beckhoff Automation Pvt Ltd; and Pradip David, General Manager South Asia, Universal Robots (India) Pvt Ltd. The session was moderated by S Manohar, Regional Head, VDMA India.

Poll Analysis

A poll was conducted to analyze the level of automation on the shop floors or the product application. A majority of the audience, 37%, had employed a moderate level of automation, 33% voted for a low level of automation and 19% had implemented a high level, followed by 11% who are yet to adopt automation in their shop floors.

Prof Chakrabarti opined that though automation will be able to perform critical jobs, it will always lack human intelligence. Organizations, he believed, need to focus on the collaboration of human intelligence and automation.

David stressed on touch-free automation by focusing on robots. The robotic market has been growing rapidly with an increase of 45 percent CAGR. This technology, he believed, was right for enterprises.

Technology solutions including IIoT, AR/VR, ADV, Digital Twins are the leading tools in Smart Manufacturing. Emphasizing on them, Agarwal pointed out that the quality and supply chain will be the goal of enterprises in the coming future, which can be achieved by focusing on Smart Manufacturing.

Jirge spoke on the benefits of predictive maintenance and remote diagnostics through connected machines. He said that the life of the machine can be increased by 10 percent through continuously monitoring the machines. He added that by monitoring only two variables of temperature and vibration, MSMEs can effectively reduce maintenance activities and their cost by 45 percent throughout the life of the machine.

Reflecting on data security challenges in implementing Digitalization in manufacturing, Kataria shared that Beckhoff Automation has been continuously following the VDMA’s security policies as mentioned in the OPC UA guidelines to safeguard from any security breach. The security vulnerabilities have been changing over time, hence there is a need for security policies and tools right from the design phase to manufacturing.

MSME Poll Analysis

VDMA India conducted a poll to learn the MSME sector’s inhibitions about the investment in automation. 52% of the participants believed that the initial investments are high and 15% mentioned that skills are inadequate, and technology is complex and 19% did not see any tangible gains or RoI.

On how MSMEs can be motivated to opt for automation, Agarwal said that MSMEs are the backbone of the Indian Manufacturing industry and their adoption of advanced technologies will only empower them to overcome challenges.

Automation Poll Results

VDMA India conducted the last poll to learn about the drivers of automation in the Mechanical Engineering industry post-Covid-19 lockdown. Most participants, 35%, thought cost-effectiveness could be the main growth driver, 26% predicted productivity, 25% pointed out to labor shortage, and 15% to consistent quality. 

Image source: VDMA India

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