Are manufacturers in India ready to adopt smart manufacturing practices at the organizational level? The short answer to that is “yes,” going in line with the words of technology experts at the recently concluded (February 24-25, 2017) Indian Machine Tool Manufacturers’ Association (IMTMA – a national association of machine tool and allied equipment manufacturers) symposium on smart manufacturing at BIEC, Bangalore. The symposium, titled “Evolving the Factory of Future,” was organized with an aim to enlighten its attendees with the real-time application and business benefits of smart manufacturing solutions, including advanced robotic technologies, in India while drawing up a roadmap for successfully adopting them.
Also known as Industrie 4.0, smart manufacturing using Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technologies is the new reality driving global manufacturing, redefining the way companies operate and forcing them to adopt new approaches to improve their operational excellence. Indian manufacturing needs to find its own way of addressing this challenge to be competitive in the global market. This was reflected in Mr. Rahul Gangal’s, Partner, Roland Berger, India, keynote address “There is an imminent need for a policy at national level in India for Industrie 4.0. Exports will be boosted by the implementation of Industrie 4.0. The government should introduce policies around Industrie 4.0 to leverage Make in India campaign and improve India’s industry competitiveness.” As the manufacturing facilities outside India are turning smarter faster than Indian companies, the country may lose out on billions of dollars in export market if it abstains from adopting Industrie 4.0 technologies.
With the changing trend in industrial manufacturing and companies across the world embrace new approaches to automation, the global demand for robots and robotic applications is expected to accelerate in the years to come. Collaborative robots or cobots (derived from human-robot collaboration) is one of the key smart factory technologies making the manufacturing more efficient and competitive in the global marketplace. Unlike traditional robots that are complex, heavy, require protective guards, and designed to function independently or with limited assistance, cobots are lightweight, easily programmable machines designed to work hand in hand with human beings to offer cost-effective, safe, and enhanced automation services to manufacturing of any size. While cobots can perform wide range of tasks, ideal jobs for cobots are mundane, high-precision, burdensome tasks that do not require critical thinking or that require human interaction with dangerous machinery. Some of the industries where collaborative robots are widely used include, but not limited to, manufacturing, aerospace, automotive, electronics, life sciences, health care, plastics, packaging, consumer goods. Advantages of cobots are:
- Man-machine workspace sharing
- Secure and easy to operate
- Accurate and reliable
- Flexible and scalable
- Consistent and less expensive
According to Pradeep David, GM, Universal Robots, the global market for collaborative robots was estimated at $128 million in 2014 and is projected to reach $1 billion by 2019, with a compound annual growth rate of 50.88 percent. Though India still has one of the lowest levels of robotic penetration in the automation of manufacturing facilities relative to the rest of the world, manufacturers in the country are making every attempt to implement advanced manufacturing technologies to improve their business operations. Over the last years, many newly incorporated manufacturing companies in the country have adopted smart manufacturing practices and there has been a considerable increase in investments made into new robotic applications, especially in the automotive sector. I believe that the advantages of upgrading to smart factory would help increase the use of robots not just in the automotive sector but other industries as well.
With a wide coverage of topics – such as IIoT, integrated smart and cost-effective automation, robotics, virtual manufacturing, and Big Data analytics for smart manufacturing – and a blend of informative technical presentations, insightful case studies, interactive sessions, and engaging panel discussions with industry experts, the symposium provided the attendees with an overview of latest trends in smart manufacturing in India and a better understanding of the benefits of a connected industry equipped with smart and intelligent technologies such as IIoT-aided robotic solutions. The symposium not only addressed the challenges facing Indian manufacturers, such as infrastructure considerations, skill sets required, cost implications, etc., but also highlighted the opportunities created and the operational efficiencies obtained while implementing such advanced technologies. With nearly every industry today is relying on automation to optimize its processes, I believe that there is a huge domestic market opportunity for technology companies to develop IIoT-enabled applications that will play a predominant role in shaping the factories of future in India.