Automation in Indian industries; opportunities & challenges

Automation in Indian industries; opportunities & challenges

Industrial automation grew leaps and bounds in the past few decades helping to improve production efficiency and operation improvements in various industries. Information systems and business applications also matured meanwhile, helping organisations to have visibility and control.

Next challenge is to make IT systems to integrate with automation systems for improvements in planning and execution process across the operations.

With many proprietary standards, dependencies and discreet systems, without innovative solutions from automation industry vendors, enterprise customers will always find it difficult to solve this problem. This requires a paradigm shift among the present automation vendors, to start working on open standards in integration, communication and control level. Quickly scale up to meet the level of maturity in IT systems, adopt open standards and move to integration standards.

According to recently released TechSci Research report, “India Factory Automation Market Forecast and Opportunities, 2020”, factory automation market in India is projected to register growth at a CAGR of around 12% during 2015 – 2020. Growth in the market is anticipated on account of growing deployment of various factory automation systems in automotive, chemicals, and other manufacturing units, along with various government initiatives aimed at increasing domestic manufacturing.

Factory automation market in India has been growing at a considerable pace over the last few years, owing to the growing need for a reliable and cost effective method of production, which results in minimization of waste. In addition to making the process more controlled and streamlined, automation solutions also provide better productivity compared to manual labour. On account of these benefits, the deployment of factory automation solutions in various factories is projected to increase during the forecast period.

Automation in Indian industries; opportunities & challenges

Factory automation market in India is exhibiting significant growth due to growing demand from automotive hubs across the country. Further, the Make in India initiative is also expected to play an important role in boosting the adoption of factory automation solutions in the country. With major investments expected in the manufacturing sector in India in the upcoming years, the demand for factory automation solutions in the country is also anticipated to rise over the next five years.
India Factory Automation Market Forecast and Opportunities, 2020” has evaluated the future growth potential of factory automation in India, and provided statistics and information on market structure, size, and shares.

Since the turn of the century, the global recession has affected most businesses, including industrial automation.
Because of the relatively small production volumes and huge varieties of applications, industrial automation typically utilizes new technologies developed in other markets. Automation companies tend to customize products for specific applications and requirements. So the innovation comes from targeted applications, rather than any hot, new technology.

Industrial automation can and will generate explosive growth with technology related to new inflection points: nanotechnology and nano-scale assembly systems; MEMS and nanotech sensors (tiny, low-power, low-cost sensors) which can measure everything and anything; and the pervasive Internet, machine to machine (M2M) networking.

Automation in Indian industries; opportunities & challenges

Automated factories and processes are too expensive to be rebuilt for every modification and design change – so they have to be highly configurable and flexible. To successfully reconfigure an entire production line or process requires direct access to most of its control elements – switches, valves, motors and drives – down to a fine level of detail.

The vision of fully automated factories has already existed for some time now: customers order online, with electronic transactions that negotiate batch size (in some cases as low as one), price, size and colour; intelligent robots and sophisticated machines smoothly and rapidly fabricate a variety of customized products on demand.

But there is a flip side of the rapid automation. India might lose 640,000 low-skilled positions by 2021 – this is decrease by 28.% This is largely because there are a large number of non-customer facing roles at the low-skill level in these countries, when you take into account the amount of back office processing and IT support work that are likely to be automated and consolidated across a smaller number of workers.

However, the whole counter-argument to job losses caused by automation is the new work created in the future to focus on higher value work.  In addition, most of the low-end skills jobs are not being created in any case, hence many workers will be challenged to migrate and evolve their skills to take on roles with higher degrees of complex problem solving, autonomy, creativity and emotional intelligence.

India has enjoyed hyper-growth in its services industry for over two decades now, and this is the first time a decline is now setting in, in terms of worker numbers.  Its leading service providers will maintain high margins for several years to come, but their growth through linear employee scale addition is on the slide. Half a million workers to be re-employed elsewhere is a large number, not to mention where the armies of "freshers" leaving the colleges are going to go.  Let's not forget the low-skilled employees not willing/capable of learning new skills and new ways of working.

In short, India needs to focus on new avenues for services job creation where it has strength in numbers and strength in potential.  Engineering services in a bright spot, and so is analytics, with their being such proficiency for data and technology from its services talent.

Moreover, India has a very strong competency for process and, believe it or not, automation capability.  So why not become a leader in helping clients access better data from better automated processes?  Yes, the next five years will be the painful ones for India as we go through this transition from people to technology-plus-people services, but the five after that could well be a different story as enterprise crave more human-centric skills at scale that can't be fed into a software object recording or SaaS platform. These are challenging times ahead, but where there is change these is always opportunity - and the advantage will go to those nations investing in the next waves of opportunities, not those stubbornly resisting innovation and obsessively trying to protect legacy business models that won't be around in another decade.

Robotic provide great opportunity as well as challenge to automation potential in India.  Robotics deals with the design, construction, operation, and application of robots coupled with computer systems for their control, sensory feedback, and information processing. Very often the design of a given robotic system brings together principles of electronic engineering, mechanical engineering and computer science (artificial intelligence in particular).

Developed countries like Japan and America have been using robots to clean rooms, entertain etc. It is an ever growing field and many avenues have opened up in recent past. Therefore students who have the required skill sets will be favoured by such industries.

Robotics and automation has the potential to revolutionize the industrial scenario. It promises to bring the same result as computer systems have brought in services and other sectors. However, many developing nations like India, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines are still to adopt robotics and automation in a big way.

Robotics is best suited for industrial automation (manufacturing, packaging, assembly etc.). Most of the tasks in these sectors are dull, dirty and dangerous for human beings and as such utilizing Robotics and automation in these sectors would improve productivity, safety as well as the quality of the end product. Human operators can then take up more value added roles in the industry.

Automation in Indian industries; opportunities & challenges

Among the many challenges that plague the Robotics field in India, the primary ones among them have to do with the high cost of adoption, availability of skilled talent and procurement of hardware components.

The cost of adopting Robotic technology is very high due to the cost of procuring imported hardware components as well as training personnel. As Robotics is a multidisciplinary field, acquiring and retaining quality talent is a big issue.

Capital-intensive nature of Robotics adoption when compared to the low cost of human labour clearly tips the scale in favour of the latter.
Hardware businesses are challenging because of all the paperwork involved in importing hardware parts into India. There are not many commercial applications that are ready to enter the market.

There is a scarcity of talent that specializes in the many disciplines such as electrical, embedded, software and mechanical that make up for Robotics. Importing quality components leads to longer lead times and other excise and licensing woes is also a major concern for them, in addition to finding early adopter customers of Robotics.
Some of the challenges coming in the way of Robotics in an Indian scenario –

  • As Robotics is multidisciplinary in nature, barring students in the top schools in India, the others lack the knowledge required in four to five engineering disciplines to become an expert in this field. Also most of the students develop projects that already exist in the public domain.
  • Scarcity of good faculty to teach the subject
  • Barring a few regions in India, Robotics as a subject is not taught well to the engineering students

For businesses, like others he too blames the absence of hardware companies that can cater to them and the dependence on countries like China, USA and Europe to procure the necessary components as a major stumbling block.


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