Accelerated Automation Use In India Is Needed

June 30, 2011
While China has rapidly closed the gap in skills development and industrial deployment of highly automated process, India lags behind in addressing the low GDP 'per hour worked' ranking, cautions the Automation Industry Association (AIA).

“Industrial automation in India is in its adolescence phase. Since the real drive for automation started only in the early ‘90s, we are still trying to play ‘catch-up’ with the absorption of product technologies and manufacturing processes, [compared] with geographies that have had over 100 years to learn and deploy automation,” says Vijay Paranjape, president of the Automation Industry Association (AIA) and director of the Managing Board of Siemens Ltd.

India’s 8 percent to 9 percent gross domestic product (GDP) growth saga is not a strong reason for jubilation, since the growth percentages are derived over a low base denominator (GDP).  “The fact that we have one of the lowest GDP per hour worked also means that we are doing a chunk of the lowest-end jobs in our manufacturing sector; and that too, rather inefficiently,” cautioned Vijay.

The automotive industry in the country operates in a dynamic and increasingly competitive climate. Component suppliers, manufacturing equipment OEM’s and vehicle manufacturers are challenged with rising consumer demands for quality and selection, shorter product life cycles, increasingly stringent environmental and safety standards and fierce global competition among others. These factors drive improvement strategies and raise the bar continuously for plant engineering and production teams. In India, particular emphasis is laid on lowering life cycle.

While India has imported robotic systems or has occasionally built automated machinery, the country has not proactively taken to higher research or commercial innovation, and has done little to build a culture that would sustain automation. In-house innovation, and creative ways to knit-together automation solutions, are integral to the mission of an industrial economy. The automotive industry, known as the mother of innovation, has rightfully stepped in to take the lead, feels AIA.

To encourage automation efforts in the country, AIA recently held an event, “Excellence Awards for Innovation and Creative Automation,” during the Automotive Engineering Show in Chennai, South India. These awards are specially focused towards celebrating the pioneering role played by mid-level operational management teams. The show highlighted various technologies for manufacturing and operational excellence in the automotive sector, including advanced industrial automation technologies. The awards were envisioned to highlight how today’s automotive industry operates in a dynamic and increasingly competitive climate.

AIA also had a dedicated automation learning kiosk for working professionals and students which had three zones earmarked for hands on demos on emerging automation concepts such as radio frequency identification (RFID), machine vision (Contour and 3D sensing), and energy optimization, with the help of young volunteers from reputable technology institutions like IIT Madras and NIT Tiruchy and MVGR University.

Uday Lal Pai, [email protected], is a freelance journalist based in India.

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