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Automation to lead the industrial revolution

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Automation has motivated the industrial sector in significantly changing the way of production, reducing the manufacturing time, and the production cost. Here’s a review about designing modified automation solutions for instrumentation and controls, the challenges of an industry, and its latest offerings.

Automation is said to be a fragmented market. There are different needs for processes and machinery in industrial sector, which is facing increased competition. Control system is a critical enabler of the manufacturing plants and companies continue to look for innovative methods to improve efficiency, increase reliability, minimise risk and reduce cost. Priorities also include integration and use of smarter devices, robust diagnostics to gain advance warning of possible failures, as well as online applications to save implementation time, reduce engineering effort and improve phases of control and instrumentation projects.

Modification of automation solutions for instrumentation and controls
Amol Bari, CMSE (Certified Machinery Safety Expert), Manager – Product Management and Engineering Services, Pilz India Pvt Ltd says, “We analyse the needs of the process/plant/machinery, study the product life cycle and technology trends and offer solutions, which are in line with the latest technology trends, easy to use, better for maintenance and reliable over the years. In doing so, we always want to offer better diagnostics which is very important for the productivity. We believe in simplifying the automation solutions.”

Bari further adds that merging of safety and automation into one solution, which can be used in all areas of mechanical engineering, including the packaging and automotive sector, robot applications, wind energy, railways and many other industrial sectors.

Ninad Deshpande, Head – Marketing, B&R Industrial Automation states, “Building machines needs industry specific expertise. Thus, machine builders usually build units for specific industries, such as automotive and pharmaceutical industry. Machine builders couple their expertise with automation solutions to help their customers meet the market demands. These industrial segments are unlike the consumer segments such as smartphones, where only specific models are launched by different companies. Based on the buying capacity and need for features anyone can buy a phone. Whereas industrial automation needs solutions, which are tailored to suit machine needs and can be compared to being open source software such as Android or Linux. Similar to open source software, users can apply automation solutions tailored to their needs or solutions.”

Shrikant Shukla, Product Specialist I/O, Beckhoff Automation Pvt Ltd, says, “Industrial automation has come a long way. The industry demands have been gradually changing from an analogue system to a digital system, acquiring simple process data to handle more complex measurement data, demand for centralised control to distributed local control, data acquisition and remote monitoring of real time process data, IoT, Industry 4.0, stamped inputs, outputs, higher sampling rates and faster ADC, and many more.”

Moreover, Shukla adds, “To implement these tailored and complex needs in a single system is a challenge and to address this, a control engineer or an automation engineer needs highly capable PLCs or smart remote I/O modules and easy interfaces to communicate and exchange data with SCADA or cloud-based software. Hence the engineering software has to be based on open platform and preferably with integrated with IT software programming tools. Further it should be easily implemented on a powerful hardware with powerful multi core CPU and that has standard device interfaces.”

Mukesh Thakur, Manager – Marketing, Finder India Pvt Ltd, says, “We provide dedicated relays for instrumentation and control where one has the option of selecting different coil voltages, contact materials, maintenance friendly diagnostic features, different space saving sizes, pluggable solution for EMI produced in the fields, sockets with different wiring terminals arrangement etc. These tailored automation solutions are tried, tested and appreciated by the users since many decades.”

While talking on the development, Ramesh Bhorania, Assistant General Manager–Technical Support Department, Factory Automation and Industrial Division (FAID), Mitsubishi Electric India Pvt Ltd includes, “Mitsubishi Electric India is offering world-class factory automation hardware including PLC, Servo, HMI, VFD, SCADA, robots, LVS components and other auxiliary products required for automation of machines, equipment and process. With strong domain knowledge of various verticals, MEI can offer solutions with blend of required FA products that adds value to the machines. To develop tailored automation solution for each customer, we have teams of field engineers at each regional office supported by central technical team at head office, who are products and application experts with in-depth domain knowledge. Additionally, MEI has good bandwidth of solution partners with sufficient number of technical manpower. Hence with availability of skilled task force, customised automation solution development is possible.”

Sameer Gandhi, MD, Omron Automation India, confirms, “The core focus of the organisation is to create an environment at the manufacturing sites where machines and human beings work in harmony and not compete with each other. Building on our decades of global experience and over 20 years of Indian experience, we very well understand that production line machines must evolve and learn continuously. The machines must understand and assist their operators. We define this philosophy in the form of our ‘3-i’ approach to innovation. It represents OMRON’s vision of a revitalised automated manufacturing industry comprising of three aspects.”

Further, Gandhi explains, “The first ‘i’ stands for the ‘Intelligent’ aspect encompassing solutions to make manufacturing smarter by utilising information technology. It aims creation of additional value to the shop-floor by enabling the makers to collect, visualise and analyse data. The second ‘i’ communicates ‘Integrated’ technology, which involves seamless integration of technologies through advanced control aiding the makers to pursue maximisation of machine performance and accuracy. The third ‘i’ expresses the ‘Interactive’ element. The solutions based on this component help manufacturers achieve the right harmony between humans and machines leading to creation of those manufacturing sites where machines adapt to human needs and work together to enhance productivity.”

Challenges and requirements of industry
“Every industry and every application is different. It would have been very difficult for us as an automation vendor to cater to every industry with different hardware and software,” says Deshpande. “Over the years, many industries are using tailor made automation solutions, which help them cater to their changing demands and meet market needs. However, mostly these tailor made automation is tied to industry specific hardware. Today, it is no longer hardware platforms, which provide differentiation and capability to provide tailored automation solutions. Software is playing a vital role in catering to industry requirements and overcoming various challenges. With a powerful software, same hardware can provide new and varied functionality needed for an industry.”

Talking about the challenges, Shukla adds, “Sensors/actuators and power cabling is the biggest challenge in executing automation system or a machine controller or a process plant. This also poses a bigger challenge of maintaining signal strength. Beckhoff developed the most effective solution to overcome this using Ethernet based fieldbus communication technology EtherCAT with remote I/Os slaves. This enabled not only flexible topology for the control network, but also enabled placing the I/O modules nearest to the source of the signals while reusing the complete bunch of cablings. However, the key enabler for implementing this technology is development of use of PC-based Control with TwinCAT software. This has revolutionised the automation systems in past decade. Beckhoff offers communication gateways for 22 different industry protocols like Profibus, ProfiNet, Devicenet, Ethernet/IP etc.”

However, Thakur says, “To counter the challenges faced by users of different industry segments, we continuously keep on improvising on our design and features based upon the feedback received from them. For example oil and gas, chemical and other industries with presence of hazardous and corrosive gases and particles, we have customised solution like ATEX approved relay interface solution for automation and control panels. For metallurgy, where high temperature and humidity are prevalent, we provide especially designed products to sustain these extreme environmental conditions. For cement industries we have products designed to suppress leakage currents induced in AC control lines. We also have product designed to suppress arcs for power DC switching etc.”

Bhorania says, “For MEI, all customers’ automation tasks cannot be generalised and hence each application is specific and unique in terms of the automation task to be achieved. Today, apart from conventional automation, additional challenges are added. Previously, machines remained in one corner of the plant just producing a specific object. But, today, it is connected and has become a part of smart factory or e-factory. In this case, connectivity, real time data analytics at floor or middle layer are added to the offering. Further, MEI provides automation solutions for all industrial verticals like automotive, pharma, food and beverages, textiles, plastics, packaging, water treatment and wastewater management, etc. It can be easily seen that the automation canvas is vast and hence, the challenges.”

However, Bari says, “Industry is going through a transformation. Networking and digitisation of business processes are changing not only production, but also the way in which we work together. Understanding customer needs is the key to success and we continuously strive for updating the domain knowledge of the industry. Although every industry requirement is different, we try to gain the knowledge of the industry based on the proven applications. The expert engineers support and develop other team members and customers in a better way.”

Bari further adds, “To meet the increasing demands in automation in plant and machinery we focus on innovating faster, flexible, safer one-stop automation solutions catering to the requirements of each industry. We support our customers by implementing optimum automation solutions and services, taking into account all the standards and directives applicable worldwide.”

Meanwhile, Gandhi says, “I think one of the strengths of Omron, which had really helped us to create a remarkable niche in the market, is our ability to work with the manufacturers as a complete end-to-end automation solutions provider. We are counted as one of the players having the widest portfolio of solutions; however, what matters is the way we associate with our customers so that they not only understand the current and future benefits of automation, but also be able to de-risk the project from all key angles. We work closely with the customers throughout all the stages – right from conceptualisation to planning to actual implementation to after sales.”

He further adds, “One of the most important steps is to understand the challenges from the eyes of the customer. Another important strategy is to ensure the availability of skilled manpower. An automation set-up is of little use if it is not deployed, operated and maintained by the people equipped with the right skill sets. They should also have the domain knowledge along with the right expertise in installing the system. Hence, we’ve invested in training facilities so that our CPs as well as our customers can send their personnel to be trained. And, ultimately, the overall result matches their expectations on all key parameters including affordability.”

Services offered
B&R Industrial Automation
B&R mapp technology handles recurring programming tasks by providing pre-configured blocks – basic functions – that are easy to use and that have already been extensively tested. Programmers can then concentrate on their main task of implementing machine processes in the application software. These modular software blocks simplify the development of new programmes and reduce the development time for new machines and systems by an average of 67 per cent.

Beckhoff Automation
With Beckhoff promotes PC-based control technology using a single software platform with 400-plus different signals I/O modules. To enable use of this technology, control engineer should have good expertise on TwinCAT. Hence, Beckhoff has set up training centres at multiple cities and conducts training programmes for industrial engineers from all industries especially end-users, system integrators, machine builders. Technical support, service support, application programming support is provided to users. The TwinCAT software is offered free-of-charge to anyone who wish to develop automation systems using PC and TwinCAT software.

Finder India
Finder offers a wide range of products for industrial as well as building automation. The company has a wide range of switching interface and control solutions for PLC and DCS panels, thermoregulation solution for automation and electrical panels, lightning and surge protection solution for power and control signal lines, and a separate line of energy saving products for building automation and distribution panels etc.

Omron Automation
Omron porvides end-to-end industrial automation solutions constituting the largest portfolio comprising of smart sensors, vision based quality inspection, wide range of PLCs, servos and drives, robots and machine safety products and engineered solutions.

Mitsubishi Electric India
MEI provides support to customers for pre-sales and post-sales activities for application developments, engineering consultancy, technical training and repair service. Also, to provide quick support to the valued customers, recently MEI has started FA call centre, so customer can directly connect with technical experts at front-desk and get the solutions for their needs.

Pilz India
Pilz automation solutions incorporate not only sensor technology, control technology and actuator technology, but also provide services related to automation and machinery safety. The company offer ground breaking components, universal system solutions and tailor made services which one customers use, to gain and secure a valuable competitive edge.

We focus on innovating faster, flexible, safer one stop automation solutions catering to the requirements of each industry
Amol Bari, CMSE (Certified Machinery Safety Expert), Manager- Product Management and Engineering Services, Pilz India Pvt Ltd

Software is playing a vital role in catering to industry requirements and overcoming various challenges
Ninad Deshpande, Head – Marketing, B&R Industrial Automation

The industry demands have been gradually changing from an analogue system to a digital system
Shrikant Shukla, Product Specialist I/O, Beckhoff Automation Pvt Ltd

We continuously keep on improvising on our design & features based upon the feedback received from users
Mukesh Thakur, Manager – Marketing, Finder India Pvt Ltd

MEI has good bandwidth of solution partners with sufficient number of technical manpower
Ramesh Bhorania, Assistant General Manager – Technical Support Department, Factory Automation & Industrial Division (FAID), Mitsubishi Electric India Pvt Ltd

The core focus of the organisation is to create an environment at the manufacturing sites where machines and human beings work in harmony and not compete with each other
Sameer Gandhi, MD, Omron Automation, India

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