? Please share your opinion on how the purpose of automation has shifted from increasing productivity and reducing costs, to broader issues, such as increasing safety, quality and flexibility in the manufacturing process. The basic purpose of automation is to improve the quality of a process. There is always an improvement in quality by speeding up processes quantitatively. Integrated automation has changed the way of looking at safety of equipment and human which were seen earlier as an obstacle to productivity. This will certainly help to remove the apprehensions about deployment of stringent safety measures. Talking of flexibility in automation, the concept of small batch size manufacturing - N=1 which has become an insistent demand should be considered. One has to think about, if all the production aggregates are not used for manufacturing and then what becomes of some of the aggregates that lie idle when something else is being manufactured. In such a case automation should be used to keep all aggregates humming, and prevent loss in productivity or throughput. Integrating automation helps into production planning and product engineering. ? Where do you place the importance of automation training and how are you contributing towards it? Engineering graduates directly from colleges can not be immediately productive in the deployment of automation. Automation industry needs to provide a lot of grooming to the young engineers to suit the industry requirements. B&R works in the area of training beyond the immediate requirements for its new recruits. We do go out to universities and institutes and engage with them for various programs. We not only train engineers who will program and commission automation products, but also train people who will evaluate and select equipment and design products and processes. There is a dearth of trained technicians who will operate and maintain equipment. We are working on areas like hidden factors in ROI computation. The first thing that comes to mind when automation projects are discussed is usually the ROI aspect. The factors that are normally overlooked while ROI is calculated are long term maintenance costs; future interoperability requirements and associated costs; cost of seamless upgradeability and scalability and availability of trained manpower. Apart from this, closed proprietary components generally lead to vendor lockup situations and non-standard in-house developments which are in general not scalable. ? How do you see the potential of openSafety in the Indian industries? The point is not just openSafety but open automation techno-logies. In today’s world, when one sets out to buy components for automating his office, he is able to buy devices from multiple manufacturers that seamlessly communicate through standard interfaces. For example, a laptop from manufacturer A is able to communicate with a laptop from manufacturer B, a printer from manufacturer C, a mobile phone from manufacturer D, through standard interfaces like Ethernet, USB, etc. Thus standard communication interfaces and multiple vendors have ensured that customer is the ultimate winner in terms of choice and cost of components. The same flexibility and right to choice should also be available in automation technologies. With this aim, B&R has transferred the Ethernet Powerlink bus to the open domain, and now many vendors have implemented the same.To avoid getting into the same situation with respect to the implementation of safety protocols, we advocate right from the beginning to insist on openSafety protocols. The industry is listening, and large end-users like Nestle are now making it mandatory to go for openSafety. ? How do you see the automation market for India in the next few years and what are the company’s expansion plans for India. I do not see any slowdown for automation in India. With the economy slated to grow close to 10 per cent, automation will definitely grow close to 20 per cent. We are an agile company that comes out with one product innovation each day. In the past 10 years we had a track record in the industry of beating the average. We do want to expand and increase our footprint. We will open more offices in order to be closer to our customers. There will be more number of outreach. ?
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