Highest precision, multi-material production capabilities, robust electronically controlled quality processes, flexibility and low costs, are the new paradigms and mantras of automation applicable to automotive manufacturing in India.
India is becoming a manufacturing hub for automobiles. Almost all the global auto majors are present in India. The automation industry was worth Rs 12,000 crore in 2013 and is growing at an average rate of
12 per cent per year. According to Frost & Sullivan, the market will hit $2,000 million by 2016. With the advent of industrial robots, these jobs were done at a faster pace and with more precision than ever before. However, in order to address the new set of challenges posed: leapfrog to BS-VI emission norms in India by 2020, continuously building resistance to diesel fuel operated automobiles, insistence on the best fuel economy, introduction of connected transport features, lightweighting; and safety features like ABS being made mandatory, extensive range of new product launches, and above all, cut-throat competition, even the pre-established and time-tested automated manufacturing processes for key components like bearings are up for redefinition to address the emerging requirements of today’s automotive world in India.
Auto makers are caught between the consumers’ increased demand for high quality products, greater variety and the government’s requirement for low carbon emissions and better safety standards in the manufacturing processes. In fact, these requirements of upgraded automation are being drilled down to Tier-II and III suppliers as well.
Sameer Gandhi, Managing Director, OMRON Automation India, says, “The automotive industry, christened as the mother of innovation in the automation field, has been leading in the adoption of industrial automation technologies and solutions as compared to other segments in the manufacturing domain. Spurred by domestic demand, India, the third largest manufacturer of compact passenger cars and the fifth largest commercial vehicle manufacturer in the world, is emerging as a major automotive market.”
Sanjay Binayka, Head, Manufacturing, NBC Bearings, explains, “There are three significant areas we are looking forward for automated manufacturing in auto sector – Low cost manufacturing, Digitisation and Use of robotics. Digitisation depends on the manufacturer’s capability while the challenge with robotics in India is the higher cost. However, to stay ahead, in India we are looking for cheaper solution in robotics and automation. Optimisation of digitisation and robotics along with low cost manufacturing will not require extensive customisation. As far as the market is concerned, technology evolves every now and then. Thus, the customisation requirement will not be very extensive and expensive.”
Binayka is not very concerned as he says, “As far as equipment aggregates are concerned, we foresee that around 70-80 per cent would still be imported. Precision in automation and machine accuracy with entire automated operation are major challenges the Indian industry is still grappling with. We have already started with indigenous manufacturing for assembly machines and some of the machines are already running with our new world-class manufacturing facilities at Vadodara.”
“However, in the industrial automation domain, there is still quite a way to go to if we compare ourselves with other countries. Automotive sector (that is component suppliers, OEMs and vehicle manufacturers) are constantly facing varied challenges in the form of competition, rising consumer demands for quality, increasing productivity, optimising energy, reducing the length of product life cycles, stringent environmental and safety standards, etc. These factors are continuously raising the bar and in order to meet these dynamic requirements, the sector has to enhance its pace and sincerity towards adopting industrial automation. Progressive concepts like Internet of Things, Traceability, etc can do wonders to the overall productivity and quality in the automotive industry and so they need to be integrated in their automation portfolio more effectively “says Gandhi. He adds“Another challenge is Big Data management. Normally manufacturers have to store huge amount of data to trace back to the genesis of a problem and they spend huge amounts of money for servers and other things. Millions of terra bytes of data are getting generated in the manufacturing process. But the important aspect is the industry needs to focus on how to make sense of all of these, how can they be used in a meaningful fashion? OMRON’s Programmable Logic Controller portfolio enables Big Data management ensuring its real time availability for the people on the manufacturing line who see many possibilities to use this data - for statistical analysis, quality control, quick identification of faulty parts, managing and tracing loss of components while processing from one plan to another - to name just a few.
Says Binayka, “As far as process is concerned, we are proactively interacting with customers to offer the right product with the right quality at the right time. Once we are clear what product will give the desired warranty, we are controlling the quality and optimising the processes to meet the warranty requirement.”He adds, “Online inspection is very much a reality. All the machines at NBC Bearings have in-process and post-process gauging and we have completely automated inspection equipment in all assembly lines which ensure zero defect products to the customers. All the equipment in the processes are calibrated to achieve the desired accuracy. We have a full-fledged in-house gauges and calibration facility.”
Gandhi says, “The first one is the Zero-Defect manufacturing. Considering one defective product can bring humongous loss and setbacks to the credibility of a brand, the area needs specific attention in terms of deployment of automation. This attains more significance for the automotive industry where assembling of multiple complex components needs constant checking at every step and product-recalls are witnessed quite often.”
According to Gandhi, OMRON caters to these issues by offering advanced traceability solutions. It comprises sensors, switches, scanners, RFID tags, vision, etc and can give the life history of a particular component, from the time it was melted and produced in a foundry till it is used in a vehicle.
Impact of Megatrends on Automation
In order to meet Lightweighting concepts being implemented for manufacturing of internal components for engines, gearboxes, transmissions, hydraulic systems etc, a whole new set of manufacturing processes have emerged, for example, assembled camshafts, integrated housings, assembled reductions etc. Although some component segments remain unaffected by these trends, most need to upgrade their respective processes and thereby the extent of automation.
“As far as the bearing industry is concerned, use of non-conventional materials is not on the rise. We are still using conventional materials. However, the challenge is to meet higher warranty expectation by customers. Few non-conventional materials are under research to explore the possibility of their usage in bearing application through surface modification. As it provides value additions like extended life, low noise etc, it will be more cost-effective for the intended purpose,” Says Binayka.
According to Gandhi, “OMRON caters to the multiple facets of manufacturing like fabrication, casting and forging, where there are millions of applications. In order to provide the best solution to the customer while keeping the cost-effectiveness in mind, our sole approach is to understand thoroughly ‘What is the biggest challenge the customer is facing for productivity or quality? What would he like to improve in his processes?’. Once we know the challenge, we can suggest solutions based on our experience since many of these challenges and solutions remain the same across different set-ups. Moreover, I feel, automation is a business investment. What is important is to look for the right cost rather than low cost. It ultimately boils down to the right cost, right design on the machine, right selection and the right vision for the future. This year we would be launching new products which will strengthen our portfolio offering to the customers, by giving comprehensive solutions as per their needs.”
Cost optimisation is a challenge that the bearing industry is grappling with and adoption of green and lean manufacturing with more flexibility will be the focus for future.
Gandhi states, “2016-17 is an important year for us to show remarkable progress in carrying forward our mission of ‘improving lives and contributing to a better society’ by catering to the needs of Indian manufacturing segment.”
He further adds, “Manufacturing, as a field per se, is attracting a lot of attention in terms of massive campaigns like Make in India, Skill India, Digital India, Start up India and the effects of these will surely be helpful for us to strengthen our brand penetration and presence in India not only in automotive but also in other sectors such as FMCG, food & beverage, pharmaceuticals, packaging, etc. Talking about India, it will continue to remain a sweet spot for OMRON Automation as far as manufacturing is concerned owing to many reasons - demographic dividend, a young population, a large, growing middle-class coupled with massive urbanisation.”
The industry is proactively responding to redefining automation in manufacturing to not only meet the current challenges but also what is to come in future for obvious reasons of continuous reinvestment in manufacturing technologies in their growth path.
Key Trends in Focus