Automation changes businesses, and with newer technologies coming in, automation is continually changing itself. The impact of automation was never more focused than after a 2-year long pandemic. Its deep impact on business stability, despite the instability of the working conditions, has really pivoted Automation as a priority for growth.
In an interview with Manish Walia, Head, Automation, Delta Electronics India, we discussed the automation giant’s perspective on the direction Indian industrial automation is headed to. Excerpts:
DQ: What are the key industrial automation solutions Delta offers, and what are the major industry segments it caters to?
Manish Walia: We, at Delta, have been a major player in machine automation, and have further expanded into factory automation, process automation, robotics solutions, vision solutions, camera solutions, and even other gantry solutions using our motion products. We also cater to end-user segments like water, wastewater, pharma, plastic, cement, steel, infrastructure, and the building of smart cities.
DQ. How keenly does Delta focus on R&D and innovation?
Manish Walia: At Delta, innovation is at the core of our philosophy I would say it is an important part of our DNA. About 8-9% of the global revenue, which is a substantial sum, is invested back in R&D. In India, we have one R&D set-up in Gurgaon. We are continually expanding our recently set-up world-class R&D facility in Bangalore, both in terms of facilities and human capital.
We keep our ear to the ground and, as a result, our new product launches are based on the requirements of our customers and the market. We are continually committed to efficiency and process improvements and also bring in new advancements in already existing products. This foresight also drives new ideas in the futuristic requirements of industry, which has led to us making major contributions in the areas of clean energy and the EV space as well.
DQ: How deep is Delta’s commitment toward energy efficient manufacturing?
Manish Walia: Delta stays true to its motto of greener, smarter, together. Our commitment to making the world better in terms of a cleaner environment is not just limited to our products but also the way we conduct our business. For over a decade, Delta has been coming up with green buildings for our offices and factories.
Our IGBC lead-certified green buildings include our headquarters in Gurgaon and an office in Mumbai, which are both platinum-rated green buildings. Our Rudrapur plant is a diamond-rated green factory. Our newer investments, like our Krishnagiri factory and bigger R&D setup in Bangalore, will also be deploying all the technology required for a green building. Our processes and manufacturing follow suit with smart manufacturing technology.
Delta stands committed to the COP 26 green business net zero emissions goal, and we will continue to invest heavily in bringing down carbon emissions in processes and manufacturing and reducing air conditioning costs. We have achieved carbon neutral status in our American headquarters in San Francisco, with the energy requirements not requiring a connection to the grid. It is a status we wish to replicate in our offices worldwide.
DQ: What are the market requirements that are driving the usage of automation?
Manish Walia: What the multiple waves of the pandemic taught businesses is how crucial automation is, especially when the chips are down to manage business continuity. Today, the value of automation in the industry is not lost on anyone. Automation also enhances the exportability of the products and, with IIoT, brings online support, which helped immensely during the pandemic. All in all, this is a period of high growth for us.
DQ: What are the opportunities that can be tapped in the industrial automation segment?
Manish Walia: There is a re-examination of processes in industry today, and those that do not need human intervention and are monotonous in nature are being identified. Automation is allowing business owners, managers, and plants to grow beyond recurring and monotonous processes and let their human resources rise up to its potential. The tools for the same are sensors, cameras, software like SCADA, robotics, and more. There is a huge potential for this shift.
Further, IIoT convergence, along with 5G, is a power force waiting to be unleashed. This will aid many changes, including centralised monitoring so that management can be instantly updated about what is going on.
DQ: What are the challenges in the industrial automation segment, with respect to the Indian market?
Manish Walia: One of the challenges in shifting to automation is, of course, the considerable investment that one needs to make. The return on this investment is huge, but it takes time to bear fruit. The substantial investment does seem daunting and deters many Indian business owners to commit to automation processes more wholeheartedly.
Another challenge is that we in India are still greatly dependent on raw materials from outside the country. In recent years, the supply chain has been affected, and this affects the overall business. The cost of raw materials also needs to be commercially viable. Both these aspects challenge business prospects and, in turn, affect the switch to automation. Hopefully, with attention given to a lot of issues concerning this, we will see positive changes in the next 3-4 years.
DQ: Are Indian companies showing readiness to adopt these advanced technologies and solutions like Industry 5.0 and IoT?
Manish Walia: The pandemic really highlighted the need for connectivity, which entails connectivity between equipment and processes and connectivity for supervision. Artificial intelligence reduces the need for human intervention, which in turn reduces human errors or errors overall. The algorithms that are used depend on the databases, and the data created is enormous, what with the increased use of sensors and other equipment. Both, the reliance on IIoT, and the need for data management, are steadily growing in Indian industry.
With Industry 5.0, which signals a changed relationship between robots and humans, making it more collaborative. Unlike the shift from Industry 3.0 to Industry 4.0, the jump to Industry 5.0 is not as large, and the differences are not as significant.
When we speak of the Indian industry, the pandemic has helped their march progress towards Industry 4.0, and we are seeing increased usage of robotics in electronics, paint industry, food & beverage industry, and wherever it is applicable. The increasing use of robots in Indian industry is substantial, but it cannot still be compared to the density of industrial robots in countries like South Korea and China. Even as steps are being taken towards IIoT and robotics, the road to Industry 5.0 is a long one and Indian industry will take its time to get there.
DQ: Have the government initiatives like Digital India and Make in India been effective? Are they triggering growth in the industrial automation segment?
Manish Walia: Digital has been a game changer for automation in the industry. Bringing the process or supervision online has been critical in completely changing the way an automated factory or shopfloor is run. Digital India in that regard has been a huge success, and we will see a deeper shift with 5G coming in, which will result in IIoT venturing in many new directions.
The Make in India campaign and the vision for Indian manufacturing it represents have been greatly effective. We have seen how the pandemic has brought India into focus as a preferred manufacturing hub for many international giants. India has already become a leading manufacturer of mobile phones and we expect many more milestones.
The Make in India initiative has been backed by many policy initiatives like PLI schemes for various industries, including the crucial semiconductor industry. This is giving further impetus to the Atmanirbhar campaign in creating more value for India as a preferred manufacturing destination. All this brings with it the need for world-class manufacturing, which always requires automation at the heart of precision, customisation and uniformity in production.
DQ: What are the future growth prospects of the industrial automation products market in India?
Manish Walia: The growth prospects of industrial automation are huge, with demand from all sectors of the industry. As I mentioned, the growth in exports is also a major factor that contributes to this. Learning lessons from the pandemic, Business owners are doubling down on replacing labor with automated processes wherever possible. We expect the growth in double digits to continue.
DQ: What is the growth strategy and vision for Delta’s industrial automation division in the coming years?
Manish Walia: Delta is committed to bringing in new value-added products and solutions to the Indian markets in the multiple segments we work in. This includes modifying both process and factory automation. Delta believes in embracing change and creating technology to make the future better. We are heading towards this goal with in-house solutions and are also open to collaborations that can add greater value to our existing systems.
In India, we are looking at considerable growth on both the R&D and manufacturing front. Our new plant at Krishnagiri has huge potential to expand in terms of volume, innovation, and markets. Our SEZ in this area is already servicing markets in the USA, Europe, the Gulf and Southeast Asia, and we expect further growth.