Mitsubishi Electric India’s Factory Automation & Industrial Division (FAID), is part of a $40 billion global company, serving a wide variety of industrial markets with a wide range of automation products and solutions.
With R&D Centre at Pune, 6 Training Centres, 18 Sales and Satellite offices, and 10 Repairs Centres, the Factory Automation and Industrial Division is headquartered in Pune.
S. Sriram, GM, Industry Sales, Factory Automation & Industrial Division, Mitsubishi Electric India Pvt Ltd, tells us more about Industry 4.0 and the road to smart transformation. Excerpts from an interview:
DQ: How is Covid-19 affecting Industry 4.0 and future of innovation?
S. Sriram: Industry 4.0 was a fascinating subject to explore for most of the manufacturers be it small, medium or large. Covid-19 has, in a way, accelerated the need to move from exploring to adopting Industry 4.0, more than ever before. While most of manufacturers are looking inwards to survive the onslaught of Covid-19, those who have adopted technology in their manufacturing environment are more likely to recover faster than the others.
As people consciously quarantined, there is a radical shift towards work from home thereby the need to bring the manufacturing environment and data into their workbenches. This would lead to greater adaption of VR/AR tools, remote monitoring, data analytics – to have a real-time view of business. Such necessity and its adaption will lead to innovation of technologies around it.
DQ: Are industries transitioning to either fully lights-out or an automated factory?
S. Sriram: Historically, organizations have responded to labour issues by using automation as an alternative, but it has failed to live up to its euphoria, as humans are after all the brain behind the machines. Hence, the organizations that find ways to marry augmentation and automation—to build workflows that improve human performance will be best poised for what comes next. Hence, find a mid-way between the full lights-out factory to a well-automated factory, would be the best way to prepare.
We are working towards making day to day operations easier at the factory floors and ensure greater flexibility through our automation capabilities. Major advancements like cobots can be a game-changer for the automation industry.
Cobots can support the industry with easy programming, fast set-up, flexible automation in comparison with industrial robots and ensure collaborative efforts and safety.
DQ: How are industries bringing the smart transformation to their organizations?
S. Sriram: Digital transformation is changing the way business is conducted across every sector of the economy. Businesses will need to transform themselves into digital enterprises to thrive, and this transformation will need to be far more profound than merely investing in the latest technology.
Digital transformation/smart transformation like any other begins with strategy that is carried through redesigning talent models, transforming processes, and retooling technology. Leaders screen each decision to confirm that it will contribute to agility, promote digital adaptation and deliver value to customers.
The digital transformation has created a need for smart factories because the real-time utilization of production shop floor data and efficient connectivity with IT systems is essential. At Mitsubishi Electric, we have developed e-F@ctory – it enables digital transformation of the manufacturing industry. The key to digitalisation is integration of IT and FA/OT systems.
For this, all our FA products like PLCs, HMIs, inverters, AC servo systems, NC controllers, industrial robots, IPCs and low-voltage switchgear, are equipped with the advanced technologies for communication. The e-F@ctory offers greater visibility of the production processes.
DQ: How can smart cities now remain smart, and in the future?
S. Sriram: Smart cities bring together infrastructure and technology to improve the quality of life of citizens and enhance their interactions with the urban environment.
Created as part of the smart technology movement, the IoT enables various objects and entities to communicate with each other through the internet. By creating a network of objects capable of smart interactions, the door is opened to a wide range of technological innovations that could help improve public transport, give accurate traffic reports or provide real-time energy consumption data thus leading the way for smart cities.
A data-driven, decision-making process is apt for the smart cities’ development, deployment of IoT devices can enhance the growth and put smart technologies into action.
DQ: By using technology to monitor cities, how is data collection helping?
S. Sriram: The IoT is an essential technology without which smart city initiatives cannot exist. The “things” of the IoT, such as devices, sensors, applications etc. collect the data that enables the technology solutions to be effective. For example, the Smart Meter System from Mitsubishi Electric are introduced to visualize power usage and automate meter reading. It is helping in maintaining high data collection rate. It gives access to choose optimal communication, which yield highest economic efficiency related to the design tool.
Smart city initiatives need big data analytics to function. The IoT generates huge datasets that must be analysed and processed to implement smart city services. Big data platforms, part of the city ICT infrastructure, have to sort, analyse and process the data gathered from the IoT.
With the development of smart cities on the rise, we have powerful solutions like integrated building management system (BMS) framework that brings together separate applications such as security, access, building monitoring and management, and HVAC systems.
The application helps to improve comfort, efficiency and reduces overall energy cost. Smart energy solutions turn data and information into building intelligence by integrating with BMS, SCADA and control systems.
The usage of HVAC systems is increasing in commercial and industrial spaces. Mitsubishi Electric HVAC systems have been refined over the years through continued improvement efforts. Through the deployment of intelligent hardware such as programmable logic controllers (PLC) and direct digital controllers (DDC), fluctuating environmental variables can be managed with pinpoint accuracy.
This technology is controlled by the MC Works64 automation and control software. Where human intervention is required, easy-to-use Graphic Operation Terminals (GOT) allow operators to make changes manually.
System safety and integrity is ensured with our eco-friendly circuit breakers and earth-leakage circuit breakers, while redundant PLCs guarantee that undesired interruptions are effectively prevented. This helps our customers by maximising productivity through enhanced operations while delivering ideal climate within buildings.
DQ: How are Indian companies becoming digital ready? Also, by infrastructure?
S. Sriram: India is the prime destination for many investors. It has become one of the world’s largest and fastest-growing bases of digital consumers. It is working on to become faster and more competent for the emerging economies. Digitization can be implemented following a detailed step-by-step approach.
We are helping out our customers by implementing the concept of Mitsubishi Electric’s e-F@ctoryStarter Package that can help to start your journey of digital transformation.
The e-F@ctory starter package includes sample projects with pre-programmed functions of our MELSEC iQ-R / iQ-F PLCs and GOT2000 Series HMIs for operational monitoring and preventive maintenance, capable of supporting customers with IIoT, that can be implemented with minimal investment.
As an introductory step towards e-f@ctory, we have iQMonozukuri, a powerful solution package. It is a product that has been optimized through the accumulation of knowhow, which supports various problem solutions of the customer during manufacturing, and enables effective system installation, expansion, and operation/maintenance.
With our strategic range of innovative factory automation tools, Mitsubishi Electric is playing a key role in mitigating issues like downtime and loss of efficiency across manufacturing firms. The brand’s industrial robots, specifically, are solutions that are designed to make next generation manufacturing a possibility.
DQ: Do you see any change to a tech-augmented workforce in future?
S. Sriram: The next wave of technology will make our workforce more productive, more creative and more efficient. Smart technology will help us to reach our goals and to fulfil our purpose. AI will probably solve many information overloads and decision-making problems that we have today. But, at the same time, it will create issues that we need to solve on ethics and moral level. The cycle never stops!
The advent of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) has eased the level of remote communication and collaboration. Thereby, solving many issues in real-time. AR is helping in the industrial and healthcare fields where assistance can be provided and displayed on to the users’ field of vision. Whereas, VR is helping high-quality content and 360-degree imaging which further helps to create depth and space to the designs. The collaboration of AR and VR helps to save time and task can be executed in real-time with proper understanding.
Moving forward, artificial intelligence has also gained importance through consistent improvement over the past few years. The approaches such as deep learning and machine learning helps make day-to-day jobs easier to do. Robots, and AI, will help people perform their tasks better, not take their jobs. It will lead to overall efficiency and will create new possibilities for revenue generation.
DQ: Will there be any beginning of Industry 5.0?
S. Sriram: It is safe to say that Industry 5.0 is already on the horizon and is set to focus on co-operation between human and the machine. We are have already set the mark, we have designed the collaborative robots ensure collaboration with humans at workplace to do efficient operations.
The cobots are made to provide more exact movements, faster delivery in less time and maintaining high precision without compromising with performance or safety of humans. It is expected that demand for the collaborative robot is to increase in the next few years, due features like flexibility, safety and productivity. We are all set to present the advance form of interactivity and collaboration which will lead to driving the long-term market growth.
DQ: How will companies use IoT to minimize supply chain stress?
S. Sriram: There are many ways that IoT can be useful to minimize the supply chain stress like by selling asset tracking, inventory planning, etc., based on demand analysis, guaranteed performance / uptime is an entirely new business model now made possible by the IoT. It allows traditional asset-based companies to become service companies.
Smart sensors in IoT equipment allow manufacturers to know what variables are involved in a given process, and affords them greater control over those variables. Real-time information can lead to pro-active decision-making that can fine-tune operations for greater profitability.