Keeping Pace with Changing ‘Trends & Technologies
- Dr RajKuumar, Plant Head, KBL

Kirloskar Brothers Limited’s all-women Coimbatore facility has emerged as the winner in 10th Kaizen Incremental Improvement Competition organised by the Quality Circle Forum of India (QCFI). Kaizen is a system of continuous improvement in quality, technology, processes, company culture, productivity, safety and leadership. KBL Coimbatore team received two ‘Excellence Awards’ for the presentation made by teams on the theme of ‘Process Improvements.’

KBL’s Coimbatore plant is a state-ofthe- art manufacturing unit. “We have semi-automated the critical assembly stations such as bearing pressing in motor body, NDE cover and motor body pressing, air leakage tester, pump single box packing and pump master box packing,” says Dr Raj Kuumar, Plant Head, KBL, Coimbatore. In an email interaction with CEW, Kuumar further reveal that KBL ensures the machine performance and reliability through various systems like monitoring the productivity, process rejection, utilisation and improving the Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE).

Keeping Pace with Changing Trends
“We also maintain breakdown reports for all machinery, monitoring through trend chart allows us to analyse the root cause for the breakdown. Corrective and preventive action is taken immediately for the same. Daily routine maintenance register is maintained for all machines,” he adds further. While responding on the questions on the rate of incorporation of automation tools and technologies in Indian factories or plants, Kuumar suggests that due to nonavailability of skilled labour in the market, Indian manufactures are really looking for technology driven machines and processes. After Globalisation it is not only affordable but also widely available. According to him, the automation of the production activities offers advantages in terms of cost-efficiency, waste reduction, speed production, ease in production monitoring and management, reduced feedback and action times, over the traditional manual processes. “Nowadays, all manufactures are keen in investing in low cost advanced automation technologies, due to the return on investment, reliability and quality of output being high,” Kuumar writes. However, for pump industry, Kuumar says, automation of entire line is not advisable and one should focus on semi-automation in subassembly, single operation and in packing.

Adopting High-end Technologies
Kuumar explains that manufacturing is an energy intensive sector with energy cost sometimes accounting for almost 50 percent of overall operations cost (OPEX). It is observed that the last decade witnessed sharp increase in energy costs, frequent changes in the feedstock and material costs, alteration in demand supply pattern that has gained significant attention of manufacturers. Manufacturers are more open towards adopting high-end technologies to monitor business variables and integrate manufacturing operations with the board room for taking strategic decisions and maintaining company’s profitability.

Coping Up with Financial Pressure
On company’s strategies to reduce maintenance costs, increase capacity and reduce scrappage, Kuumar remarks that industry consolidation and worldwide competition are putting plants under an intense financial pressure, and operations and maintenance budgets are among the first to be cut. Fewer personnel working fewer hours are expected to operate and maintain more equipment at lower cost, while also delivering higher throughput, higher availability, and higher profits with aging assets. A preliminary inspection for all machinery is done and critical spares for all machineries are maintained. At the same time, we ensure optimum utilisation of capacities.

Automation: The Way Ahead
According to Kuumar, any automation should be simple in technology, cost effective and high in productivity, ensuring the spares and service on time for longer period. Technology up gradation is the process which can be undertaken any time in any model at low cost. “Industrial automation can and will generate explosive growth with technology related to new inflection points: nanotechnology and nano-scale assembly systems; MEMS and nanotech sensors (tiny, low-power, low-cost sensors) which can measure everything and anything; and the pervasive Internet, machine to machine (M2M) networking. Real-time systems will give way to complex adaptive systems and multi-processing. The future belongs to nanotech, wireless everything, and complex adaptive systems,” he comments.

Major developments in new software applications will be in wireless sensors and distributed peer-to-peer networks – tiny operating systems in wireless sensor nodes, and the software that allows nodes to communicate with each other as a larger complex adaptive system. That is the wave of the future, Kuumar emphasises. “Wireless devices are also perceived as the next big technological step in industrial automation. However, their adoption has been moderate to date because of concerns over the robustness, reliability, and security of wireless technology. A need for automation in industries such as oil and gas, automotive, power, and textile has created need for industrial wireless.”