Cloud Applications, Virtualisation Taking Industrial Automation to Higher Levels: Vikas Chadha
- Vikas Chadha, Managing Director, Honeywell Automation India Limited (HAIL) and India Leader, Honeywell Process Solutions (HPS ).

India's manufacturing sector is on a high growth trajectory. And if implemented to its potential, the 'Make in India' initiative will further transform the Indian economy for the better, developing India into a strong manufacturing destination in this century, says Vikas Chadha, Managing Director, Honeywell Automation India Limited (HAIL) and India Leader, Honeywell Process Solutions (HPS). Harshal Y Desai further sought Chadha's views on the growth of the automation industry in the wake of predicted development in the manufacturing sector, adoption rate of automation solutions among small and medium scale companies, the role of IT in automation industry, and more.

The automation industry, in any country, is directly related to the growth of the manufacturing sector. It is further boosted with the desire to produce better products. Competition among the manufacturers compels them to adopt advanced automation solutions as they want to excel in their operations by producing optimum quality products in large number with less human intervention. In India, many companies were not willing to expand their facilities till last year and it was affecting the automation industry to some extent. However, the scenario is likely to change in the near future . Both these elements - a strong manufacturing industry and - the desire to produce the best, will pave the way for the automation sector in India. Safety and sustainability are the other two components.

According to Chadha, as the world economy evolves into a global marketplace, competition presents itself in the form of both domestic and international players, requiring discrete and process manufacturing industries to work hard to gain a competitive edge. "Firms are continuously striving to increase their productivity, safety, sustainability and expand sales. And as competition increases, companies willing to invest in various automation solutions will likely be more successful in the long-term," he adds.

Plenteous Potential
There is a strong potential for growth in the Indian industrial automation segment, asserts Chadha; however, he feels that in India, levels of automation in most industries are far from their respective global norms. "Sectors like power, oil and gas and automotive industries have always been leading adopters of improved automation technologies. The complexity of processes and the need to optimise plant operations as well as expand sales has resulted in oil and gas being at the forefront of automation adoption. Investing in intelligent automation and control systems to optimise manufacturing, plant optimisation, and control and process monitoring systems, is the way forward for the Indian manufacturing industry. "In this increasingly competitive and globalised environment, India continues to experience inertia in keeping up with global trends or in adopting new technological innovations," Chadha comments.

He strongly emphasises that as India progresses in its pursuit to become one of the preferred manufacturing destinations, current practices have to make way for adoption of 'everything smart'.

Medium and small manufacturers will play a significant role in the demand chain. Chadha agrees that automation is gaining importance even in small and medium units, which contribute a huge amount in overall GDP of the country. With a growing need for maintaining the profitability of operations and remaining competitive in today's business, mid-sized process plants are looking to adopt the latest automation technologies that are relevant to their growth.

Are they not reluctant to invest in new technologies due to the cost involved? "Yes," he agrees, "When it comes to mid-sized companies, the plant operators are sometimes resistant to investing in new technologies or infrastructure as it involves cost… but they are always on the lookout to adapt new technologies, provided they can be implemented quickly and with the least impact on the existing infrastructure in order to lower cost but at the same time provide safety, reliability, efficiency and better output."

When asked about the other measures that needs to be considered to increase the adoption rate of advanced automation technology in Indian manufacturing sector, Chadha reveals that the competitiveness at a global scale and the thrust to address local demand, especially in an Indian industry where consumption of finished goods is high, are significant factors prompting plants to adopt modern process automation technologies.

"Industrial automation plants and projects are also facing numerous challenges especially as implementations become larger and more complex while still needing to be completed quickly. These requirements are making plant operators adopt technologies which can do more with less, generating demand for solutions that can work seamlessly with any control application and system," he adds.

Rupee fluctuation has also been reported as one of the major challenge for players in the Indian automation market. According to Chadha, Many companies had started looking for cheaper solutions even at the cost of quality to a certain extent, which can be detrimental in the long-run. Hence there is a strong need for innovative solutions suitable to the Indian industry conditions and environments, which can increase plant safety and security, increased productivity, as well as enable cost efficiency.

Chadha further illuminates that as targeted by the National Manufacturing Competitiveness Council (NMCC), India's manufacturing sector is set to contribute 25 percent to the GDP by 2025 as compared to the current share of nearly 16 percent. He also lists down the steps that the government is taking to increase investment in this sector, which are:
  • Investing in infrastructure development in sectors such as defense, health and education
  • Forming a National Power Commission(NPC) which would facilitate the acceleration of electricity capacity additions, securing fuel supplies and improving efficiency for production, transmission and distribution of electricity
  • Providing opportunities for Small Scale Industry (SSIs) to develop into large scale industries
The IT Connexion
Chadha states that automation solutions might cater to the basic needs of plant requirements like increased product flexibility, higher product quality, decreased delivery time, more efficient process etc, but these alone cannot fulfill all the demand to achieve scale economics. "We need a system which can increase the level and quality of productivity to the desired level and for this, timely information is key to meeting these goals ," he comments.

"Advancements in IT have brought radical shift in data transmission from conventional wired networks to wireless transmissions. New technologies are driving significant advances in industrial automation. Cloud applications, virtualisation and wireless are transforming manufacturing and taking industrial automation to higher levels," Chadha confirms.

So, Information Technology (IT) will go hand in hand with automation. According to Chadha, today’s large scale industrial automation projects are expensive and time- consuming. Hence, industrial plants need new cloud-based automation architecture that can achieve significant cost and time benefits through lower hardware cost and associated labour.

"More companies are leveraging cloud computing to become more agile, innovate, faster, make quicker decisions and create greater value, whether through business process transformation and innovation, or by modernising their application platform or data centre architectures. Through the cloud, companies can optimise their capital and operational expenditures, lower hardware and software costs," he asserts.

Industrial plants will certainly need to utilise the power of process control automation solutions with that of the advances that IT brings - especially in the areas of cloud computing, virtualisation, data security and analytics - to be able to reap the benefits of both worlds and maintain technology competition.

When asked about the other emerging trends within the industry, Chadha reveals, "Technological change is a crucial driver of competitiveness in the manufacturing industry, and is thus of particular interest for both business leaders and customers. Today most plants in India have a basic level of automation solutions but can further improve efficiency and reliability with advanced solutions that can help them realise the true potential of automation." He puts down some of the technology trends which are listed in the fact box on the precious page.

Honeywell has an extensive customer base in verticals including oil and gas, chemical and petrochemical industries, power, mining, minerals, paper and pulp, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, mining, infrastructure, IT/ITeS, telecom, banking, healthcare, hospitality, automobiles, defense, aerospace, transportation, and the residential sector.

"Since its beginning in 1987, Honeywell Automation India Limited has grown to a 1,800 crores company listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) and the National Stock Exchange (NSE) of India. HAIL is a unique listed company with a diversified automation portfolio. Our six business units deliver environmental controls, sensing, scanning and mobility products, and building and process solutions for India – making homes, offices and industrial facilities safer, secure, more energy efficient and productive," Chadha states.