Automated machines need people to design, program and service them. In an interview with APF, DK Sharma, Godrej Tooling and Masuo Ebisawa, ACT speak about automation in manufacturing.
Many of the new production methods in the next manufacturing revolution will require fewer people working in factories, and some lights-out manufacturing is now possible. Manufacturing will still need people, if not so many in the factory itself. As anufacturing transforms into a high-tech workplace, the new generation of process and automation engineers and technicians will be completely different – they will have grown up with the Internet, smartphones and video games.Being one of the vital business divisions of the forward-looking organisation, Godrej Tooling chalked out its plan to expand its footprints into the Passenger Vehicle (PV) and Commercial Vehicle (CV) market segments as well, by extending suitable offers.
What is your vision for the growth of automation manufacturing equipment in India?
We are at the crossroads as India becomes bigger in manufacturing. India is the sixth largest producer of vehicles in the world. So more and more activity of manufacturing will take place here in India. While we have good number of people available, they are not trained to meet that demand of what we have envisioned. As per SIAM, AMP 2026 policy, India will be among the top three vehicle manufacturer in the world by 2026. But there is a huge challenge in meeting the skill demand. While training attempt is being made in the country, by private organisations as well as the government there is going to be a huge shortfall in the skill availability. While skill availability is available at a cheaper price, the talent available will start fetching more money. They will be in demand. There will be a need of automation anyways. There is a concept called IoT, which is the buzz word today. There are two schools of thoughts, the traditional companies who have run the business, they redo it. We have certain ways of conducting our manufacturing shop. The IoT is disruption. There is a debate going on in the country. Whether we remove all the people and do my work with automation, which we cannot. The new government wants employment to be increased. As the business grows, we need people. When you need to built quality standard and speed, with competitiveness, we need automation. Not all robots can do everything. To be able to implement IoT we need knowledge. Automation is not providing me knowledge. We have few groups who are looking forward and the volumes are going up. Instead of nascent stage even the awareness is being created by all means of communication. But the ground reality is totally different. So to be able to employ the automation we see some more time.
What percentage of tooling aggregates will continue to be imported and why?
There are huge variety of tooling which is required in the country to produce any product. The high end tools are still being imported into the country where the requisite knowledge and infrastructure to produce those type of tooling are not available. We continue to develope markets to feed us. Just to give you an example the car is made of certain parts. The outer panel which one touches feels the finished parts, those types of tooling’s are still being imported to India, as it requires different set of skills and different infrastructure. When we say infrastructure we need big presses. You need a 4000 tonne locking force machine, to produce the die casting engine. But there are only one or two available in India and 100 in Japan, Europe and America. But this will change gradually. All the car makers are now setting a target for localisation component. For e.g. Kwid by Renault. It had 80 per cent local content. Which is very big challenge. So has India created any examples? Yes we can. Is it possible for any car maker and two wheeler today? Probably no. We as a tool maker are very few in the country and very few tool rooms are there. To meet the demand of all the car makers they have to meet all the demands. 40 per cent of the complex tooling are still being imported. They are very high value. But two years down the line, I see all those who currently manufacture those types of tooling’s, setting up shop here to en-cash the opportunity.
What are the new segments in auto sector looking for automated manufacturing equipment?
When a car or two wheeler is made, they are tested first so we call it ‘body in white’. It is not a complete car, it is just a structure of car. If you have to make a Ferrari then you don’t need a high level of automation because it is customised car. But customised cars are only few may be one or two. It is not mass production. What we do is mass production. So two things are happening. When companies like Maruti and Mahindra want to make a car or a jeep, they first make the tooling and then they are assembled elsewhere in any other country to assemble the car. Few cars are made and then the mass production is made. So that ‘body in white’ testing facility needs to be automated in India. That is a big opportunity. For two wheelers, the big names like Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha have already automated their assembly lines. It is no more manual. For others it may take a while but if they have to survive they have to automate. The time to come, everything will be fully automated. But when there is cheaper man power available in India, e.g. of Honda’s new factory in Ahmedabad or Yamaha new factory in Chennai, these are the most modern factories in the world. Nowhere else in the world, Yamaha has set up such a facility. However since the cheaper man power is available in India, there are only girls hired in Chennai facility of Yamaha. The training is so unique that they are required to do the same repetitive work so that there is no mistake. So these girls from villages are trained to make a world class scooter and they are making it. So Yamaha in Japan will not hire people like this. But in India it is happening. So it is at semi-automation stage. In India, for all car makers, the domestic market is small car buyers, we are not into luxurious segment. All the car makers wants to use India as a base, to export these small cars to the developing world.
When we talk about Automation, it is valid for two reasons, one is to maintain quality and to also speed. For e.g. while 100 smart cities program is launched by Government, every B grade town will have a network of metros. Mumbai is a big example. All the cities are going to have metros as transportation. For metros, they need as many as car cabins to make the metro train to be able to move on those rails. Godrej has started making fixtures for coaches in metros. We see huge potential that type of manufacturing.
Could you elaborate on the categories of automated manufacturing process?
When Godrej makes a tool, we design the tool, then machine the tool, then assemble the tool, then try off that tool. So there are four major stages. In design we have to apply our ingenuity and the human mind, to conceptualise the tool. The design cannot be made by computer. Whatever one feeds to the computer, it will behave like that. It works on software. It has to been feed with data. The brain needs to be used first. Here there is no automation required. In drawing making, automation is required. There is a huge opportunity to automate machining. But that requires huge investment. There are machines in world which can run man less. Programming can be done remotely. Sitting in different location one can run the machine. But that comes at some cost. Few people and companies can afford that kind of automation. Then comes the assembly part as mentioned. Assembly is highly hand oriented skill. To produce those types of parts which Godrej is producing. So very little automation can be done in assembly. There are pneumatic machines hanging while the conveyor moves. So when you need to tightened a belt. In assembly those kind of operations are automated. The car which moves on roads, the finishing done is not always automated. It needs man power. So 50 per cent of the assembly skills needs to be automated. While making a tool, so many elements are mounted and assembled then only it becomes a final tool. So those small elements some of them are of same type. So automation in tool making is not to high. While we are working on many projects, we will automate certain areas.
Where do you see Godrej in 2020?
We would like to be leaders in this field, having been taking the lead already. By 2020 we would like to be the largest player to make the tools for automotive sector. In sheet metal we would like to be leaders in structural parts. By 2020 India will be the third largest manufacturer of vehicles in the world. In the industrial automation we see that we remain the leaders in fixturing solutions to the mobility segment whether it is automotive or rail infrastructure or metro towns. The need of the hour is to support activity to be able to produce those number of vehicles.
“In design we
have to apply our ingenuity and the human mind, to conceptualise the tool.”
– Masuo Ebisawa,
resident ACT Corporation
“The new government wants employment to
Executive Vice President & Business Head,
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