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Driving production efficiencies through smart automation and safety measures

Driving production efficiencies through smart automation and safety measures

July 31, 2023 1:39 pm

According to Dhiraj Podutwar, Business Development Manager, System Sales, Pilz India, safeguarding valuable data against unauthorised access and cyber-attacks has become a crucial aspect of intelligent automation in production.

How does smart automation contribute to improving production efficiencies?
Factories have embraced advanced automation technologies to enhance productivity, throughput, and efficiency while minimising downtimes. The factories collect shop floor data to enhance Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE). They have witnessed positive outcomes through digital transformation projects and initiatives. These projects have boosted productivity and reduced waste. These also facilitated predictive and condition-based maintenance, ensuring optimal utilisation of components and preventing unexpected downtime. By implementing intelligent automation solutions, factories have achieved efficiency, productivity, safety, security, connectivity, digitalisation, and optimisation.

Please talk about smart automation developments in Indian manufacturing.
While the pace of technological advancements in Indian manufacturing may be slower compared to the Western world, there is a noticeable increase in the digitalisation of operations within manufacturing units. A growing emphasis accompanies this shift towards digitalisation on safety and security. Safety is now viewed as a necessity rather than an optional consideration, although progress must be made to reach the standards set by Western countries. In addition to manufacturing units recognising the importance of safety and security and requesting compliance from machine builders, significant efforts have been made by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) to establish machine safety standards and regulations.

Pilz India – the safety ambassador, actively collaborates with the BIS to ensure compliance with product conformity standards. Furthermore, Pilz India support Indian manufacturing setups aligning their production lines and machinery with regulatory requirements, such as CE marking in Europe, OSHA in the US, NR-12 in Brazil, KOSHA in Korea, GOST in Russia, and CCC in China.

What key technologies are used in smart automation for production processes?
The prominent technologies in manufacturing, such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and Business Intelligence (BI), have driven the convergence of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT). This convergence has prompted manufacturing units to consider employee protection, liability protection, productivity, and data security. As a result, safeguarding valuable data against unauthorised access and cyber-attacks has become a crucial aspect of intelligent automation in the production process. Pilz India provides a comprehensive portfolio of products, solutions, and software under the “Identification and Access Management” category, catering to safety and security requirements in manufacturing.

AI-powered algorithms detect defects with greater accuracy and speed to improve efficiency in manufacturing—your views.
Machine and line complexities are increasing day by day. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) based algorithms are increasingly deployed in machine and line automation to overcome various challenges. One such application is the inspection machines for quality checks of various products in various industries. These processes have been continuously automated from the cumbersome manual inspection processes involving humans, drastically reducing human errors and, thus, improving product quality. It is possible to further integrate AI-based algorithms in automation systems to enhance inspection machines’ speed and accuracy. These algorithms are also efficient for safe zone monitoring. Pilz safe scanners for 2D monitoring enable productive area monitoring and are well suited for stationary and mobile area guarding and access monitoring.

Can you provide examples of the implementation of smart automation in improving production efficiencies?
Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) is a crucial measure of productivity and efficiency in manufacturing. It is a valuable indicator of a plant’s added value and can swiftly demonstrate its overall productivity. Achieving optimal OEE relies on implementing safe automation solutions. Machinery safety is pivotal in preventing avoidable accidents and promoting an economical and efficient process, including reduced downtimes, capacity planning, and Predictive Maintenance. Guaranteeing the safety of both workers and machines is instrumental in minimising the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). Developing a tailored safety concept for processes and manufacturing units is essential for optimised operations. Therefore, embracing smart, digitalised, and safe production methodologies significantly contributes to increased productivity, enhanced efficiency, availability, and safety.

What are the potential challenges when adopting smart automation in production processes?
There remains to be a significant gap in awareness levels among operators and manufacturing units regarding advanced automation solutions. Successfully implementing revolutionary smart automation requires collaboration among stakeholders, including management, workers, implementation teams, machine builders, and automation vendors. Digital transformation is not the sole responsibility of one entity. Still, a collective effort. Challenges faced by Indian production processes include a lack of alignment, collaboration, and awareness of the benefits of digitalisation, along with the presence of legacy systems. Some manufacturing units still rely on manual and semi-automatic operations, requiring innovative approaches to address these challenges in their digitalisation journey. Out-of-the-box thinking is necessary to overcome these obstacles and propel such units towards digital transformation.

In what ways Cobots are transforming the manufacturing and production processes for SMEs?
The introduction of collaborative robots, or cobots, has revolutionised manufacturing and production processes for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). These cobots have profoundly impacted safety, enhanced efficiency and productivity, reduced maintenance efforts, optimised space utilisation, and provided cost-effective automation solutions. As a result, SMEs are now better equipped to compete in the market, increase their output, and streamline their operations. The traditional concept of confining robots within cages needs to be updated. Cobots have transformed manufacturing lines by enabling a new way of working and operating. Ensuring enhanced safety is paramount when using cobots to protect machines and humans. Today, cobots have significantly lightened the workload for human workers on production lines by minimising maintenance efforts and enhancing overall productivity and throughput. Additionally, cobots have effectively reduced the space required for machines since there is no longer a need for cages to safeguard human operators. This has direct implications for machine installation and plant costs. 

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