2012 Robotics & Automation Special: Interview - Ranjit Date

Automation has proven to reduce the land and factory space use by 30-50 percent.

Autocar Pro News DeskBy Autocar Pro News Desk calendar 17 Sep 2012 Views icon18882 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
What is the new range of robots that PARI plans to bring into India and what is their USP?

PARI has recently launched its new series of gantry robots and part-handling automation products like high performance AS/RS (Automated Storage & Retrieval Systems), AGVs (Automated Guided Vehicles), and Intelligent Conveyor systems to act as a backbone for intra-plant logistics and material handling.

Gantry robots perform extremely high-speed transfer of parts from station to station, without consuming floor space, and due to high speed and precision, allow speedy operations enhancing productivity and space efficiencies. In today’s customer- driven market, where choice of product options are driven by the customer, the automated mass production lines are things of the past. Now the automation is programmable, allowing multi-model, multi-process operations to be performed on the fly, without loss of the cost benefits of mass production. These solutions not only reduce labour costs but, more importantly, do not bottleneck productivity or quality as a result of labour limitations or dependence.

Can you detail the types of robots you offer to industry, more specifically the automotive industry?

We provide automated solutions for most manufacturing process like machining, welding, assembly, stamping, hot forging, heat and surface treatment and quality control. We also automate the intra-plant, inward and outward logistics and material handling, enabling high levels of efficiency and quality in the manufacturing operations.

Specifically for automotive OEMs, we provide complete automated lines for assembly – both for precision systems like engines, gearboxes, axles, and subassemblies like turbochargers, fuel pumps, steering, as well as general assembly like final vehicle assembly and ancillary sub-assembly modules like seats, exhaust systems, brakes, as well as automated lines for machining of precision powertrain components for customers ranging from two-wheelers, passenger cars to light, medium and heavy commercial vehicles.

How does automation contribute to cost savings and increased productivity, especially when hiring skilled manpower is an issue?

The operational benefits of automation – reduced cost and defects, efficiency of space and capital investment – have now been well recognised for making automation a part of planning for most automotive OEMs. The Tier 1 and 2 ancillaries are also rapidly adopting automation.

The key realisation of this trend is now the resulting strategic benefits of competitiveness and sustainability. When scaling up, manufacturing, quality or quantity variance resulting from person to person variation, and steep learning curves for change in the manufacturing processes and operations required for model changes and flexibility, are limiting factors that reduces competitiveness. This is due to higher costs, higher time to market, and lower choices for customers.

On the sustainability front, the dependability of either production quantities or quality that enables matching up sustainably to dynamic market conditions also is a major limitation. Automation provides strategic solutions to overcome both these limitations.

How do you view the scope for further automation in OE factories in India? Which regions in India are experiencing more growth?

The question for OEs is not whether to automate, but how much to automate. This depends upon not only their investment strategy and capacity, but also the product and platform decisions driven by the market strategy.

At present, although still well behind with respect to the western benchmarks, India has made rapid strides in improving ratios like cars per man, OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness), FTQ (First Time Quality), variants and changeovers. India will continue to invest rapidly in technology to keep abreast of the west, and will be in a comparable league in this decade.

Specifically on the new capacities, our new projects are mainly in Gujarat. However, Pune, Delhi, Chennai and Uttarakhand regions are continuing with modest growth.

How are PARI’s products comparable to others?

Providing world-class manufacturing technology economically and a strong organisation backing it up, allows our customers to confidently depend upon our products, and yet save a substantial amount of capital investment. This has not only made us the market leader in India, but we also have global recognition and project wins in our international customer base.

What is the current import content and what is the level of localisation?

At present, we import only special component level of contents, which is about 20-30 percent of the value of the equipment. We are localising some of the manufactured mechanical parts that are being imported presently.

How significant is PARI’s service and manufacturing operations in India?

PARI serves all its customers at their plant locations, hence we have 12 service locations around the country. At present, we have over 150 engineers and technicians dedicated to field services, as we deploy our solutions at customer sites, as well as support them through product lifecycle. Our manufacturing operations are based out of a facility at Shirwal, about 45km from Pune, where we employ over 600 people. This facility is our largest in India and one of the largest in the world, spanning 73 acres of campus with over 300,000 square feet built-up assembly and test facilities. We have recently launched a large manufacturing facility with fabrication, heavy machine shop, precision machine shop, sheet metal working shop, tool room, heat and surface treatment facilities.

Will the new generation of robots with their high prices make them commercially viable to the Indian automotive industry?

Fortunately, the new generation of robots are also highly cost effective. I have not seen newer products being launched that are more expensive than older products. The cost trends had been, in fact, on a decline till 2008-09. Presently, it has become stable to slightly upwards due to increasing cost structures and lower volumes due to global economic conditions.

In India, the cost of skilled manpower has climbed up very rapidly over the last three years, in addition to energy costs, transportation facilities and finance, which are also contributing to the rising cost of equipment although the rise has been a modest 10-15 percent over the past three years.

Do you experience any challenges in automation and its future in India?

At present opportunities far outweigh challenges, and I have no doubt in my mind that automation will increase steeply in this decade, bringing India at par with the developed world by 2020. Nonetheless, challenges that will exist include fluctuating market and political conditions resulting in challenges on the fixed costs front, skilled manpower availability, attrition, increasing costs and foreign currency fluctuations on controlling import costs.

Will the new range of robots use less space, thereby reducing issues of land acquisition and rising real estate costs?

Automation has proven to reduce the land and factory space use by 30-50 percent. Furthermore, the technologies in automation of logistics and storage using high-rise AS/RS can reduce space use by upto 95 percent.

What is PARI’s roadmap for the future in India?

At present, we are focused on enhancing our capacities and engineering strength to cater to ever-growing needs of automation. Simultaneously, we have a vibrant R&D programme innovating new products and applications for the industry and uses.

We have, over the past three years, also launched automated car parking solutions for car users; personal car parking allows a single car owner to park three cars in the same space. Other car parking solutions include those for commercial facilities and office establishments that allow hundreds of car spaces to be created, and public facilities with car parking spaces for thousands of cars.

How do you view the global trends in robotics and automation?

Globally, industry is increasing its automation level and also enhancing its manufacturing processes and capabilities to derive highly flexible production lines that accommodate variable production volumes, and variety of product mixes, without losing the benefit of mass production.
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