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Trends in automation industry

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Anup Wadhwa, director, Automation Industry Association.
Anup Wadhwa, director, Automation Industry Association.

Automation Industry Association (AIA) would like to see a college teaching instrumentation or controls or robotics expand their curriculum to cover topics such as Asset Management, Production Engineering and Simulation, Energy Conservation, Material Handling and Packaging, Machine and Human Safety, Quality of Work and Environment and Tracking and Tracing Systems,” says Anup Wadhwa, director, AIA.

The automation industry is understood to be growing at a significant rate in India. What does this mean to job aspirants?

Automation industry is all about maintaining a competitive edge. If you do not choose to follow the path of improving your competitiveness, some one else certainly will.

Automation industry is about enabling Safety (Manpower, Equipment, Product) Profitability and Productivity (Higher production output with lower costs -cost of production, reduction of waste), Consistency and Dependability of Quality and Capacity (elimination of people dependent variances, ensuring 100% process control through inspection and quality control) and flexibility (able to achieve multiple models, and quick product changes without human learning curve).

The automation industry is growing rapidly at more than 100% per year and is expected to continue growing similarly for next 3 to 5 years. The interesting point about this growth is that it is not limited to the large scale industry, and the SMEs use of automation is growing at even higher percentages.

So in reality there are 2 segments that get impacted. One segment of job aspirants is that goes directly to the manufacturing and infrastructure sector. The other segment is the bunch of engineers and technicians that seek employment within the automation industry. They have to be hands-on people.

Are the aspiring candidates employable or is there a gap? What should educational institutions do to address this?

In a nutshell, the challenge before our colleges and universities is to generate quantity and relevance for both segments.

The question we need to ask ourselves is “How big is the technology gap between its usage in industrialised nations to that in India? ” This question addresses two parts. In terms of technology itself, India is rapidly catching up to the global standards, and the technology gap could be under 30%.

Most recent advancements in the areas such as advanced versions of robotics, controls technologies, vision and sensor based systems, safety systems, laser based flexible tooling, jig-less operations, in-process verification, post-process control are being used in India.

There is a large gap – however, in the usage of the basic technologies as well, as in relation with the industrial nations, usage of Automation in India is less than 10% to 30% (from SME to Large Industries), representing a rather large usage gap. This gap exists because engineers aren’t trained to think adequately about business and social demands. AIA would like to see a college teaching instrumentation or controls or robotics expand their curriculum to cover topics such as Asset Management, Production Engineering and Simulation, Energy Conservation, Material Handling and Packaging, Machine and Human Safety, Quality of Work and Environment and Tracking and Tracing Systems.

Could you elaborate on the Automation Industry Association’s Campus Connect activities with educational institutions?

What we have envisaged at AIA is that we will bring in subject experts from the vast pool of our member companies and they will complement the training given by professors. This model of mixed faculty will work well for all kinds of training. It will be appropriate if the automotive hub around Chennai gets a world-class training facility here. The IIT Madras – AIA joint programme on Automation and Robotics augurs well to make that a reality. AIA is bringing in faculty from ABB, Fox Controls, LandT , Peperrl-Fuchs and Siemens.

We also have a proposal to offer a full semester course to IIT and others who may be interested. AIA has also begun engaging with management schools. Our future managers will need to manage production facilities, infrastructure projects and globally connected enterprises.

Is your proposal to set up diploma schools for technical training also a step in that direction?

We are not keen nor geared up to set up green field infrastructure. One may justify new infrastructure if that is meant to showcase a model “centre of excellence”. We believe there is a case for a few and that would require government, academia and industry to collaborate. Also let me caution you that the curriculum needs of diploma schools are different from engineering colleges.

What are the career options in the Automation Industry today?

All the automation companies need professionals at various levels. Campus recruits are picked from various colleges who are then trained in different areas of automation and prepared for various roles in the company.

Professionals (engineers with a few years of experience) who have some exposure to Automation from end user industries and also from our industry are assigned roles in Project engineering, Application engineering, Product engineering, Concept marketing, Consulting, Sales etc. Specialists are paid very well for their expertise and the value that they bring in for the business both within automation industry and the user industry.

The biggest and world best companies are here now, such as ABB, Emerson, Honeywell, Invensys, Rockwell, Siemens and Yokogawa. Besides, there are engineering leaders such as LandT, and other technology providers and system integrators.

About 50,000 core professionals are deployed in the automation segment. We expect this demand to double in the next four years. Science and IT graduates having an aptitude for machine and process control will find space for a niche and fulfilling professional career.

What are the future plans of AIA?

While the trend today is to hire mostly from within the automation industry, we are seeing possibilities of cross-border hiring from Manufacturing / Projects / Consulting and IT sectors increase as and when engineers in those sectors realize the enabling value that automation brings to their career growth.

The pathway to the future is Innovation in Education, and that is what AIA will focus on. A few of our member companies like Forbes Marshal, Messung Systems and Honeywell have teamed up to regularly interact with faculty and students of College of Engineering Pune, Cummins College of Engineering for Women and Vishwakarma Institute of Technology. We are studying this model carefully and will integrate the learning in future Campus Connect activity.

Learning is a natural phenomenon and we hope teachers and managers find our initiatives as exciting as students. AIA recently partnered with Ghaziabad and Noida Management associations to support a symposium organized by the faculty of AK Garg College of Engineering.

We were encouraged by the thirst of academia to reach out to industry. Moving forward, we shall lead and support many path breaking initiatives that are guided by the spirit of excellence and innovation.

MEERA SRINIVASAN


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