India is investing hugely in infrastructure, catalysing growth of industries like cement and steel. It is also going to be the biggest drug manufacturer in the next couple of years. These industrial processes require automation to keep up with efficiency, accuracy, global norms and speed. Automation improves the safety and reliability of an industrial production process while maintaining a high product quality. With the increasing automation of industrial processes, there is need for efficient manpower as well.
Scope of automation
Anup Wadhwa, director, Automation Industry Association (AIA), explains, “Automation itself it a very vast field. Depending on the needs of businesses, different companies classify it via different criteria. However, for industrial purposes, we talk about manufacturing environments. There are front and back ends to automation, and companies deal in the same from the end user’s point of view. A company can be called to be dealing with process automation if the end user is operating in an explosive or hazardous area. Alternatively, it’s called factory automation if the field and applications are related more to the general manufacturing environment.”
“Automation industry addresses the design, development, production, and application of devices and systems that sense, measure and control industrial processes and manufacturing operations. This includes domains of basic continuous control, discrete, sequencing and manufacturing control, advanced control, reliability, safety and electrical controls, related software development and integration, deployment and maintenance, he adds.”
Leading academia and industry stalwarts emphasise that understanding the principles of automation will enable engineers across various industries to demonstrate new competencies that global leadership demands. These include asset management, production engineering and simulation, energy conservation, material handling and packaging, mechatronics, material and human safety, quality of work and environment, and tracking and tracing systems.
“Operator and machine safety are important issues and there are global standards and risk management practices that machine and equipment designers must begin adhering to. Industrial automation helps in implementing and monitoring safety and machine failure. It’s only logical that the more critical the situation, more the care to be taken while specifying the standard or practice that needs to apply,” informs Wadhwa.
Big demand, low supply
Automation industry needs people having electrical, electronics and instrumentation background. But there is a huge demand-supply gap for these engineers, though India has done a great job in terms of creating a good number of technical institutes.
“There were entrepreneurs and thinkers who realised that there is going to be a huge requirement of engineering talent in times to come. So they created a lot of private institutes and colleges, which churn out hundreds and thousands of engineers every year. However, very few of these graduates are actually ready for the industry. In fact, according to studies done by Mckinsey and Nasscom, only one-fourth of the graduates are ready for the industry,” informs Sabih Ahmad Kidwai, head-human resources (HR), Rockwell Automation India.
Automation industry is very niche. The industry itself is in a nascent stage in India and so we don’t have a huge talent pool available for the industry. On top of it, there are very few colleges that actually teach automation effectively.
“Most automation tasks require the engineer to be on-site, which means a lot of travelling and outdoor work. Those who prefer a comfortable environment—sitting all day in front of a computer in a controlled temperature—will definitely not like the automation field and should not think about automation as a career,” says Raj Singh Rathee, managing director, Kuka Robotics (India).
As for opportunities available, one can get into project, application, design or sales engineering. Then there are roles for industry experts. Of course, these are not for freshers but people who have been in the industry over a period of time. For example, there are power generation experts who know a power generation unit’s in and out. They know where automation is working, how automation would save energy or increase speed, and so on.
The main metric is grip on control. And as a design professional, you are expected to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to design practical control loop as per that metric. If you can achieve these, instrumentation and maintenance related solutions will be automatically on your fingertips. To make maximum use of the situation, you need to have expertise to survive in the global-quality working environment of automation.
Automation is a very technical field and therefore domain expertise and knowledge of processes is very important. Because of the technology-driven nature of this field, professionals must at all times keep