Omron to support automotive industry transition to ‘Smart Manufacturing’
Headquartered in Kyoto, Japan, Omron Corporation is a global leader in advanced automation, sensing and control technology. Since its establishment in 1933 as Tateisi Electric Manufacturing Co., the company is known to offer innovative solutions and advanced technologies in the realm of automotive manufacturing, industrial energy and healthcare among other segments.
Having started operations in India in 1980, Omron Automation, through its portfolio of sensing and control technologies, wants to play a key role in India’s transition to ‘Smart Manufacturing’, especially in leapfrogging the learning curve to remain competitive in the automotive manufacturing sector. Serving a diverse spectrum of clients, from brake manufacturers, to engine manufacturers and HVAC solution providers, the company recently invited the media to reaffirm its capability, of making Indian automotive factories smarter by exhibiting key ‘Input Logic Output Robotics plus Safety (ILOR + S)’ portfolio at its Automation Centre, in Mumbai.
With a wide portfolio of smart sensors, robots, vision, machine safety, PLCs, Servos and driveautomation solutions, Sameer Gandhi, Managing Director, Omron Automation, India, emphasised on the company’s commitment towards enabling Indian automotive manufacturers ‘make world-class in India’, and in-line with Industry 4.0 automation standards.
“The manufacturing industry may fall short of achieving the targeted contribution of 25% towards GDP, and that of reaching USD 1 trillion by 2025, if the automation industry does not work in tandem to help the machine builders make a continuous transition towards smart manufacturing. This ambitious target requires them to achieve unprecedented levels of productivity, efficiency, reliability, perfection, uniformity, flexibility and custom-made solutions matching global standards,” he said.
Gandhi stated that matching global standards would not be feasible unless automotive manufacturers achieved the most optimum levels of industrial automation. It was a prerequisite for manufacturers to meet the expectations of the demanding customers, in terms of design and energy optimisation, finest asset utilisation, worker and machine safety apart from zerodefect production. “A connected shop-floor with connected supply chains and connected customers are the needs of the hour,” he said.
Drawing attention to the company’s unique ‘3-i’ concept (Intelligent, Integrated, and Interactive) for making factories smarter, Gandhi and team demonstrated
commercially viable solutions, on the company’s existing platforms, for finding application across big data, traceability, robotics, motioncontrol, quality and inspection, safety and engineering.
Part of the 3-i concept, the ‘Intelligent’ aspect is claimed to make manufacturing smarter by utilising information technology. It is said to create additional value at the shop floor by enabling manufacturers to collect, visualise and analyse data.
In ‘Integrated’ technology, the company gave a demo of seamless integration of technologies through advanced control to pursue maximisation of machine performance and accuracy.
The ‘Interactive’ element solutions demonstrated were claimed to help manufacturers achieve the optimal levels of harmony between humans and machines. In case of the latter, machines are said to adapt to human needs over time and work in sync to enhance overall productivity.
With the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)-based solutions, said to create a seamless interface between all machine layers and information technology, supply chains are claimed to turn transparent, based on real-time data-based production management. It is said to enable manufacturers cope up with challenges like reducing downtime, decreasing frequency of ad hoc failures besides allowing for improved changeover efficiency.
Demonstrating a shift from ‘hardtooled robotic cell’ to ‘flexible integrated cell’, and from ‘hard coded conventional Automatic Guided Vehicles (AGV) with limited flexibility’ to ‘flexible AIV Autonomous Navigation’, Omron Automation, according to Gandhi, has been making rapid strides in robotics. Experts at the conference drew attention to the vision-guided robots that are claimed to reduce development time with a less footprint. Apart from inspection, the vision-guided robots are also said to be aided in recording data and images for analysis in the future.
It was the Autonomous Intelligent Vehicles (AIVs) mobile robots that caught everyone’s attention at the conference. Built to increase productivity in shopfloor and warehouses, the USP of these robots was their ease of operation which eliminates the need for complex assembly language programming. Adding reliability, scalability apart from its lightweight build, the capability to be customised for varied shop-floor layouts, for mundane, high-precision and hazardous tasks, make them an attractive proposition for automotive manufacturers. Equipped with Omron’s patented ‘Acuity’ technology, it is the robust selfnavigation system of the robots that the company is particularly banking on.
Acuity equips the robots to operate seamlessly and negotiate the constant movement of people associated with shop-floors. It can also negotiate pallets, carts, and forklifts across the shop-floor. The robots further have the capability of docking and undocking the carts independently with the help of advanced sensors fitted on to them. More than 100 robots can work at a time collaboratively, in a single warehouse layout, Gandhi said.
Focusing on the solutions business, including Robotics and IIoT, where the company is looking to be a one-stop shop for the requirements of diverse production sites and it is supporting manufacturing innovation worldwide. Banking on its global leadership and product portfolio, the company is building its capability by way of acquisitions, and by increasing investments periodically. The company last year (2017) completed the acquisition of industrial code reading and machine vision, company, the US-based Microscan Systems, Inc., and Sentech Co., Ltd., manufacturer of industrial cameras.
On a global scale, the company spends close to 6% of its overall revenue annually on R&D activities. In India, the company is making its presence felt across the country with its strong network of offices, automation centre, training centre, application teams and resident engineers along with channel partners of Omron Automation. With automation levels known to be at a nascent stage in the country, as a result of being looked upon as a capital-intensive proposition over deploying abundant cheap labour in the country, explained Gandhi, that growth is certain albeit more so in case of component suppliers increasingly looking to upgrade as they compete in quality with their global counterparts.
“We see a higher uptick with component suppliers among other stakeholders of the automotive ecosystem given that smart manufacturing is their best bet to compete on quality with their global counterparts. It is no longer a choice. The bigger question is sustainability over the longterm,” he said. With adoption of smart technology, a clear growth area, the challenge for Omron Automation, is to be able to get the industry to adopt the advanced technology apart from bridging the gap of skilled manpower that exists today.
OMRON Smart Manufacturing Solutions at the Automation Centre.