Smart factory solutions can help automate 80% of manual processes: President and CEO, Global Panasonic Factory solutions | Interview

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Published: May 16, 2019 12:27:24 AM

The SMT automation business is the largest contributor to our smart factory solutions. Owing to the push given to the phased manufacturing in smartphones, the industry as well as Panasonic’s SMT product has witnessed four times growth.

Hiroyuki Aota, president and CEO, Global Panasonic Smart Factory SolutionsHiroyuki Aota, president and CEO, Global Panasonic Smart Factory Solutions

India can become a $1 trillion manufacturing economy by 2025, says Hiroyuki Aota, president and CEO, Global Panasonic Smart Factory Solutions. In an interview with Sudhir Chowdhary, he says that it is imperative for businesses to invest in technologies such as automation through Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) to become globally competitive and achieve this goal. Edited excerpts:

What solutions do you have on offer under smart factory, and whom are these solutions targeted at?
We have integrated our welding business and SMT (Surface Mount Technology) equipment business to consolidate our software and hardware capabilities and become an end-to-end integrated Smart Manufacturing Solutions company. The smart factory solutions proposition will enable us to deliver broader, high value-added, smart solutions and services along with world-class hardware to the manufacturing industry. These solutions are aimed at Indian manufacturers who are looking to take a leap forward and establish a true smart digital factory.

What are the focus sectors for you?
Our solutions can be used in multiple applications across sectors such as two- and four-wheelers, mobiles, smart meters and energy meters. We believe there is a huge opportunity in mobile manufacturing and the ICT manufacturing industry at large. Similarly, in the automotive industry there is an increased amount of sensors and electronics that are built inside a car today and with our strong legacy of providing SMT machines, high precision robots and other related technology, providing our smart factory solutions to this sector becomes an easy choice.

And as we move forward, we will build a phased strategy to tap into other sectors.

How will smart factory solutions help manufacturers in India to improve overall efficiency and productivity?
Our smart factory solutions will not only help manufacturers identify bottlenecks in the manufacturing process, but also be able to collect manufacturing and assembly-related data and provide feedback to customers in an automated manner. For example, through iLNB, all equipment set up in a production line can be controlled by one system. Information collection, display of information such as machine production data or machine condition can be seen on a remote control centre. The solution can communicate with the entire line of machinery and can automate up to 70-80% of manual processes.

We have plans to introduce solutions such as the motion board and i-Reporter to help realise process visualisation, waste elimination, productivity enhancement, unmanned operations and reduction of personnel. These services will help establish direct links to the market and reduce the process of receiving orders, manufacturing, inspection and shipping.

What kind of investments are you making under smart factory in India?
We are making three clear investments under smart factory in India:

We plan to open multiple technical centres in the country, starting with Manesar which we expect will be operational in the next 7-8 months. This technical centre will allow us to exhibit our products and solutions and also help us train our customers on operating a digital factory.

The second investment area will be initiating accessories and peripherals’ assembly in the country.

Last, we will be creating a repository of relevant know-hows for India and generating a human resource pool to understand the need of Indian manufacturers.

What are your plans for ramping up this business?
We will continue to innovate and bring latest smart factory solutions for the Indian market through strategic investments in training programmes, capability enhancements, and alliances with Indian IT companies to become the single point of contact for smart factory solutions. In addition to the technical centre at Manesar, we will look at investing in more centres across the country to showcase our capabilities and strength in smart factory and help customers skill their employees.

The SMT automation business is the largest contributor currently to our smart factory solutions segment. Owing to the push given to the phased manufacturing in smartphones, the industry as well as Panasonic’s SMT product has witnessed four times growth.

With this integrated business, we will offer customised solutions on top of our hardware. For example, the digital reporting solution will help manufacturers have complete end-to-end visibility and traceability of the production line. We have been leaders in welding machine solutions and SMT and we will increasingly focus on enabling our products with software capabilities.

We have set ourselves a revenue target of Rs 1,000 crore from this business and we expect solutions and digital manufacturing to account for 15% of our smart factory solutions business.

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