Debasis Nandi, President of Lenze India & South East Asia, is a seasoned leader with 39 years of expertise. His distinguished career includes pivotal roles at Larsen & Toubro and Emerson Electric, and he established Lenze as a start-up elevated to a large establishment.
Engineering graduate and master from IIEST & IIT studied management from Kellogg School of Management, bringing a global perspective to his role.
In a recent conversation with Thiruamuthan, a correspondent from Industry Outlook, Debasis shared his insights on various aspects of India's current automation machinery manufacturing sector.
What are your thoughts on the current automation machinery manufacturing sector globally?
In the case of machinery manufacturing, integration of mechanical engineering with integrated into electrical and electronic hardware for about 20 years now. Since consistent, high-performing machines for mid-level automation are a necessity, controllers and software have played a significant role in every machine. This development has not only increased productivity, but also improved quality and accuracy of the machines, while simultaneously reducing human errors and manpower cost.
Today, Germany and Japan lead in terms of machinery manufacturing, followed by France, Netherlands, Switzerland, US, China, and Korea. While India took some time to come-up, adoption of automation has increased drastically in recent times. In the last couple of years, both European and Japanese manufacturing companies have extended their bases for manufacturing products in India. With the recent growth rate in GDP and the growth in industries in India, manufacturing products domestically is the immediate need of the hour.
Suggest a few ways in which government policies can support the growth of automation machinery manufacturing in India.
To ensure the effectiveness of its initiatives, the government must come-up with a comprehensive policy based on suggestions from industry experts. This should start with easy components like chip manufacturing and robots, followed by the critical components. Today, many manufacturing bases are relocating, or additional capacities are being built in all capable countries. Cheap manufacturing is not a basic criterion, but sustainability and accessibility are two key points.
Despite most mobile and PC manufacturing happening in China because of the majority of large-size PCB makers being located there, India has indeed emerged as a big hub for mobile manufacturing, with components and sometimes PCBs being sourced from Asian countries. If similar developments happen in the industrial automation field, a unique combination of hardware and software would be built in India. The Central Government has allocated lot of funds around 75000 Cr. to support industries. I hope this will benefit automation Industry as well.
How is the industry adapting to technological shifts like mechatronics and digital services?
Mechatronics is not a new concept and has today become an integral part of modern technology. Most machines in factories are no longer run by just motors with electrical switches. PLCs, CNCs, inverters, servo motors, and drives coupled with safety devices and sensors have resulted in the emergence of an efficient mechatronics ecosystem being functional in various manufacturing setups. Digital services are however new and have several elements. While it is helpful to fix field service, predict future failures, and analyze the quality & productivity of machines or even plants, all these services are possible only by analyzing the collected data.
However, this is not used in many machines due to lack of infrastructure, along with employee apathy, negligence of management, and investment aversion – all of which contribute to the slow growth of usability. But since most automation devices comprise of 45 percent software content, digital technologies are maturing significantly, and more machines being connected will reduce cost and increase the richness of data.
Throw some light on the key challenges automation machinery manufacturing industry is facing globally amidst the current economic conditions.
In the last three years, the industry has been under several stresses and strains. Although most of the companies were closed during the covid pandemic, the demand for automation equipment that are less human-intensive and accurate increased manifold. Post-covid, the demand sky rocketed and the industry was deprived of devices and components, leading to very high delivery, price increases, and loss of customers. Today, most of the economies of the world are facing a huge decline in GDP, and countries like the US, China, and Germany have all gone down heavily in industrial production as demand is low.
The exception is that India is still on a good growth path because the demand for automation in India is growing. In FY24–25, I expect several industrial production units to step into India. While there are few large Japanese companies that are currently investing in and will continue to further invest in complete manufacturing in India, this is being followed by Swiss, German, and Italian manufacturers.
In today’s VUCA world, how is the automation machinery manufacturing industry adapting to the unique conditions of the Indian market?
The world is truly running through a VUCA phase, highly volatile economy and low predictability being the crises of the year. Also, uncertainties in getting raw materials or components due to a crisis of production or shut down of the plant are being seen very often. While sea transport hazards lead to uncertainty in transportation, wars and ethnic clashes have made operating a business very complex. The automation industry cannot be an exception when the economy follows a line, but the effect is less because the demand for automation globally is more than conventional systems. The other reason for the growth in automation is that machines are made with higher throughput and reliability than those that are manual and cheap to purchase.
These are a few reasons why the automation industry has had a relatively low impact and will face higher growth once the economy goes in a positive direction. For India predominantly, we have had lower use of automation compared to developed countries. Thus, the huge gap between the present conditions and the future will keep demand bullish in the next few years. Global VUCA have not yet affected Indian economy much and particularly automation industry as automation increases flexibility reducing volatility and uncertainty both.