Robert Bosch Engineering and Business Solutions Private Limited, a 100% owned subsidiary of Robert Bosch GmbH, is the largest software development center of Bosch, outside Germany. This indicates that it is the technology powerhouse of Bosch in India with a global footprint and presence in US, Europe and the Asia Pacific region. In this interview with IPF, Dattatreya Gaur, VP and Head of Business Unit, Robert Bosch Engineering and Business Solutions (RBEI), discusses Industry 4.0 and opportunity for Bosch in India.
Kindly brief us about Robert Bosch Engineering and Business Solutions
We are predominately in engineering software products & IT solutions. We were established close to 20 years ago, and now employ around 19,000 employees. We are headquartered in Bangalore and have technology innovation centers located in Bangalore and Coimbatore. In addition, we have development centres overseas mainly in Vietnam and Mexico. About 75% of our business comes from engineering and IT solutions account for the rest.
How are smart manufacturing and Industry 4.0 shaping up in India? How is Bosch driving this trend?
Bosch has a two-pronged strategy – one is lead user and other is lead provider. Lead provider means that there are number of companies within Bosch Group that provide bricks (products & solutions) that are used to build smart manufacturing businesses. Bosch is also an early adopter of innovative technologies within its own manufacturing facilities globally – numbered at 270 production plants – thus leading the Industry 4.0 revolution within its group.
In India, Bosch has 18 manufacturing units. In next three years, we aim to make all our Bosch plants in the country Industry 4.0 compliant. Experience gained through the adoption of new technologies within our own manufacturing facilities helps us understand the need of our customers better and offer them appropriate solutions.
Which industries are at the forefront of this?
In the last two years, trade bodies, associations, and government agencies are putting in untiring efforts to create awareness about the need of smart technologies in the manufacturing sector. As a result, a wide spectrum of manufacturing companies are aware of the need to upgrade their facilities to be competitive in the market.
How is RBEI, Bangalore, helping Indian companies to gear up for next industrial revolution (ie, Industry 4.0)?
Our strategy is very simple. We develop client-focused products, which are basically software solutions. When you talk about Industry 4.0, we are talking about the industrial Internet of Things (ie, sensors, software and solutions). These are the backbone of any smart factory. We are developing these technologies & applications and deploy them at customers’ manufacturing sites.
We are witnessing very good traction. Right now we are working with couple of automotive majors who are gaining from RBEI know-how and solutions. We cater to both greenfield as well as brownfield projects. For existing facilities (brownfield), we provide new sensors and other requisite solutions to support seamless integration for the customer. We are seeing growth in demand from greenfield as well as brownfield projects.
Is it easy to incorporate Industry 4.0 solutions in greenfield projects than brownfield?
There is no straightforward answer to this. It depends on where you (customer) are and what you want to achieve. The customer’s preparedness is also a key factor to determine the successful implementations of smart solutions. If they are prepared (mentally, culturally and technologically), then they can enjoy the complete benefits of going digital.
Smart technologies are a cost-effective proposition for customers irrespective of the project type (greenfield or brownfield). Our experience says that upfront cost of implementing Industry 4.0 solutions is not huge and customer can expect return on investments (ROIs) in less than two years.
What are the main challenges before companies when it comes to implementing Industry 4.0 solutions?
First, and probably the only challenge, is the mindset of the customer. As you know there are multiple stakeholders in manufacturing industries – such as workmen and shopfloor supervisors, plant management and CXO - and each one of them have different views on Industry 4.0. It is very important that all of them are in sync when it comes to implementation of smart solutions. If this happens then it is just a matter of time, training and picking up the right vendor.
With regard to auto industry, are OEMs (& their suppliers) increasingly relying on smart technologies?
There are three mega trends currently underway in the automotive industry - connected, automation and electrification – as far as product (vehicle) development is concerned. Connected vehicles, which are a reality today, allow the user to share internet access with other devices, both inside as well as outside the vehicle.
In addition, factories, manufacturing these cars, are also becoming smarter. This is an interesting area of development. Bosch, which is the world’s largest supplier of auto components, uses smart technologies at its factories across the world to reduce costs and improve efficiency. For example, it uses RFID for intra-plant logistics. RFID based asset tracking improves production planning and reduces downtime on the shop floor. Asset inventory management, coupled with RFID technology, provides increased accountability and cost-efficiency at the enterprise level.
How important is cyber security in an era of Industry 4.0?
This is an interesting question. Increased connectivity of smart machinery is a hallmark of Industry 4.0, heralding a new age of connected and smart manufacturing.
With technological advancement, industries are facing a new operational risk of cyber attack. This is a real threat and measures need to be taken to mitigate this risk. Cyber security strategies should be part of organisational strategy from the start and it should be able to ward off any malware or other security challenges.
We have made a big investment in ensuring our installations are safe and secure from any cyber attack. We also keep on updating these systems in line with evolving technological trends and tackle existing and new online threats. This is a continuous process.
Will drive to increase usage of electric cars help companies like Bosch? Are there any challenges that need to be solved?
Globally, Bosch Group is currently engaged with all the top auto makers to develop electric power train and system technologies. We see the same push towards electrification of vehicles in India and we are ready with technologies to support auto manufacturers in India to make the transition from internal combustion engine to electrification. Bosch is supporting not only four-wheeler manufacturers, but also three- and two-wheeler makers.
At present, electrification is in a nascent stage in the country; however, we are seeing that the industry and the government are taking steps to make this transition a reality. How soon it will happen, nobody can give accurate answers. However, Bosch is already equipped to support car makers in their journey towards electrification with its globally-tested technologies & services.
What are your growth plans for Robert Bosch Engineering and Business Solutions in India?
RBEI sees better growth ahead of us. More importantly, we are witnessing some technological disruptions that are coming up. For example, with an increase in automation, more developments will take place on the software front. This will open up more growth opportunities for us.
Which are the major end-user industries that offer high growth potential?
All core manufacturing industries are users of our solutions, and hence offer huge business opportunities for us. The automotive sector is a big market for Bosch in India and will continue to be so as a result of various new developments taking place with respect to technology and regulatory requirements. Mobility, healthcare, energy, etc. are some of the other exciting markets for us.