“Industry 4.0 is inconceivable without functional machine safety”

To compete globally, Indian companies, who are feeling the need of advanced production optimisation tools, have started investing in automation. But the digital transformation poses new challenges with regard to machine safety, says Sagar Bhosale, Managing Director, Schmersal India Pvt Ltd.
“Industry 4.0 is inconceivable without functional machine safety”
To compete globally, Indian companies, who are feeling the need of advanced production optimisation tools, have started investing in automation. But the digital transformation poses new challenges with regard to machine safety, says Sagar Bhosale, Managing Director, Schmersal India Pvt Ltd. In this interview with Rakesh Rao, he elaborates on relevance of machine safety and how Schmersal is helping companies to meet safety and efficiency goals.
 
Kindly brief us about your company and products & services offered it
The Schmersal Group is a global market leader in the field of functional machine safety with headquarters based in Germany. Our product range includes the latest generation of safety sensors and optoelectronic safety equipment to secure hazardous areas, as well as programmable safety and automation controllers, lift switchgear and switchgear for explosion protection. With our international subsidiaries and trading partners we are present in over 60 countries. And we are still on an expansion course, especially in the region Asia Pacific, Middle East. We have just opened new branches in Bangkok and Dubai. 
 
Also, Schmersal has set up a safety services division named tec.nicum, which offers all machine manufacturers and operators a manufacturer-neutral consultancy on all statutory guidelines and supports them with the safe design of their machines. Our safety services division is a worldwide network with Functional Safety Engineers (FSE) certified by TÜV Rheinland. At Schmersal India, we have employed six certified FSE professionals. Schmersal India was established in the year 2007.
 
In 2013, we started manufacturing in Pune. Also, Schmersal has added more skilled manpower to enhance the local R&D team in the engineering center in Pune and in the local product management to focus on developing even more products for the Indian market. To date, Schmersal is the only company producing safety switches directly in India – true to the motto ‘Make in India’. However, we have also started an export-oriented unit (EOU) in our factory to manufacture products and export to other parts of the world. So, India is a major hub, not only for the Indian market, but also the international market. 
 
Our R&D team is focusing its efforts on the new challenges posed by Industry 4.0 or the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). The industrial production in times of Industry 4.0 is all about increased data gathering and exchange, strong communication channels and intelligent networks. Therefore, we are working on solutions that enable our components and systems to also deliver non-safety related data and to communicate these data right up to the cloud, if needed.
 
How can companies benefit from Schmersal as they strive to reduce cost and increase productivity?
Machine safety is of utmost importance to achieve these objectives. It is a prerequisite in any industry to improve efficiency. Well-planned safety solutions contribute to productivity because they prevent lost time accidents which cause production loss and economic damage. To achieve a high-level machine safety, we, at Schmersal, recommend three steps of safety assessment. Firstly, we assess safety at the design stage, then we ensure to incorporate all safety measures during the production stage and lastly, we make sure all the safety standards are in place by actually monitoring the real-time performance of the machine when it gets deployed at the shop floor of the end user. 
 
How are today’s manufacturing plants different from yesteryear? 
Flexibility is becoming an increasingly important characteristic of machines and systems. Batch sizes are becoming smaller, and it must be possible to adapt the machines to different products and market conditions both straightforwardly and quickly. This situation is due to shortening product life cycles, an increase in promotional items and special sizes, and both the trade and consumers want greater product and packaging variety. Therefore, machines are often of a modular design. This modularity makes it possible to react to market requirements more flexibly. 
 
Packaging manufacturers, for example, also want quick format changes so that a very wide range of package sizes can be manufactured efficiently. These requirements have effects on machine safety. Greater flexibility can be best realised in relation to safety by using modern, safe control technology such as Schmersal’s safety controller Protect PSC1. Programmable and configurable electronics permit the adaptation of the safety functions to the specific application. A major advantage is the modular design of the control technology.
 
In terms of Smart Manufacturing where does India stand compared to other developing countries?
Companies in India are showing an increasing readiness to adopt advanced technologies. An example is robotics: In 2017, robot installations in India increased by 30 per cent to a new peak. Hence, it is of utmost importance for companies to address safety issues with robots. They need to make sure that robots and humans are working together without endangering the human life and the process. Companies are getting more and more aware of the opportunities offered by state-of-the-art safety technology, especially in terms of productivity enhancement. The MSMEs have started incorporating simple electromechanical devices, non-contact type of sensors and simple safety relays in their plants, whereas the large-scale industries integrate high-end RFID products along with Safety PLCs making the most use of the technological advancement.
 
Why “Smart Manufacturing” is important for the success of “Make in India”? What should be the role of government in encouraging companies to adopt latest manufacturing technologies?
Based on the fact that the company, which does not deliver price competitive quality products in shorter period of time is out of the race, Indian factories are feeling the need of advanced production optimisation tools. In order to be successful in the market the industry must continuously improve its competitiveness. Industry 4.0 concepts can help to achieve this goal. However, Industry 4.0 would be inconceivable without functional machine safety. 
 
International standards and global safety norms have propelled Indian companies to augment their safety initiatives. In today’s connected age, safety and design engineers in Indian companies are constantly in touch with their global counterparts. They are updated on the safety practices and policies followed globally and feel necessary to have similar practices here in India. This is a great transformation as engineers now expect organisations to have machines conforming to relevant international standards. Therefore, Schmersal welcomes the decision of the BIS, the Bureau of Indian Standards, to adopt the ISO Standards. Not only because it will contribute to economic growth in India by facilitating immensely the import and export of machines to and from India. More important is, that employees in India will benefit from improved safety standards. And, last not least, our customers, too, will benefit from the introduction of the ISO standards. They should welcome this development even more because all Schmersal products already comply with the ISO standards.
 
Can SMEs also become “Smarter Manufacturing” unit? If yes, how?
Automation yields safer working conditions and better output rate. Slowly, small and medium-scale manufacturers understand this fact and have started investing in new technologies to increase the level of automation. But the digital transformation poses new challenges with regard to machine safety, too. However, many companies, and in particular SMEs, have constraints in terms of having expertise, skilled resources and labour capacity with regard to the complex issue of machine safety. So, with our safety services division tec.nicum we offer them either selective support or the full-service package which includes comprehensive consultancy and project planning. In addition, we develop innovative safety technology that supports our customers in introducing digital production processes.
 
Especially smaller companies tend to neglect machine safety. Making them aware and convincing them to follow safety guidelines is a challenge. We at Schmersal conduct seminars especially in smaller cities targeted specifically at MSMEs and we offer them complete, easy-to-operate solutions. To ensure optimal use of safety devices, we interact with employees who directly use the devices and train them. We also have a demonstration room at our factory, where customers can physically see the solution in use and experience the ease-of-using the device, its diagnostic capabilities and other useful features in person.
 
Are you planning to launch any new product/solution for helping companies to become ‘Smarter’? 
Just recently, the Schmersal Group presented a new Industry 4.0-compliant solution: the PROTECT PSC1 safety controller with integrated OPC UA server. Thanks to the integration of OPC UA into the PSC1, the data of our products can be made available for a manufacturer-independent exchange, be it from one machine to another or for cross-company communication. We consider OPC UA as a pioneer for Industry 4.0 as it standardises industrial communication and ensures interoperability between products from different manufacturers. Also, Schmersal recently presented a new “Safety to Cloud“ solution, ie this solution enables the communication from the sensor right up to the cloud. These are all examples about how Schmersal is developing pioneering safety technologies to support our customers in the introduction of Industry 4.0 compliant production systems.
 
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