Industry 4.0 is a great development at this critical juncture

The Indian Institute of Welding (IIW-India) - established in 1966 - is a professional body fostering the development of welding science, technology and engineering in the country.
Industry 4.0 is a great development at this critical juncture The Indian Institute of Welding (IIW-India) - established in 1966 - is a professional body fostering the development of welding science, technology and engineering in the country. As a member society of the International Institute of Welding, IIW-India is helping to project the importance and achievements of the Indian welding industry to the global community. In this interview, R Srinivasan, President of IIW-India and Director of International Institute of Welding, elaborates on advancements in welding technology to meet the emerging needs of the customers.

How is Indian Institute of Welding fulfilling the needs of the welding industry?
The needs of the welding community in the country are totally different due to the change in the pandemic situation prevailing throughout the globe. The proper technical guidance to meet the technological needs for delivering commitments under revised working conditions are the main challenges faced by industries. The welding industry is no different. This challenge is more felt by the MSME and the small-scale sectors of the industries. MSMEs and SMEs cater almost close to 60% of the country’s manufacturing needs and this sector needs a lot of consistent guidance and support.

IIW India’s main aim is to support the industry with the technical knowledge in welding and material science by organising various custom-made programs. Organising specific welding courses and guidance to the industry are the thrust areas which the institute is presently concentrating.

Has Covid 19 pandemic created obstacles in the welding industry's growth? How can we overcome these hurdles?
The key challenge in the industrial sector is the non-availability of large-scale workforce which migrated during the lockdown period and has settled largely on agro set up. This has created a large gap between the availability and the needs. The absence of direct one-to-one communication between the industries and the knowledge resources is also proving to be a bottleneck at this time. The possible solutions are more direct connect through online and also optimise the facilities with automation and simple mechanisation to combat the impact of the sudden changes in the industry.

Is demand for automation and robotics increasing in welding? How geared up are the companies to tap this trend?
Yes, it is growing. This sector has started looking very bright. Large number of organisations in all categories and types of industries are exploring the possibilities of maximising the production by exploring the possibilities of introducing robotics and factory automation.

The growth drivers are sectors like automotive, packaging, process industries, heavy equipment, agriculture equipment, etc which are looking for more automation. Many small-scale companies, who are ancillaries to large companies, are also looking at this trend as an opportunity.

Skilled manpower is very important for the success of the welding industry. How is your institute helping in skill development in the welding industry?
This (skilled manpower) is a great need for the industry today. This is not only restricted to welding but to all industrial sectors. This is a global issue today.

IIW India has developed a large number of skill improvement programs in collaboration with industrial members of the institute. We have, in an association with Skill India, also developed a lot of knowledge banks and are supporting various sectors as Knowledge Partners. We are closely associated with various government agencies such as NSDC, automotive sector, steel council, heavy industries, capital goods, etc and are offering the services as assessors and curriculum developers to assist these sectors to produce large-scale welders.

In order to feed welding technologists, we are developing a lot of student chapters in various engineering colleges so that the students who pass out their basic engineering are already exposed to the welding science and make them eligible to be absorbed by the industries with little training. We are glad that IIW-India has developed 20 such student chapters in the country and we are targeting to reach at least 50 such centers by the year 2023.

Besides these, we have our National Welders Training and Certification Scheme which has been imparted throughout the country through various authorised training centers. IIW, with the support of industries, conducts an annual welding competition at all our branches and a final at national level. Over 350-400 welders participate in the preliminary rounds. The national level winners get an opportunity to participate in the international competition.

We are proud to mention that for the last 5 years continuously our Indian welders have won the awards in the global competition.

The auto industry has been a major user of welding technology. Will the rise in electric vehicles affect the demand for welding?
One new and good development does not close the existing needs but give rise to new opportunities. We should look at this change as a new opportunity. This is the greatness of engineering. The introduction of electric vehicles (EVs) will give large scale requirements for setting up various support facilities and onsite service requirements. The needs of special types of batteries, large number of charging stations, the design requirements and various other aspects will be a new requirement. Maybe this will give an opportunity for the existing persons to look into the new areas.

Is rising raw material prices a concern for the welding industry?
Always any cost increase is generally a concern for every industry. But, the rise in financial support from the government and optimisation of the facilities companies can mitigate the challenge of increased costs. Industries are geared to meet these additional costs. The improved productivity with the atomisation and manufacturing methods will give an opportunity to meet the additional costs.

What are emerging trends in the welding industry?
The introduction of Industry 4.0 is a great development at this critical juncture. The use of Artificial Intelligence (AI), digitalization, technology and sound technical support - with the emphasis towards the development of Additive manufacturing (3D printing) - are giving new direction to the industry. These sectors are already involved in a large number of R&D projects with researchers across the globe. All industries are trying to explore the facilities, which are going to be the new trend setters in manufacturing technique. IIW India is geared up to meet the latest advances and are designing training and support facilities for the industries to introduce these developments.

After a sluggish 2020, what are your expectations from 2021?
Though the first seven months of 2021 are much better than 2020, the initial period was affected by the second wave. The lack of industrial oxygen - as a large amount of oxygen was needed to help the countrymen for their medical needs, which was the need at that time - had a setback in industrial output. If further attacks of the pandemic do not affect the country, then we are confident that we will overcome the issues and might end the year 2021 on a better note. We are confident - with large scale vaccination and other support medical facilities that the Government is implementing - to deliver positive results. So, we are looking for a better 2022 and onwards. Let us all pray for the same.

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