“Demand for PC-based controls is increasing”
Beckhoff Automation GmbH & Co KG is known to provide PC-based control technology and automation solutions that are used worldwide in a wide variety of different applications, ranging from CNC-controlled machine tools to intelligent building automation. The product range covers industrial PCs, I/O and Fieldbus components, drive technology and automation software. In 2007, when the German firm decided to set up base in India, the company selected Jitendrakumar Kataria, Managing Director, Beckhoff Automation Pvt Ltd, to head the operations. The flexible Beckhoff automation technology provides a basis for solution-oriented, simplified engineering that enables the Indian engineers to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow. Since 2007, the Indian unit has witnessed phenomenal growth enabling domestic manufacturing industry to implement advanced automation solutions using powerful industrial computers and Ethernet Fieldbus communication technology to build innovative and high performance machines. In this interview with Rakesh Rao, Jitendrakumar Kataria highlights the importance of PC-based controls and trends in manufacturing with the advent of Industry 4.0.
How has been the journey of Beckhoff India?
Beckhoff, which started in 1980 in Germany, began its journey in India in 2007. We have experience of almost 39 years and presence across the globe. In the last 12 years, we are going strong in India with a team of about 74 people, out of which 50-60 are engineers. We are spread across seven different locations in the country starting from Noida, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Coimbatore, Chennai, Pune, and Mumbai. Our next office is coming up in Kolkata.
So, you are pan India now...
Yes. We are catering to customers from different verticals such as machine tools, packaging, pharmaceuticals, wind, renewable, etc. Building automation is another vertical where we are doing a lot
What is driving demand for your products in India?
Industry 4.0 is upcoming thing and Beckhoff is known for innovation. We started with PC based control in 1986 when we started using computer as a controller. In those days computers were used for data logging and data processing, while we used it for machine control. That means we already have IT (information technology) and OT (operational technology) on a single platform by using PC based control. For Industry 4.0, people need to have connectivity. When machine control is the main thing on the machine it helps in connection. Instead of using an add-on product which understands PLC and IT language, our controller itself is IT.
Another advantage of using PC based control is that they have the highest processing power. Also, a lot of developments, which are happening in IT world, can be easily integrated into the automation world because our software TwinCAT can adapt to all of these developments and it resides on this platform with Windows Operating system and turns it into a controller. That is a beauty of TwinCAT software. While the software is compatible with all the existing systems, it has been developed in such a way that it will be suitable for even systems of the future. So whatever we develop today our customers can use it in the long term.
Companies in India are increasingly looking to automate. Is this leading to rise in demand for your product?
The automation market in India is growing day by day. We are also graduating to the next level. People, who were making machine with fewer controls, now want to have a smart control on the machines. Certainly with these requirements they want to have better control system. Besides, exports from India are also increasing. Initially, Indian machine builders were catering only to the domestic market, but now they are exporting globally. A lot of international companies are coming to India and they have increased the level of automation which is required on the machine. Hence, the demand is from end users because they are now aware of latest technologies that they can use for better productivity and growth in the future. The demand for PC-based controls is increasing as it allows users to connect all their machines together on a single platform and then integrate with MES (Manufacturing Execution System) and ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems that they have. By doing this, users are closer to their customer and also know what is happening on the shop floor as the controls provide a good visibility. It is a big change.
Are SMEs your major customers?
SMEs are also our customers. There are a lot of small equipment manufacturers who are doing a quality job. With our control system, we enable them to manufacture world class quality products. We have good strength of application engineers on board who understand requirement of a customer and see how Beckhoff products can cater to the requirement. We do this bridging activity where we don’t just sell products, but also act as a consultant to SMEs and machine builders. SMEs find it very useful.
What is your focus at Intec 2019?
Coimbatore is a very important market for us. We have a team in Coimbatore. We are also working with PSG College of Technology and have set up a lab (Centre of Excellence for PC based Automation Technology) in Coimbatore. At Intec, we would like to reconnect with our existing customers who are already using Beckhoff products and show that we are their partner. Coimbatore is the heart of machine tools manufacturing and many of them are displaying their products at the trade fair. We would like to reach out to new local manufacturers and cater to their requirements. We want to help them understand the technology, show them our new products and see how they can utilise Beckhoff's products to upgrade their systems.
What are the key challenges faced by companies when they want to incorporate automation? How, as a vendor, you help them overcome these challenges?
Every equipment manufacturer has a requirement of automation. But most of the times they look at automation requirement as an
island of control instead of having birds’ eye view on how this automation can help them connect to the external world. We help them to understand this and explain the importance of the next generation machines that can talk to each other. After thorough discussion with customers and understanding their requirements, we offer probable solutions to fulfil their needs.
The PC based control allows users to do data logging and analytics on same equipment. With analytics they can create artificial intelligence which can be done because of PC based control technology. Measurement technology can also be integrated on the same system and there is no need of an additional measurement device.
What are your growth plans for Beckhoff India?
We are young 12-year old company growing very strongly in India. We have application engineering center in India that help us understand the needs of domestic customers and also showcase them Bechkoff’s solutions. India has huge engineering talent and resourceful engineers who are in search of automation technology tools that can catapult their industry into an advanced global manufacturing hub. Beckhoff enables Indian industry to design and develop innovative and value added machines.
We recently shifted to a new, bigger office in Pune. We will be employing additional 25 application engineers in coming two months
who will cater to global market. In future, in addition to serving the needs of the local market, the Indian unit intends to tap the overseas market.