Dr Peter G Martin
Global Vice President, Business Innovation, Schneider Electric
Dr. Martin has over 35 years in industrial control and automation. He has authored numerous articles, technical papers, and books. He holds multiple patents. Fortune named Dr. Martin a Hero of U.S. Manufacturing. He was also named as one of the 50 Most Influential Innovators of All Time by Intech, and received the Life Achievement Award by the International Society of Automation (ISA). In 2013 Dr. Martin was elected to the Process Automation Hall of Fame, and was selected as a Fellow of the International Society of Automation. He holds BA and MS degrees in Mathematics and an MA degree in Administration and Management, a Master of Biblical Studies degree, a PhD in Industrial Engineering, and a PhD in Biblical Studies. In conversation with Dominic Rebello, he reveals why he believes that industrial automation in India will grow in a big way...
What is your outlook on the Industrial Automation in India?
In many ways India is setting the direction for the rest of the world. In India the operators in the control room are engineers, whereas in the rest of the world the operators are not engineers. In India companies bring-in highly qualified people and allow them to run the plant. The engineer operator learns and grows while on the field, which is more important than academic learning. There is no better place for an operator to learn than on the field. The control system becomes an experience of environment for every one who is working.
You put an engineer operator on the job who learns and gains experience by doing the job on the field. India has the advantage of the education system, which is evolving and growing rapidly. 30 years ago one had to go out of India to get a good degree. But, now India has some of the best engineering colleges .
Which are the key trends in process automation?
The trends changing across the globe but slowly. Earlier, if you good in maths in high school you would be engineer. Top talent went to industry, but now it is spread across the various fields. Even if the US wishes to reach where India is, they can't as they do not have the resource. They are working at this but it is not there.
What are the growth drivers for industrial automation in India?
Cyber security and IoT are the main growth drivers. Today everybody wants open, dynamic operating system, that are secure and integrated into one another. They are diverse concepts. On one hand you want open and at the same time you want it secure. A lot of industries are looking at cyber security and that is becoming the growth driver. The second thing is the increasing speed of business, which is trying to determine how they can better control the profitability of their plant. They know things are not working the way they worked the traditional way which worked for 30 years and are looking at industrial automation, to try to tell them and help them how to solve those problems. Those drivers are huge drivers. Today if any laptop or mobile was more than 30 years old no one would look at them. The question then is why are the industrial companies not replacing them. People repace their PC instantly but do not think of replacing the control system. The control system controls the plant.
That is one thing that is slowing the process. It is upto to the automation industry to go and show what an upgrade would do to the plant. If one has to pay 2 mn dollar to upgrade the control system, the automation industry has to go and show that the person or company going to upgrade will get a benefit of more than 2 mn dollars. Or else it is not a good investment. The industry is not prepared yet, but over the next 3-5 years different solutions showing value the whole industry will become a big growth driver. Not yet but over the next five years, it is expected to be so. Challenge is that it costs a lot of money and second challenge is that the control system worked for a long time and has not given any problems. As a plant manager I would say that the control system has worked fine for the last 25 years. Plus it will cost me 2 mn dollar to replace it . Unless you can prove to me that the upgradation will profit me in a really big way I am fine with it. When one company from the industry ugrades and sees the results, others follow. By using technology, the industry can create a large amount of economic value. The value proposition has to be economic.
Your thoughts on Robotics...
Most of the robots should be used in heavy process industries, where the same process needs to be repeated over and over again. There are areas in plants where you do not want people going into. The environment is not good or conductive for humans to be into. So if we can programme the robots of do the functions in places where we do not want humans to be in. We see technology replacing jobs. In the last 10 years technology replaced a lot of jobs in the industry, but what we have witnessed is that people do not loose their jobs, they just have a different job at the plant, which is satisfing.
How automation can add value to the ‘Make in India’ initiative?
The governments ‘Make in India’ initiative is a great concept. India has a lot to offer. India's biggest advantage is its talent base. The biggest question now is how do we capitalise now on it. India has a lot of engineers who are operators, lot of control engineers, who have a different perspective than engineers anywhere else in the world. It that talent is deployed correctly, India can become one of the leading control areas in the world. I beleive India will excel amongst other countries.
What are the Opportunities for process automation in power and renewable energy sector?
There are a lot of opportunities in the power and renewable energy sector. There is an attempt to shift from coal based power plant to renewable resourses. Historically a lot of power is generated through coal in India and throughout the world. With the engineering technology that we have today, I really think we can add a clean coal based power plant. I think the movement away from coal is an emotional one. 20 years ago coal based power plant were polluting, but today a solution can be found.