Omron – Rapid shift towards automation in Indian packaging machine manufacturing

The pandemic has catalyzed industrial automation in India

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Sameer Gandhi, managing director, Omron Automation India, at Automation Expo 2022. Photo: PSA
Sameer Gandhi, managing director, Omron Automation India, at Automation Expo 2022. Photo: PSA

There has been a rapid shift toward automation in the packaging machinery manufacturing industry in India in the last two years as the demand for speed and efficiency has grown in the Covid-19 pandemic, Sameer Gandhi, managing director of Omron Automation India, told Packaging South Asia during the recent Automation Expo 2022 in Mumbai. 

Omron works very closely with some of India’s leading packaging machine manufacturers, especially in the vertical form fill seal (VFFS) and horizontal form fill and seal (HFFS) segments. 

Post-Covid, the demand for packaged goods has increased, and the consumer is looking for better quality. Customers are concerned about the environmental impact of packaging, which has greatly boosted some of our technologies – for instance, perfect sealing. What perfect sealing does is that it makes sure all the packs are produced, and the sealing is perfect, as the name suggests. Many companies are experimenting with eco-friendly packaging, and that is where the role of perfect sealing comes in. Because compostable materials can be a little challenging to seal, the sealing controls need to be much more precise for these laminates,” says Sameer Gandhi.

Zero-touch

Gandhi says that the acceptance of robotics in machine manufacturing has increased. “Covid made manufacturers realize that people will not always be available. This gave a boost to the adoption of movements such as zero touch. We have done projects involving high-speed pick and place where complete lines have been automated by multiple robots, and these projects were accelerated due to the pandemic’s impact on labor availability,” he adds.

Omron Automation India, a private limited company, is a part of the Japan-based Omron Automation. It offers automation solutions for the automotive, digital, infrastructure, and packaging industries. Globally, Omron employs around 30,000 people and generates a revenue of nearly US$ 6 billion (Rs 48,000 crore). The company aims to bring innovation to manufacturing sites through innovative- automation with ‘integrated,’ ‘intelligent’ and ‘interactive’ concepts and a wide product range encompassing panel components, smart sensors, vision technologies, PLCs, servos, drives, robots, cobots, and machine safety solutions (ILOR+S) technology. 

Apart from machine manufacturers, Omron works closely with end users and brand owners to offer quality inspection systems and end-of-line solutions.

Human-machine collaboration

Speaking about some future trends, Gandhi says that we will see more machine-human collaborations. “Initially, it was just the humans. Then came the machines. And then came a phase when the talk was that machines will replace humans. That has not materialized, and we have moved past that phase. Of course, simple tasks on the shop floor will increasingly be done by machines. But the trend now is more collaborative work between humans and machines. Cobots are one such example. Even in quality inspection and track and trace segments, there will be more man-machine collaborations,” he says.

Indian machine manufacturers are increasingly confident

The future looks very bright for the Indian packaging machine manufacturers, Gandhi says, adding there has been a clear trend of manufacturers moving up the value chain. “There has been a move from making slower machines to faster ones. From making simpler machines to more complex machines. This evolution will continue to take place in the Indian packaging machine manufacturing space. And because of this, there is a lot more confidence in the Indian packaging machine manufacturing industry,” he says.

Because of this growing confidence, many Indian companies are looking to export their machines to developed markets such as the EU and the US. We are seeing more and more companies participating in global exhibitions. This shows that the machine manufacturers have a solid business plan,” Gandhi says.

SF Vision 2030

Omron has announced its long-term business vision for India. Based on its global vision for the industrial automation business – ​​​​​​​‘Enriching the Future for People, Industries and the Globe by Innovative Automation’ – the company aims to translate this in the country by working with customers and partners to solve the issues of the manufacturing industry. 

The Shaping the Future 2030 (SF 2030) vision is cognizant of the fast-changing, dynamic, diversified, and complex world of manufacturing led by Industry 4.0 and digitization. The company believes that with its unique automation capabilities based on human-machine harmony, it will be able to contribute to the creation of sustainable and innovative factories coexisting with the environment and well-being of people.

Gandhi says providing solutions to make the factory floor more efficient, safe, and flexible has long been one of Omron’s core competencies. “In recent years, we’ve worked to automate manufacturing by integrating high-speed and high-precision control application technologies, making full use of IoT and AI to create intelligent equipment and production lines, and achieving interactive harmonization between people and machines,” he says. 

These strategies will help Omron shape the future of how India makes things by contributing significantly towards solving the challenges impacting the adoption of automation in the manufacturing sector, such as the lack of skilled resources and misconceptions around automation technologies replacing humans on the shop floor. The next decade promises to be exciting as a combination of India’s rising manufacturing growth trajectory and Omron’s focus on anticipating and resolving new and existing issues,” Gandhi concludes.

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

It is the right time to support our high-impact reporting and authoritative and technical information with some of the best correspondents in the industry. Readers can power Packaging South Asia’s balanced industry journalism and help sustain us by subscribing.

– Naresh Khanna

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