Industry 4.0 will continue to be the dominating trend in the global industry.
Q. Please take us through the journey of Schmersal in India. How far along has Schmersal India come since inception? What are some of the milestones you have achieved in the journey?
A major milestone was achieved in April 2017: our factory in Ranjangaon near Pune produced the millionth safety switch since it became operational in 2013. The current manufacturing capacity is five million safety switches per year. Schmersal India has continuously expanded its sales activities in India by opening sales offices in Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai and by expanding the network of sales representatives. Also, we have set up a free trade and warehousing zone (FTWZ) near Mumbai, which is specifically for global Indian companies who are allowed to import goods at a special concessional duty. In spring last year, Schmersal India inaugurated its global support IT centre in Pune. This is the first global support activity that has been established outside Germany, and India has been recognized as one of the competence centres with skilled resources to provide support for SAP implementation and software development to the entire Schmersal Group.
Q. With IMTEX around the corner, what are your expectations from the mega event being held in Bengaluru from January 24 to 30?
IMTEX is a flagship event for the Indian machine tool industry and one of the largest exhibitions in South-East Asia. For Schmersal, as a leading international systems and solutions provider for machine safety, Asia – and especially India – is a very important region. We regard IMTEX as a good opportunity to present our advanced safety solutions that help our customers to keep pace with the rising trend of automation and the digital transformation process in the industry.
Q. Tell us about the products you are showcasing and are there any new launches?
Schmersal is presenting innovative components and systems for machine safety, such as RFID-based safety sensors and solenoid interlocks. We will also showcase complete safety solutions, e.g. safety fences and doors of our global sales partner Satech Safety Technology combined with Schmersal’s solenoid interlocks or safety light grids. Safety fences are ideal tools not only to safeguard large machines but also robot workstations. And it is very beneficial for our customers that we are able to offer such integrated solutions from a single source. Industry 4.0 is another focus point at our booth. Industry 4.0 requires an efficient exchange of data within the value chain, clear digital identification of products and use of real-time data to control production. That’s why we are advancing the communication capabilities of our safety components. For example, our safety installation systems with an SD interface enable a cost-effective wiring of safety switches in series, with the “serial diagnostics” interface used for the transfer of non-safety related data. Safety sensors and interlocks fitted with an SD interface can transfer extensive diagnostics data which enable predictive maintenance and the avoidance of errors and machine downtime.
Q. Please update us on the recent developments and trends in the safety segment?
Industry 4.0 will continue to be the dominating trend in the global industry. In future, machine builders will begin integrating the capabilities of digitalization into devices and machines from the very outset, so that they can transmit data to the next level up or to an IT environment. The desired effect is greater efficiency through cross-location process control or predictive maintenance. IT and automation are increasingly merging into one, which means that safety systems will need to be as communicative, flexible and dynamic as production systems. We’ll also need to start looking at safety and security as one, as new data-driven systems are vulnerable to manipulation by hackers. This will require safety and security experts to work together more intensively. Today, for example, conflicts of interest that spring from competing requirements on safety and security are not dealt with systematically enough in the early development and planning phases.
Q. How do you perceive India as a market?
The increasing awareness of safety in the Indian industry leads to a significantly higher demand for safety solutions and services. Another driver for market growth in the safety technology segment are robotics which are taking over the manufacturing floor. Machine safety functions such as controlling, limiting, and positioning are a must for automated robotic processes. Machine safety products sense emergency situations and stop robots from making and damaging products or harming operators.
Also, international standards and global safety norms have propelled Indian companies to augment their safety initiatives. Therefore, Schmersal welcomes the decision of the BIS, the Bureau of Indian Standards, to adopt the ISO Standards. Our Indian customers will benefit from the introduction of the ISO because all Schmersal products already comply with the ISO standards, that means: When our customers buy our products, they can be sure that these components are 100 % compliant to the new Indian norms – at no extra cost involved.
Q. Comment on the opportunities and challenges that you see in the country in your segment?
The challenges include the fact that in India, many industries still stick to old machines that may create hazardous situations. For such occasions, Schmersal provides services in risk assessment on machines which identify the possible hazards. In the next step, we either suggest to our customers to design and implement appropriate safety measures, or we do this ourselves as a service to the customer. This job is carried out by our safety services division, the tec.nicum. Our tec.nicum division has a team of engineers, trained from Germany for functional safety expertise and possess a profound understanding of complex legal and technical questions including the ISO standards.
Another challenge is the still prevailing skepticism around safety solutions due to the misconception that safety hampers productivity. The opposite is the case: Well plannedsafety solutions contribute to productivity. The opportunity lies in convincing our customers to involve machine safety at an early stage of the machine conception in order to achieve a high-level of machine safety and productivity. If required, our service division tec.nicum designs and implements complete, easy-to-operate safety solutions adapted to the individual needs of the customer.
Q. Which sectors do you primarily cater to? Tell us about your key clients.
Our customers currently include many international names in industries such as machine tools, heavy industry – such as cement, mining, steel and coal – automobile and automotive, elevators and escalators, packaging, food processing, pharma, plastic, textile and robotics. Initially, production was destined primarily for the Indian market. Today, we are delivering our products to the whole of SAARC countries (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation).
Q. Please elaborate on how expectations and demands of Indian buyers is evolving with time?
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% 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.
Q. How does Schmersal meet these requirements to ensure customer satisfaction?
Embracing the ‘Make in India’ initiative, the manufacturing facility of Schmersal India is enhancing its product range by designing and manufacturing customised safety products as per the needs of the customer specific applications in India. Also, Schmersal plans on adding more skilled manpower to enhance their local R&D centre and 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, meaning that we are very close to our customers and the market. With regard to robotics, Schmersal offers a comprehensive range of products to safeguard robot workstations, such as optoelectronic protective devices, safety mats, RFID based interlocks etc. We will showcase some of the most innovative products of this range at IMTEX.
Q. What is your future vision and growth plan of the company?
The Indian market offers massive potential for the years to come and we will continue to see an increased demand for the high-quality safety technology from Schmersal. Hence, we see a promising future for Schmersal India and we are expecting further growth in production and employment.