By T Murrali:
The Technology Company Strengthens Smart Solutions Portfolio Beyond Mobility
Bosch, a leading supplier of technology and services, is promotingits beyond mobility business with smart solutions based ongreenfield digital technologies in a new-age manner to meet the growing infrastructure and consumer demand. Bosch has been reiterating that it is more thana brick and mortar company and it is a solution provider beyond mobility.
At the second edition of the ‘Beyond Mobility’ event organised by Bosch Limited recently in Bengaluru, the Managing Director of the company and President, Bosch Group, India, Soumitra Bhattacharya, said, “Our business is in a process of profound transformation from a hardware focus to models that focus more on services and data. We have the capability to develop greenfield technology that can power industries in a new-age manner.”
In the past few years, beyond mobility solutions have gained 35 percent and have contributed greatly to the Bosch Group’s turnover. The group’s initiatives in India are leading it into new verticals with digital solutions in the core. The company is continuously growing in connected industry, energy efficiency, smart home or other areas, owing to the successful collaboration of its cross-divisional teams, engineering heritage and the strong presence in India.
Asked if the shift in focus to beyond mobility with Artificial Intelligence, IoT etc, would impact employment, Bhattacharya said, for more than a century Bosch has been changing with the times. “We have done it and we will do it. We do this essential change by re-skilling, upgrading competency, and bringing in smart automation with affordable innovative technology. Employees at all levels, have to get skilled. In India it is a big challenge as factories with automation will have less people; but I don’t see that as a threat because there is much scope with companies, including Bosch, for re-skilling to tweak new jobs,” he said. It is unacceptable to go on inefficiently. It is essential to optimise to give the customer a better experience everywhere, in India or abroad,Bhattacharya said.
Dr Andreas Wolf, Joint Managing Director, Bosch Limited, said the current revolution is called ‘connectivity’ and by 2020, it is expected that 90 percent of many things will be connected. The connected devices would be six to seven times the number of people living on earth; it expands very quickly. “Connectivity changes the way we live, work and communicate. It is a unique opportunity for the industry here to come up to the next benchmark level,” he said.
This transformation is advantageous for India, especially with such structural reforms as the Goods and Services Tax (GST), and the Government-sponsored initiatives like ‘Make in India’, smart manufacturing, skill India, and smart cities. The infrastructure is also supportive as 84 percent of the country has high-speed internet. This is a unique opportunity for Bosch, though it has to tackle many challenges like lack of appropriate skills and gap in automation. It is necessary to improve the skill-sets of all the people to make them future-ready.
The automation divide in India is very wide and has to be bridged. China uses 27 times more robots than India. The Indian industry, to be world class, needs to take several steps, including bringing in methods to improve quality, changing the mindset, and adopting new technologies, since the customer expectations have changed dramatically. The acceptable level of quality in the past appears to be defective now. Customers today want tailored solutions at high volume. Five years ago, the difference in the annual forecast for volumes and what had been delivered was below five percent. “Today we have to deal with 30 to 40 percent spike in our delivery plans. The big issue for us is to go for higher levels of automation to increase productivity. We have toconsider ergonomics, time measurement and other methods of operational excellence. Connectivity, connected industry and smart manufacturing can deliver good solutions more efficiently for all these,” Wolf said.
Quoting from a research report he said that by 2020 the size of the world market for the connected industry will be worth €79 billion. This is 20 percent more than the size of the market for smart cities and three times for connected mobility. That is a unique business opportunity for Bosch, both globally and in India where it wants to be a leading service and solutions provider.
People are at the centre of this connected industry. In a connected world, before machines talk to themselves, people need to talk to themselves. “We wanted to find out what is required to boost these activities. Since everything starts from the top we need to provide some training and understanding for all layers of management, from the CEO to the shopfloor. Many of us here don’t belong to generation Y; that’s why we have started training programmes for the senior leaders of our organisation. We have launched them in three of our locations and two more will be included soon. We are offering this training to other companies through collaborations as also to organizations like the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), and universities. We use real life examples and use-cases,” he said.
“We have to build-up people, procedures, software and use AI to construct the future which is smart, connected and exciting. India,as an IT superpower, is well prepared to lead this development,” Wolf said
Hans Bangert, Managing Director, Bosch Rexroth India, said, the present buzzword is machines running with artificial intelligence (AI); this will move up to robotics and will be connected to a better computer vision. The robots will be more connected and become very smart.
The trend is for smaller robots; major robot manufacturers in the world from Germany, Switzerland and Japan are making for start-ups that employ smaller robots. Cobots, as they are called, can do more jobs than humans. They have a skin around them like a shirt. If there is human interference in their work zone, they would stop right away. Cobots are the future and more companies, other than the big four, would play a major role in robotics.
In India the main drive for robotics and automation comes from the automotive industry. India has 79 robots per ten thousand work places in the automotive sector. The US and Japan have 1,261 each. The future demand for them in India is huge, Bangert said. Rising labour cost, the customer demand for more reliability and better quality are factors that drive automation in India.
About Bosch, Bangert said, “We call ourselves the drive and control company. We are moving everything; we provide drives and controls to the market for factory automation. Control is basically the brain of the robot. All the motions are done by control and in many cases we provide this depending on the application to which the control is to be attached, with different software for handling, assembly, and others,” he said.
“This is the common ground for all scenarios. The first scenario is where we supply to the big players in the robot market. This is our main business. The second scenario is where we manufacture robots. The gantry robot is configured by our customers online for different applications; it is fully equipped with our drives and controls. This is a scalable, highly stable robot available in the market. Today, along with Switzerland, Japan and the US, India also makes robots. We are in partnership with the Pune-based Plasma Innovation which supplies the kinematics and we give them the controls and the back-up to market this robot in India. Its precision, high speed and a payload up to 100kg make it different from other robots,” he said. Robots of this kind are deployed at the state-of-the-art plant in Ahmedabad. “We have a two-fold approach; we use it for our own improvement of productivity in Ahmedabad and we also invite customers to our plant to show them what this robot can do,” he said.
About the advantages of robots, Bangert said, “They will not replace the skilled workers but would help to cover repetitive work. This would release people who could be trained in other types of work. To be competitive in India we would need quality and reliable products for which robotics would certainly help. Applying automation and robotics will reduce waste and increase productivity. Manufacturing would be more efficient, machine idling will reduce and its uptime would increase.”
In any manufacturing unit the cost per unit determines the efficiency – the lesser the cost, the higher the efficiency – and competitiveness. From that perspective would robots reduce the cost per unit? Definitely, said Bangert; maybe not right now, as the density is still low, but that will change. Ten years from now the costto the company of a factory worker would be much higher and the company many not be competitive. That is why it is necessary to introduce gradual automation and robotics to compensate for that. India will have to be very competitive to compete with imports.
Sharing Best Practices
On the possibilities of deploying best practices from other segments to automotive and vice-versa, Sri Krishnan V, Senior VP, Robert Bosch Engineering and Business Solutions, said, the company has been using Blockchain technology in agriculture, to trace and track the genesis of any organic product. “What we are trying to see is if the same technology can be deployed to track spurious spare parts in the automotive aftermarket. We see potential to engender such solutions. For example, we can use it in the pharma industry to track spurious drugs.
Yet another example in automotive would be electric charging supported by Blockchain. It can be used in battery charging where the history of the battery could be put on the Blockchain. We can also use it to trace the origin of energy through its supply chain especially as going green is important now. The idea is to create a platform that can work across sectors like energy, health care, agriculture and automotive. I call it the horizontal play of a new age technology. That is our focus of innovation,” he said.
Will vehicle tracking come under this concept as logistics play a major role in automotive? Krishnan said, logistics supply chain is one of the areas under development with Blockchain. It is possible to track the entire history from production to stores. Of course the willingness to pay depends upon how much value is created. There must be real value for the end-user.
The event also saw presentations from several other business divisions including industrial technology, energy and building technology, security and safety systems and consumer goods.