Process Industry India "There is a Huge Scope for Energy Efficient Components" Farook Merchant on the Indian Process Industry

Editor: Dominik Stephan

India-based Messung Group, with its indigenous PLC technology, and as an authorized representative of Mitsubishi Electric’s range of products, offers plant automation products and solutions. In an exclusive interview with PROCESS India, Farook Merchant, Chairman & MD, Messung Group of Companies, focuses on the status quo of Process Automation in India.

"In process industries, there is huge scope of replacing non-energy conscious components with energy efficient ones," says Farook Merchant, Indian automation pioneer and entrepreneur. (Picture: PROCESS India)
"In process industries, there is huge scope of replacing non-energy conscious components with energy efficient ones," says Farook Merchant, Indian automation pioneer and entrepreneur. (Picture: PROCESS India)

PROCESS India: How do you find the state of automation in general in the Indian process industries?

Farook Merchant: The advent of automation systems in the Indian process industry began with pneumatic control systems (stage 1). Then gradually it led to stand alone electronic loop controllers (stage 2). Thereafter, came the concept of centralized control systems (stage 3). The next stage was distributed control systems with local I/Os (stage 4), and the latest is with field bus I/Os. Now, even industrial Ethernet is gaining momentum (stage 5). The plants installed within the last five years or so are running with the latest technology (stage 5). But the older plants typically installed before the last decade or so are still operational with outdated automation systems (stage 3 or 4).

PROCESS India: What are the prominent growth areas?

Farook Merchant: Development in infrastructure defines the growth of a nation, and the focused areas of automation are always related to its growth. The power, oil & gas, steel & metals, cement et al, are the areas, which directly impact upon the infrastructural growth in India. The other important areas are water and waste water management, where huge potential of expansion is being seen in urban and municipal areas. The sugar industries are also one of the important verticals in process automation. The government directive now enforces them to have cogeneration power plants as a mandatory requirement. This has triggered the demand of automation systems and solutions for cogeneration power plants, apart from sugar process automation. Biomass power plants are yet another noteworthy area.


PROCESS India: What kind of reliability of the automation components is sought for these days?

Farook Merchant: In an increasingly global and highly cost competitive world, the pharmaceutical industries especially need high levels of innovation, flexibility and cost efficiency in order to stay ahead. Apart from preventive maintenance and process optimization to increase production efficiency, these industries are looking for some of the features like – higher machine throughput, multi-shift operation and greater flexibility of equipment with regard to different packaging formats and/or materials etc. This directly demands for reliable and world-class automation solution that gives maximum uptime and minimum Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF).

Further, the most important challenge for the Indian pharmaceutical manufacturers is to have US FDA 21 CFR part 11 compliant electronic systems or control solutions to sell products into the United States. The regulation sets out the mandatory requirements for compliance of electronic systems used in the industries covered by the legislation. These industries include drug & pharmaceutical, food & beverage, cosmetics, blood handling processes etc. 21 CFR Part 11 provides criteria for acceptance of electronic records and electronic signatures by FDA – which assures that electronic records and electronic

signatures are considered being trustworthy, reliable and equivalent to traditional hand written paper records. The automation solutions compatible with 21 CFR part 11 can be provided by domain experts like Messung – with complete product and solutions range.

PROCESS India: What are the other criteria that need to be checked before inking a final deal?

Farook Merchant: Before inking the final deal, mainly some other factors need to be considered. For example, optimum configuran and tion, with CPU processing speeds, networking or communication protocols and speeds, fault tolerance capability, process safety, overall cost of the solution and RoI and maintenance cost for a long period (typically 10 years).

PROCESS India: How to select a partner to ensure the best customized solution?

Farook Merchant: Proposed partner’s vast domain knowledge and expertise is very important. The firm should have comprehensive range of automation products and solutions, which ensure end-to-end solution from a single source. The partner’s reputation and strong financial base are also crucial. After sales support, services, training and repair proposals need to be scrutinised.

PROCESS India: What are the benefits of choosing an indigenous PLC technology vendor?

Farook Merchant: The main benefit of choosing an indigenous PLC technology vendor’s products is its in-house R&D, which can undertake special developments and provides scope for customization. The other benefit is easy product availability and supply, due to local manufacturing, apart from repair capability up to the component level.

PROCESS India: How to secure fail-safe operation through keeping right clauses in contract?

Farook Merchant: The fail-safe operation can be ensured by selecting the system, which gives redundancy at control level, power supply and network level. For example, Mitsubishi Electric (Japan) offers redundant solution with Process CPUs Q12PRH and Q25PRH, redundant network (MelsecNet/H) FAT (Factory Acceptance Tests) and SAT (Site Acceptance Tests), some more factors must be considered, while signing the contract with a vendor. These are (mainly) performance guarantee, equipment up time guarantee and service guarantee.

PROCESS India: How to ensure the latest technology and guarantee for tamper-proof components?

Farook Merchant: To ensure implementation of the latest technology, one must select a world-class automation product manufacturer. For tamper-proof automation components, one must exercise caution in procurement process. Always buy from authorized and registered channels of manufacturers.

PROCESS India: What are your suggestions to the Indian process manufacturing community?

Farook Merchant: Use energy efficient products or components and solutions. In process industries, there is huge scope of replacing non-energy conscious components with energy efficient ones. Control valves can be replaced with pumps, operated through Variable Frequency Drives (VFDs). Secondly, use Safety Instrumented Systems (SIS) as per IEC Standard 61508 or 61511. The Indian process industry must focus on the SIS for safety of – the people inside and outside the plant, plant assets, production and environment. There is a vital role for the providers or integrators of automation systems and solutions in this area. Lastly, select the technology that must be flexible enough to adopt the changes needed in future.

* The interviewer is the Chief Editor of PROCESS India

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