“It helps in the large scale production of day-to-day products, and this greatly improves competitiveness and quality as a whole.”
“It’s a paradox – manufacturers wanting machines of increased complexity at affordable costs,” Shrinivas, lead project manager on the Smart Panels Project, chuckles. “This phenomenon is happening around the globe, and the competition in the process industry is getting fiercer by the day.
Today, countless machines are configured to handle all sorts of processes. They’re prized for their smart programming and reduction of error. With increased competition amongst manufacturers wanting cost-effective machines that can accomplish more tasks, the challenge for Shrinivas and his team is to create a system that can do just that.
Shrinivas explains: “The reason why there’s a greater need for such machines, is due to cost pressure, global competition, rapidly changing technology as well as increasing environmental demands.”
There is only one way to solve this: with a competitively priced, flexible Human Machine Interface (HMI) system that can monitor and control all the automated processes in manufacturing plants.
The potential of smart machines
An HMI system is the space where interactions between humans and machines occur, and in this case, it’s the touchscreen panel of machines. “Nowadays, people prefer wider touchscreen panels and state-of-the-art graphics in these low cost panels,” shares Shrinivas, and he’s responsible for the development of such panels for the industrial automation of mass production.
“These basic yet sophisticated panels are called ‘SIMATIC HMI Basic Panels’, where SIMATIC refers to the name of the automation system developed by Siemens,” explains Shrinivas. They have both keypad and touchscreen functions, and their innovative widescreen displays have a high resolution of 64,000 colors. They are also especially energy-efficient, with 100% adjustable brightness. “This is the ideal entry-level series for simple HMI applications in low cost markets such as Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.”
What does this technology mean for those living in India? To put it simply, our competitiveness helps in the large scale production of day-to-day products, while improving quality. Meaning everyone can enjoy affordable, good-quality products.
Our success wasn’t down to individual teams. We were one big team of different nationalities who came together to work towards a common goal.Shrinivas Kulkarni, Project Manager, Smart Panels
Collaborating as one team
While solo performers may shine, working together can yield incredible success.
Alongside his colleagues in India, Shrinivas is part of a bigger team based in Germany and China. “We collaborated, and it’s this one team concept that truly helped us achieve success.”
“Yes there were fears and sleepless nights, and at times I felt like we might not be able to meet our deadline due to unknown factors or limited time,” shares Shrinivas, “but thanks to teamwork and resilience, the talented team pulled it off. All of us started on this project from scratch, and we were eager to learn new things. We had a common goal – we wanted to do more and learn more, and ultimately that kept us going.”
Their efforts finally paid off when they successfully launched the final product – eight panels in eight months. The team was also presented with a prestigious Excellence Award by the global Siemens team, to recognize their outstanding talent, hard work and dedication.
The future of mass production
The success of these panels has shaken the dominance of local competitors in the low-end HMI market, as competitors will have to upgrade and improve their current machinery in order to keep up with what Shrinivas and his team have created – innovative systems of stellar performance at minimal costs.
This also signifies a huge step forward in the mass production world. Operators working in automation plants can now enjoy increased productivity due to the new high-resolution widescreen displays, user-friendly touchscreens, and improved usability, especially since you can easily connect the panels to a keyboard, mouse, or even a barcode scanner.
When asked what he’s learnt from working on this project, Shrinivas reveals: “You must always be patient and never stop believing in your team.”
Moving forward, he looks forward to many more of such projects coming their way, and to continue leading the team to repeated success.
So, can machines ever replace humans?
As long as human minds stay inquisitive, they'll always be indispensable. Machines, working in harmony with society, can only make our ideas better.
“Success? We have done it before, and we can do it again!”