The CEO Summit at the Automation Expo 2017 was conducted on the opening day of the exhibition at 6.30 pm at the NESCO Hall.

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    Automation Expo 2017

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The theme of the CEO Summit this year – attended by Chief Technological Officers, Chief Technical Officers, Scientists, Researchers and Consultants from leading engineering and automation companies – was Innovations and R&D in Automation Industry in the next 5 years.


After introduction of the panel comprising Dr B R Mehta – Sr Vice President – Reliance Industries Ltd; Mr Alok Verma – Managing Director, Haldor Topsoe India Pvt Ltd; Mr Gurumurthy Santhanakrishnan, Business Leader–Digital Solutions, GE Oil & Gas; Mr Anil Bhatia, Managing Director, Emerson Process Management, India; Mr K Nandakumar – Chairman & Managing Director, Chemtrols Industries Limited; and Mr G  Ganapathiraman, Vice President and GM (India and South East Asian operations), ARC Advisory Group, there was the traditional lighting of the lamp and the proceedings began with the welcome address by Mr M Arokiaswamy, Managing Director, IED Communications.


Dr B R Mehta opened the proceedings and set the tone of the deliberations on Innovations and R&D in Automation Industry India. He defined how the future plants will look like?

  • Horizontally and vertically integrated
  • Self-diagnostic and self-healing
  • Wireless
  • Nano technology sensors with low power and low cost but highly reliable
  • Remotely operated
  • No environmental pollution
  • Positive carbon foot print.
  • Automated knowledge retention.
  • Usage of Cloud technology, and
  • Energy storage.


He also gave a quote by one of the experts indicating whoever desires constant success must change his conduct with times. He said that current automation is influenced by IT and the key effects of IT technology are:


  1. Digitalisation
  2. Automation
  3. Robotisation
  4. Miniaturisation
  5. Specialisation
  6. Customisation
  7. Globalisation
  8. Mutation
  9. Commoditisation
  10. Disintermediation
  11. Modularisation, and
  12. Technological determination.


Dr Mehta further indicated that in the process of these effects, many centres are shifting:

  1. Centre of Proximity and Concentration.
  2. Centre of Culture/Entertainment
  3. Centre of Production
  4. Centre of Excellence
  5. Centre of Integration
  6. Centre of Creativity
  7. Centre of Discovery
  8. Centre of Brokering, and
  9. Centre of Servicing (Concierge at large).


Dr Mehta talked about 10 innovative technologies which can change our life by 2020 and invited various solution providers to indicate their plans on innovation and R&D keeping the summit open for further discussions.


Mr Alok Verma – Managing Director, Haldor Topsoe India Pvt Ltd – began by referring to the innovations and R&D in automation and how this has changed the world. Speaking about his long experience in the fertilizers industry, Mr Verma noted how just two decades ago, the gestation period for a fertilizer plant from concept to commissioning was often stretching up to 20 years is now reduced to less than a year, and the actual commissioning with all the safety checks now happens in just 15-30 days instead of months, all thanks to automation and the related integration and self diagnostic and self healing features of many systems. Also in India the cost of energy is very high and the wastage rampant, and how essential it is to optimise the use of energy through automation. Mr Verma concluded by highlighting a few points like operating a plant through hand held devices, where distributed control modes are getting integrated in a single device; more and more data management by cloud and converting data into smart data; and analysing the same for digitalisation, robotisation, specialisation and hence, better productivity.


Mr Gurumurthy Santhanakrishnan, Business Leader–Digital Solutions, GE Oil & Gas, who spoke next started by talking about GE’s transformation from what was essentially a power and turbines company to an Internet era company, thanks to the vision of the legendary Jack Welsh, carried forward by the present chairman Jeff Immelt. The global financial crisis acted as a catalyst in this transition and the realisation to reduce its heavy dependence on financial services. Thus began the march towards digitalisation and the launch of Predix, which has now evolved into an open source, licensed software platform, open for third parties to use in a secure environment. Predix began by using the data collected from the millions of GE engines and turbines through sensors and the learning from its analysis. It enables industrial-scale analytics for asset performance management (APM) and operations optimisation by providing a standard way to connect machines, data, and people. Mr Santhanakrishnan summed up by giving the practical example of the problem of corrosion in the energy and utility pipelines now stretching collectively to millions of kilometres and how automation alone can offer predictive solutions through data analysis for timely remedial measures without shutdown. So is the case with pressure vessels and their maintenance.


Next to speak was Mr Anil Bhatia, Managing Director, Emerson Process Management, India, who straightaway came to the point by stating that the main objective for him is to listen to the customers and what they expect and really want. Referring to Dr Mehta’s vertical and horizontal integration, he said it is necessary to evolve a system of ‘control on the move’. Stressing the fact that Emerson is a process control instrumentation company and shall remain so, Mr Bhatia mentioned the company’s huge global innovation centre at Pune where 2000 engineers are working to develop new products and applications. Peopleform the most important factor in such development and working in partnership with the customer, the related R&D and with the help of all available tools, making it a People –Processes – Partnership – Tools equation. The smartphone, which has already revolutionised communication, will play an important role in the industrial field too, as more and more smart instrumentation will happen. Working on an Integrated Plant Platform, IIoT will be the most important layer. Mr Bhatia concluded by giving the example of the control valve which according to a study is responsible for 32% of a plant’s problems. So collecting data, analysing it and predict valve failure in time to take remedial measures will have huge savings potential.


Mr K Nandakumar – Chairman & Managing Director, Chemtrols Industries Limited, began by making a reference to the location of the CEO Summit and the positive impact it had on the environment by conducting it at the exhibition venue rather than a distant hotel, which would have necessitated travel by so many cars – the core concept of zero effect/zero discharge for effective reduction of carbon footprint. Next he spoke about the problem of cavitation in control valves, but how the process of cavitation can be used to advantage and gave the example of a case where it has been used to kill microbes in the water to prevent water borne diseases. “We are into process analytics and this needs ‘shelters’ for protection,” said Mr Nandakumar. He also emphasized the need to be creative in solving problems. “Can we reduce the cost of cooling in water treatment? Can we reduce cost without affecting the process,” he asked. Innovation is happening as the case of the prediction on intercontinental solar energy powered flights by 2025 proves. But Mr Nandakumar was sceptical about R&D in automation happening in India as we do not have the eco system to create it, and again quoted the example of Germany which debated and discussed Industry 4.0 and its impact in all its aspects before going for it. He concluded by giving the example of the huge potential of nano materials and nano technology for better quality of life and conservation of resources.


Finally, it was left to Mr G Ganapathiraman, Vice President and GM (India and South East Asian operations), ARC Advisory Group, to sum up the proceedings of the CEO Summit and highlight the takeaways. This he did with great clarity, capturing the following points:

  • Listening to an understanding the requirements of end users – what they expect
  • Energy efficiency as the key to better productivity
  • Effective data management/Cloud – the next driving factor
  • IIoT – the biggest driver for automation
  • Development of apps/Open Source technologies for automation
  • ‘Control on the move’ and its importance
  • Technology in the service of humanity, and
  • Continuous innovation.


Mr Ganapathiraman concluded by quoting the example of NTPC in India where all plants are now remotely monitored bringing great efficiency to the process. Gas turbine monitoring by remote is happening for 15 years now. What is important is drawing through knowledge – knowledge captured and knowledge used for greater benefit of all stakeholders.


The CEO Summit came to an end after a brief Q&A session, which mainly discussed data security, threat of sabotage and job security, issues that most agreed are also being handled effectively through counter measures like safeguards and greater surveillance, and developing new skillsets for training the unemployed for the automation era.


Ms Jyothi, Director, IED Communications, proposed the Vote of Thanks and all the delegates then joined the reception with live music, cocktails and dinner, and more discussions and networking opportunities followed.

Image: (L-R) Mr G Ganapathiraman, Mr Alok Verma, Mr M Arokiaswamy, Dr B R Mehta, Mr K Nandakumar, Mr Gurumurthy Santhanakrishnan, and Mr Anil Bhatia.