Industrial automation speaks with Raman V.P., Vice President-Operations, TECTON Engineering and Construction LLC, United Arab Emirates.

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  1. Waste water management has not been historically one of the strengths of Indian environment. What do you think needs to be done to increase the leverage of technology to achieve a better level of waste water management?


It is unfortunate that wastewater is often considered as an afterthought in India. Wastewater effluents are the largest source of pollution, as it contains many pollutants and substances like grit, debris, suspended solids, disease-causing pathogens, decaying organic wastes, nutrients and hundreds of chemicals.


With the rapid urbanization in the country, there has been a tremendous increase in the generation of wastewater. Almost 80% of the water supplied for domestic use comes out as wastewater. In most cases, wastewater is let out untreated, and it either sinks to the ground as a potential pollutant of ground water or discharged to natural drainage, causing pollution in downstream areas. Insufficient capacity of waste water treatment and increasing sewage generation pose the big question of disposal of waste water. As per the latest statistics, only 40% of the wastewater gets treated in class I cities and Class II towns. Serious thought needs to be given to achieve Singapore Model of using reclaimed water, which serves up to 30% of its needs, largely for industrial purposes, which is potable and demonstrates, what can be accomplished through tough policy and utilizing advanced technology.


Conventional wastewater treatment process is expensive and requires complex operation & maintenance. Typical conventional wastewater process involves - Preliminary Treatment (removal of coarse solids), Primary Treatment (removal of settled organic and inorganic solids by sedimentation and removal of floating materials by skimming), Secondary Treatment (removal of biodegradable dissolved organic matter using aerobic biological treatment processes) and Tertiary Treatment (removal of nitrogen, phosphorus, heavy metals, dissolved solids etc.). In many cases, the treated water not meets the prescribed BOD (Biochemical Oxygen Demand) standards, thereby rendering it unsuitable for household purposes.

There are some new treatment technologies that have come into practice and approved under JNNURM (Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission scheme).

  1. Sequencing Batch Reactor (SBR).
  2. Moving Bed Bio Reactor (MBBR) / Fluidized Aerobic Bioreactor (FAB).
  3. Membrane Bio Reactor (MBR)


In India, the wastewater systems are owned and operated by municipalities and require greater support from the local government, with substantial financial resources. Tough environmental rules/policies and improved infrastructure are the key areas, to focus. Government must aggressively pursue the latest technology and while carrying out the techno economic analysis, must consider life cycle cost, taking into account the capital and O&M cost, land cost etc., Other parameters such as influent quality, effluent quality for reuse, resource recovery (gas/electricity generation, etc.) should also be considered. Strict penalty clause shall be incorporated to ensure that the Licensor/Contractor ensures quantity to be treated (large turndown ratio of inflow) and maintain the quality of treated water and safety, apart from ensuring guarantees for various processes and equipments.


  1. What role would automation play in effective waste water management?


Every latest technology, involves a high level of automation, to ensure the efficient, consistent and optimum performance of the process and equipment’s, without compromising the safety and quality requirements. Automation for a typical STP involves distributed lift station(s), inlet grit chamber and then the process plant, containing Primary, secondary and tertiary treatments, DAF, Chlorination, etc. Each of the processing units is complex and involves a high level of automation and normally monitored and controlled from a central control room, using SCADA, apart from individual/local control of each process unit. The demand/load variations are controlled using VFD’s and smart MCC’s, which are interfaced to the SCADA system. An STP plant has various critical rotating & material handling equipment like compressors, blowers, centrifuges, conveyors, etc. which involves a high level of automation, for unmanned operation. Every STP plant has layers of Analysers, which continuously monitor the process in each area and take appropriate corrective action, in the case of offset from the guaranteed process parameters. The material selection and type of instruments also plays a vital role, due to the nature of fluids/semisolids involved in the process.      


  1. What are your views on IT in utilities and energy management in India as against global trends?  


India being a developing country, it needs to Achieve Economic Growth by increasing its pace of development through industrialization. There are two options to match the pace of industrial development. First one is to produce more and more industrial energy which is quite difficult considering depleting natural resources and the second one is to reduce the consumption of energy by improving energy efficiency, especially in utilities. Although carbon emissions in India remain low in per capita terms, total emissions are growing due to industrialization. The primary objective of energy management is to maximize profit and minimize costs, by optimizing energy and its utilization, without affecting the production. It also needs to minimize the environmental effects.


Managing energy and utilities is one of the challenging tasks in any process plant. In developing nation like India, approximately 42% of total commercial energy on any process plant is consumed in utilities. Thus the need to improve and maintain energy efficiency in industrial utilities is strongly felt to reduce energy costs and gain competitive advantage.

Reducing production costs, minimizing energy costs and maximizing the operational reliability of the utilities system can be achieved simultaneously through implementation of an integrated energy management and optimization system, which links business and operational objectives. With the advent of automation, coupled with IT (information Technology) can prove to be a boon under such situations. Many plant decision-makers have adopted advanced utility planning software which includes forecasting plans and demands based on statistical models. These software tools can model the required utilities system based on real time requirements.


Effective energy management is not just good for business but also becoming a mandatory requirement. Moreover, the best way to achieve is with ISO 50001, developed by Energy management experts from more than 60 countries. The international standard outlines energy management practices that are considered to be the best, globally.


  1. You are an expert in engineering design for some industries. Where do you see automation playing the biggest role in creating efficiencies?


Automation improves efficiency and productivity. In simple terms, Efficiency means doing “Things Right.” Automation can certainly help companies do more with less by removing redundant tasks and increasing the efficiency and effectiveness. Process automation serves to enhance product quality, master the whole range of products, improve process safety and plant availability, utilize resources efficiently and lower emissions.

Automation ensures that accurate information is automatically captured in real time, thus preventing much time looking for it. When information is scattered across multiple systems/locations, it becomes difficult proposition to find the correct information at the right time. Centralized control/monitoring system and data retrieval allows all required information at hand instantly and also facilitates the management to take suitable decisions. Automation reduces human errors by providing a digital paper trail for your entire operation in one place. It provides increased accountability for everybody’s actions across different systems. The traditional barriers between information, communication, and automation technology are gradually disappearing and with the latest technologies and advent of IT, like wireless networks, fieldbus systems, and asset management systems, boosts the efficiency of any process.


  1. How would you rate the automation adoption rate in India and what are the challenges? Are we there yet?


Globalisation of marketplace is the key driver for automation in India, as this ensures that the Indian industry adapts to the best of the technology available, to remain competitive globally. Automation can help the Indian manufacturing sector to be competitive by improving productivity, quality, consistency, and flexibility of the manufacturing process and also helps manufacturers to meet safety and compliance requirements. India’s manufacturing sector is on a high growth trajectory. Moreover, if implemented to its potential, the ‘Make in India’ initiative will further transform the Indian economy for the better, developing India into a strong manufacturing destination in this century.


Factory Automation is becoming an important part of the Indian industrial sector on account of the rising efforts to make manufacturing processes more efficient and reduce defect rates. Factory automation is proving to be a huge success in the Indian market due to extensive use of new and improved technologies, like the integration of IT with automation, for producing better products. Automation systems with advanced features are being deployed in all the major sectors such as automotive, chemicals, manufacturing, mining, etc., to perform some complex tasks and consistently provide customers with superior quality products.


Process Automation is one of the oldest industries in India that contributes significantly towards the industrial & economic growth of the nation. Traditionally, it has also been one of the strongest users of automation technology due to demanding nature of the manufacturing processes involved. Going beyond conventional use, today, the trend is to integrate manufacturing processes with IT by way of MES (Manufacturing Execution System) and PLM (Product Lifecycle Management), so that the efficiency improvement is extended beyond manufacturing process to the complete value chain of the organization. Sustainability will be one of the key drivers in the immediate future due to growing concern for the environment, leading to use of automation technology for energy management & optimizing processes by way of advance process control, in such a way so as to consume least possible energy and raw material. The latest trend to keep a close watch is the future is Internet of Things (IOT) which will add another level of value for our customer.


In future, the pressure on efficiency (and production costs) will only go up, forcing the manufactures to implement highly efficient processes. Regulatory, safety and environmental demands will become more stringent, and adherence to them will be mandatory. 'Sustainability' will be the key driver for the way production processes will be handled in future. The gap between information technology and automation will seize to exist. One of the challenges is the integration of various automation platforms in a manufacturing environment, to avoid “automation islands.”