Chemical industry is one of the oldest industries in India. It not only plays a crucial role in meeting the daily needs of the common man, but also contributes significantly towards industrial and economic growth of the nation In the year 2003, the industry contributed around 6.7 percent to the GDP. The industry had been projected to be worth USD 100 billion by 2010, with its contribution to the GDP around 12.1 percent and its share of the global industry to grow from1.9 percent to 3.9 percent. In 2007, the industry was worth USD 30 billion.
Characteristics of the Indian Chemical Industry
The Indian chemical industry is characterized by (1) high domestic demand potential (2) high degree of fragmentation and small scale of operation (3) limited emphasis on exports due to domestic market focus (4) low cost competitiveness as compared to other countries due to higher cost of power and other utility, import duties, taxes, higher cost of capital and raw material and poor infrastructure facility (5) low focus on R&D despite innovative processes to synthesize product cost effectively.
Automation in Chemical Manufacturing
The chemical industry in India has matured with time. It covers a wide spectrum of industries that deal with chemicals including petrochemicals, rubber, polymers, textiles, paints, etc. The implementation of automation technology within these industry verticals depends upon the scale as well as the requirement. Automation in chemical industry has reached the edge of operating parameters. Compared to other industries, the understanding and implementation of technology is far higher in this sector. If we look at the history of the chemical industry, it has always had to deal with complex controls. As a result, it’s quite ahead of other industries when it comes to the adoption and implementation of modern technologies like process automation. Process automation serves to enhance product quality, master the whole range of products, improve process safety & plant availability and helps in the efficient use of resources. It can also play an important role in lowering the emissions. In rapidly developing countries like India, mass production is the main motivation for applying process automation. Operating margins in the chemical industry are very low for commodity business. The final 1 to 2 percent increase in the productivity is the profit. One also has to bear in mind the competition from low cost producers from China. Still, better technology and a better understanding of the processes can deliver a competitive edge in the marketplace.
As such the greatest demand for process automation is in the chemical industry. Advantages that are commonly attributed to automation include higher production rates and increased productivity, efficient use of materials, better product quality, improved safety, shorter workweeks for labour, and reduced factory lead times. Among all, the need for higher output and increased productivity has been two of the biggest reasons in justifying the use of automation. The automated systems provide an edge to the quality by performing the manufacturing process with less variability. In the end, you get greater control and consistency of product quality. Further, increased process control ensures efficient use of materials, resulting in lesser scrap. It also helps a company to be in regulatory compliance by improving safety. That’s why worker safety is another important reason for automating an industrial operation. Automated systems often remove workers from the workplace and hence safeguard them against the hazards of a typical factory environment.
The Indian industry is now hooked up to the global industry. It is no more isolated as it was a few years back. Any global phenomenon has a direct or indirect impact on the Indian industry. This is going to drive more integration. Companies are going to follow and align themselves with global standards. Due to its severe exposure to industrial hazards, the chemical industry is likely to lead the implementation of security norms. Without any doubt, the economic, organisational and technological trends will cause significant changes in automation technology in the coming years.