With a focus on electrification, automation and digitalization, Siemens India stands for engineering excellence, innovation and reliability. In an exclusive e-interview, Chandrashekhar Shrotri; Business Unit Head - Electrical Products, Smart Infrastructure, Siemens Limited describes some recent facts on the low voltage switchgear business in India to P. K. Chatterjee (PK). Excerpts…

How is the demand growing for low voltage switchgears in India?

The demand for low-voltage switchgears in India has been growing at a healthy CAGR of approximately 8-9% for the past 10-15 years. The slower growth witnessed last year due to the global pandemic is temporary. Despite the on-going disruptions, we expect the market to maintain the high-growth trajectory in the medium to long term. We believe that the various government measures announced to boost the economy and investments in infrastructure segments such as renewables, railways, data centers, metro rail, pharmaceuticals & hospital projects will spur growth. The main drivers of demand on the industry side will be steel & cement industries.

Do you feel that the selection criteria are changing among the customers or end-users?

The selection criteria for low-voltage switchgears have evolved over a period of time. End-users are no longer making decisions based on purchase price alone but are mindful of the ‘lifetime cost’ of the products. Customers are giving due importance to the value-added services that switchgear OEMs offer to them apart from the product itself. The value-added services could be in the traditional post-purchase area such as servicing, training or the innovative area of pre-purchase topics such as optimized product selection or system configuration. Also, safety is fast evolving into an important selection criterion – be it equipment or plant safety or operator safety.

Do you see any new trends in this business?

One of the trends that has caught up well due to awareness and focus on safety is acceptance of fully type-tested panels by the end users. The Bureau of Indian Standards has also revised the standard for LV panels (IS-61439) to facilitate this change towards the fully type-tested panels. Due to the combination of these factors, the business of fully type-tested panels has seen a steady growth in the last five years.

The main challenge faced by the customers is of seamless integration of various digitally enabled products such as switchgear, instrumentation and building automation. These products follow different protocols and need to be brought on the same platform.

In power distribution, a clear trend is visible with customers opting for microprocessor-based circuit breakers (ACB & MCCB). Modern circuit breakers offer enhanced protection & energy transparency. Another trend that is noticeable particularly in process industry is adoption of intelligent motor control centers (i-MCC) in place of age-old conventional motor control centers (c-MCC).

Apart from these factors, panel builders are now looking for modular systems for faster assembly of control cabinets / machine panels, as a result of rise in wages and limited availability of skilled manpower.

What is the effect of COVID – 19 on this business?

COVID-19 has temporarily dampened the market growth. However, we still see potential in mid- to long-term growth. The pandemic has brought focus on remote operations and services, which would accentuate the technological shift and focus on digitalization. New social distancing norms are here to stay and adherence to these norms will necessitate lean workforce. Modular switchgear systems will help panel builders to maintain their output despite a lean workforce because of the higher throughput possibility.

Has Siemens launched any new series of LV switch gears in the recent past?

At Siemens, product innovation is a continuous process. We regularly bring out new products with enhanced features. Recently, we introduced a new generation of soft-starters with innovations such as ‘pump blockage’ protection, ‘pump dry-run’ protection, ‘emergency mode’ operation and ‘auto-parameterization’ feature that improves system reliability & saves commissioning time. We also introduced a new range of ACB and MCCB, which is an ideal fit for infrastructure applications.

How has digitalization played a role in the current scenario for your business?

Digitalization has provided the industry with unparalleled opportunities for value creation. This technological shift is helping achieve higher productivity, quality and efficiency. Siemens is a pioneer in driving digital transformation in industry and infrastructure. Low-voltage switchgears are increasingly becoming interconnected, from ACB right down to MCB or a push button. Communication-capable digital panel meters along with Energy Management software help customers get total transparency of energy consumption and offer energy-saving possibilities.

Would you like to communicate any message to the readers of Electrical India?

Like any market, our switchgear market evolves with the support and collaboration among all its stakeholders. Continuous feedback from panel builders, OEMs, consultants, and end users with the switchgear manufacturers helps in building better products with new technologies. In this constantly changing environment, our most important goal should be to safeguard our health and wellbeing. I would urge everyone to always follow safety protocols.

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