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Last updated: 15 May, 2018  

Universal.Robot.9.thmb.jpg Collaborative robotic arms can help SMEs become globally competitive: Universal Robots

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SME Times News Bureau | 15 May, 2018

Indian Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) can benefit from collaborative robotic arms (cobots), which can help them in growing in measured steps so they can maintain competitiveness in a global landscape without taking on undue risk, said Pradeep David, General Manager, Universal Robots – South Asia, in an exclusive interview with SME Times.

Excerpts of the interview…

Please tell our readers about Universal Robots and its global presence.
Pradeep David:
Universal Robots is a part of Teradyne Inc., headquartered in Odense, Denmark and was officially founded in 2005. We have a presence in 50 countries. In 2010, the company expanded its operations to include all of Europe and in 2011, we entered the Asian market. In 2014, we established a subsidiary in Barcelona, Spain and in 2015 a new subsidiary for the APAC region was opened in Singapore. In 2016, Universal Robots opened its regional offices in Delhi and Bangalore, India, Munich, Germany, and Prague, Czech Republic. We established our Sri Lanka and Bangladesh operations in 2016 and 2017 respectively.

What type of products do you offer and how can they benefit industries?
Pradeep David: Universal Robots is the leading manufacturers of advanced user-friendly and light industrial collaborative robotic arms (cobots). Our cobots are best known to automate virtually anything; from assembly to painting, picking and placing screw driving, labelling, packing, polishing, gluing, dispensing, deburring, grinding welding, palletizing, machine tending and injection moulding and whatever other tasks you can think of.

They can be implemented virtually in any industry, by any operator without special robotic training. They work as a ‘helping hand’ that helps the workforce in carrying out monotonous tasks, thus resulting in increasing productivity and efficiency. The primary goal of Universal Robots is to empower workers by enabling them with smart manufacturing solutions which involves the utilization of collaborative robots’ technology and automation.

The human-robot collaboration is different from traditional robots. The idea is for humans and robots to be inter-dependent and achieve what each of them does best, safely. These cobots provide an added incentive to the workforce as consistent quality production is possible with human supervision. Universal Robots technology is making automation accessible to all types and sizes of business. The opportunities are endless. Our cobots can be programmed in minutes thanks to the intuitive touch screen user interface and innovative programming methods. Its design and technology allows manufacturers to automate their existing production lines without the need to overhaul their production layout.

SMEW Textile Machinery Pvt. Ltd. who has been in the Textile Machine Manufacturing since 1958 collaborated with Universal Robots and deployed their first UR10 robotic arm in January 2017. The UR cobots are used for pick and place application. This was a new addition to the workforce but the simplicity and operator friendly features of the cobots made the completion of tasks easier and faster. For a 24-hour production, SMEW has deployed the UR10 by Universal Robots. This has enabled them to continue unmanned production after factory working hours.

After the addition of the cobot to their manufacturing, SMEW realised that their production had increased from 30 pieces per week to 80-90 pieces per week; a 300% boost in production, over a brief period of 8 months. The staff too, is extremely satisfied with their new co-worker as the cobot is easy to program according to their requirements, and are enjoying working alongside robots.

Are your robotic products like Collaborative Robotic arms (Cobot) are suitable for small scale industries?
Pradeep David: Indian SMEs are always ready to accept and acquire new technologies, new business ideas and automation in industrial and allied sectors. The advent of advanced technology is opening newer channels for SME businesses across several sectors. The technology and innovation is playing a pivotal role in the growth and development of SMEs in India. For every industry, automating the last 20% of a production line is the most expensive part. Human – Robot collaboration (HRC) is necessary to make automation affordable for SME’s. In India, our primarily focus is on the SME sector and we are constantly working to make robotic technologies accessible to small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

According to the PwC survey of manufacturers, 59% of SMEs have invested heavily in automation and robotics technology. Cobots create tremendous advancements in industrial processes. They can be programmed by operators adding tremendous flexibility to meet human problem solving needs. Cobots give SME manufactures the opportunity to grow in measured steps so they can maintain competitiveness in a global landscape without taking on undue risk. SME’s have the need of protecting their IP (intellectual property) – it’s a small competitive advantage they have developed through home-grown means. Since cobots are easy to operate, IP can be retained within the manufacturing industries or companies, without hiring external consultants for the automation process.

This phenomenon can be evidently seen in Aurolab, an SME, who handle eye care systems which are associated with Aravind Eye Care Systems, Tamil Nadu. Through use of superior and innovative human-robot collaborative technology, the production improved from 150 to 10,000 Intra Ocular Lenses (IOL) per day. Aurolab has seen a 15% increase in the annual product output. This was a unique scenario where the increase in use of automated machinery that works alongside the employees, has added to the manpower and now, they have made their mark in the international market and export to over 130 countries. The automated machinery has increased affordability, helping people regain vision at lower cost, and has considerably reduced the power consumption and quality problems

Do you think robotics along with AI is posing challenges to employment?
Pradeep David: We don’t thinks that robotics along with AI is posing challenges to employment. Collaborative robots / cobots help in creating, not losing jobs. Instead of replacing human and causing job loss, collaborative robots helps companies in expanding operations, thereby creating job opportunities. Cobots help companies to expand multi-fold, thus creating jobs and many more opportunities at supervision roles.

One of the biggest advantages collaborative robots bring to the workplace is their ability to take over more repetitive and mundane tasks in order to free up employees for more engaging activities. As a consequence, many businesses report higher job satisfaction amongst their staff, as well as opportunities for them to diversify their tasks and further develop their skills.

When automation takes over some of the more mundane, repetitive and physically demanding aspects of production once performed solely by humans, employees are freed up to perform more nuanced responsibilities and be trained in other areas of the business such as machine operation or quality control, just to name a few. Employees who are tasked with more challenging and engaging assignments are more likely to feel satisfaction in their roles, leading to loyalty, retention and more meaningful contributions to the company. Increased productivity for manufacturers leads to greater profit and, in turn, opportunities for growth and job creation.

Automation appears to be increasing the demand for high-skilled, high-income employees, its impact on low-skilled, low income employment is less clear. Robots and automation will increasingly shape the way we work in the future, with enormous potential for improvements in productivity, increased national competitiveness and the improved quality, and remuneration of the workforce.

Governments and firms must work to create an environment that will enable workers, companies and nations to reap the rewards of these improvements. This means supporting investments in research and development in robotics and, most importantly, providing education and skills re-training for existing and future workers.

Human-robot collaborations can make for incredibly effective teams that enhance production, improve overall efficiency and provide opportunities for employee and company growth. The rapidly advancing technology and people will not be competing for work but co-operate to revolutionize various Indian industries.

How do you see India's present position in this area compared to advanced countries?
Pradeep David: The robotics industry is comparatively a new one in India and there is no denying that the new Robotic technologies are all set to change the way things are done in industries in which they are being implemented. All the entrepreneurs are clearly optimistic about the use of Robotics in various industrial segments and its future in India.

We are in an age where the application of next-generation automation is doing more than we ever thought possible, impacting individuals and businesses, in many instances without even being noticed. A new generation of collaborative robots ushers in an era of shepherding robots out of their cages and literally hand-in-hand with human workers who train them through physical demonstration. Especially for small and mid-sized manufacturers, a question is arising sooner than most probably expected: “If prices keep declining and capabilities of robotic technologies keep expanding, is now the time to hire some automated help?” Indeed, many have already answered this question.

Cobots hit the Indian manufacturing sweet-spot since they permit HRC (Human Robot Collaboration). This technology is expected to grow at a CAGR of 60% for the next several years as SME’s begin to adopt this path breaking technology that improves productivity & quality dramatically – safely. It is expected to see a positive growth in the efficiency of the supply of the products, along with the stability in the employment rates. The workers must cohabitate with robots as human interaction is necessary for automation to succeed at affordable costs. The rapidly advancing technology and people will not be competing for work but co-operate to revolutionize the Indian Manufacturing Industry.

What about Make in India? Do you manufacture products in India?
Pradeep David:
All our cobots are manufactured and assembled in Denmark. The Denmark plant has a capacity of producing and stocking 33,000 cobots. Though, we don’t manufacture in India but we believe that the deployment of these cobots can be a successful venture to the Indian manufacturers as they can be programmed by operators adding tremendous flexibility to meet human problem solving needs and also ensures a safer environment for the employees. Experts say that the ‘Make in India’ initiative will be a bigger success with the help of cobots as India has great potential in manufacturing and rising to the global platform. With the intent of scaling up our business and expand network in the country, now the company management is looking to actively facilitate manufacturing activities in India aligning its vision with the government’s Make-in-India initiative.

Please share the future plans of Universal Robot with us.
Pradeep David: We see immense potential in the Indian market. We are looking for more opportunities and with the help and cooperation from the government and the manufacturers; we have an enormous scope to expand in the Indian market. We are also growing our team and have an ever-increasing pan-Indian distribution network. We foresee more industries/sectors to start deploying our cobots because we feel, it is the next generation of automation adoption and for countries like India this is the right time to start deploying advanced robotics technology. Moreover we will be increasing our distributor network globally, as well as in India to provide better assistance to our current customers and to reach out to the prospective customers in a better way.


 
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