Cobots for MSMEs
Published on : Friday 08-04-2022
Cobots are the boost engine for the Make in India initiative thanks to their flexibility in service and faster RoI, says Darshana Thakkar.
Employment is a significant challenge in our country for those looking for jobs. As per a recent report, as of March 2022, the unemployment rate in India is about 7.5%. As industrialisation is concentrated in a few regions of the country, the citizen needs to migrate to another state to look for employment. People working in the industry are already under the stress of job loss, while many have already lost their jobs due to the pandemic. In such a situation, robotic applications in the industry may create more insecurity among the employees. The replacement of men with a robot may increase unemployment further.
Moreover, in India, medium and small enterprises (MSMEs) contribute to the GDP to the extent of about 30%. Manufacturing output through MSME in India is about 37%. The contribution of MSME in export is about 50%. Despite these promising numbers, most MSMEs are facing a cash crunch. Massive capital investment in the robotic application is far away from their budget.
For a country like ours, where labour is available easily, collaborative robots (cobots) are the best solution for the automation of business. Rather than replacing employees, the cobot collaborates with humans and keeps them productive.
Unlike an industrial robot typically fenced off while performing tasks to keep humans safe, the new-generation cobots are rather friendly – they are 'safe' for human interaction. They are designed to work alongside people rather than replace them.
In manufacturing industries, labour often performs repetitive tasks. Such monotonous tasks lead to fatigue resulting in low productivity; and sometimes, in increased employee turnover. Collaborative robots perform such repetitive tasks much better with increased accuracy and productivity.
Cobots for smart manufacturing
Cobots provide manufacturers with safe, versatile, easy-to-use automation that supports human labourers. Cobots improve work conditions and empower humans to have more fulfilling jobs in manufacturing industries. Programming a cobot is also relatively easy. That can be done quickly by the operator. Businesses don't need to spend vast amounts of money and resources for programming and training to operate cobots.
Customised additional features can be added to the cobot based on the requirement. A few examples are here:
i. Vision system with intelligent cameras can be added to the cobot. That makes the surrounding environment safer for human workers moving around
ii. Torque sensors added to the cobot's joints provide excellent collision sensitivity
iii. With the precision cameras, sorting tasks are done with precision and quickly
iv. With mechanical arms, pick and place kind of repetitive tasks are very effective and accurate
v. Vacuum program cobots are effectively used in warehouse applications to locate and retrieve items through scanning and to match RFID tags, and
vi. Pneumatic sanders attached with cobot handle processing applications like spraying, polishing, dispensing, and effective sanding.
Collaborative robots play a significant role in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. With the assistance of cobots, humans can achieve higher levels of efficiency and faster productivity gains. Cobots can give advantages of advanced robotic automation without the added costs associated with programming, setup, and shielded work cells. Most of the time, collaborative robots don't require safety fencing.
Benefits of cobots to MSME
a. The initial cost of a cobot compared to the robot is relatively low. A cobot is available starting from Rs 15 lakh
b. Same cobot can be used for multiple applications with little change in the program
c. The most attractive feature is that it doesn't require prior programming experience for the operator. The programming of a cobot is relatively easy that can be done by the operator himself
d. A cobot can be easily integrated with existing computers and IoT
e. A cobot can perform complex tasks using a flexible approach. It can be easily moved around due to its flexible 360-degrees of freedom and be easily deployed in the existing system without changing the layout of the shop floor
f. The operating cost of cobot is comparatively lower as it does not require frequent programming and training support from the partner
g. In the post-pandemic era, all migrant workers haven't returned, which has created a labour shortage in many industries. Cobot can ease this challenge of business owners as one cobot effectively handles the task of 3 to 5 workers
h. The cobot has consistently proven RoI of usually less than a year. It is encouraging for MSMEs to invest in cobot, and
i. Industries across the sector have noticed productivity improvement from 15% to 60% by introducing cobot in the manufacturing process.
Popular applications of cobot suitable for MSMEs include: packaging & palletizing; painting & coating; dipping & finishing; CNC machine tending; automatic testing and inspection of components; material handling; visual tasks and assembly, etc.
Apart from these, welding automation with cobot is also prevalent. Cobot welding is relatively easier to adopt for MSME companies. Cobot welding saves up to 60% time and 70% cost. It results in higher productivity, competitive price, reduced product cost, and an improved delivery schedule. The small and medium-sized companies requiring many identical products and the same quality are most suited for such cobot welding applications.
Government support for MSMEs in India
Our country has a proven track record of implementing Industry 4.0 in small and medium enterprises through various regional and national level initiatives by MSMEs and the Government of India. MSMEs have been spearheading the implementation of Industry 4.0 through digital MSME schemes where the existing infrastructures are converted into digital, cloud-based technologies.
India has successfully launched a pilot project of Industry 4.0 by manufacturing smart digital railway coaches that host in-house cloud-based technologies, IoT, and several sensors. The smart coaches are manufactured in a state-of-the-art manufacturing plant. This was implemented under the technology mission by the Ministry of Railways in collaboration with the Department of Science & Technology, Government of India, in association with the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur as academic partners. In addition, India has pioneered the fourth industrial revolution through the Centre of Excellence in Industry 4.0 opened by the World Economic Forum in Maharashtra. This centre has placed India on the global map.
The concept of ‘ease of doing business’ by the Government of India has bagged the 63rd position among 190 nations in the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business ranking. The country has pioneered innovation by scoring 48th position in the innovation index, and is on the threshold of significant reforms, poised to become the third-largest economy in the world by 2030. MSMEs play an essential role in the economic and social development of the country, thereby creating the highest employment growth and accounting for a significant share of industrial production and exports.
The Government of India aims to make India a self-reliant nation through the successful implementation of Aatmanirbhar Bharat, creating localised products through 'Vocal for Local' initiative. It propels the country to scale up its position in the global ranking. The Indian economy is likely to emerge as one of the leading economies in the world, with an envisioned GDP of $5 trillion by 2024.
One of the major technologies that evolved in Industry 4.0 is collaborative robots. Cobots have paramount importance in contributing to Industry 4.0 and have made significant breakthroughs by creating a smart manufacturing environment.
To achieve these goals, the government of India is supporting MSMEs through various schemes for automation and technology upgradation. I would love to share this for the benefit of MSMEs as most companies are unaware of the same or in a dilemma about the process.
CLCSS for Technology Upgradation
The Credit Linked Capital Subsidy Scheme or CLCSS provides a 15% upfront subsidy for additional investment up to Rs 1 crore for technology upgradation by MSMEs. Technology up-gradation would ordinarily mean induction of state-of-the-art or near state-of-the-art technology.
Under this scheme, companies looking to replace existing equipment/technology with the same equipment/technology will not qualify for a subsidy. Similarly, units upgrading with used machinery would not be eligible under this scheme.
Candidates meeting the eligibility criteria may approach 12 nodal banks/agencies. These are SIDBI, NABARD, SBI, BoB, PNB, BoI, SBBJ, TIIC, Andhra Bank, Corporation Bank, Canara Bank, and Indian Bank. Weblink: http://www.dcmsme.gov.in
However, to avail of the benefit, the first requirement is registration on the Udyam portal. Without an Udyam registration certificate, no companies can avail any subsidy. The registration process is online on the government website and free of cost. You can register here:
Future of the cobot
Cobot manufacturers compete to make them less expensive and more versatile, with better vision and sensing systems. They expect cobots to become a more integral part of the industrial landscape.
According to a Markets and Markets report, the cobot market is estimated to grow at an astonishing 41.8% compounded annual growth rate to reach nearly $8 million by 2025.
ABI Research predicts that the global revenue for cobot mechanical arms alone is expected to hit $11.8 billion by 2030.
That's excellent news for enterprises and workers as cobots continue to augment the workforce in exciting new ways.
In short, cobots are the boost engine for the 'Make in India' initiative and will Reboot, Rebuild, Recreate and Reinvent the existing manufacturing systems because of their flexibility in services and faster Return on Investment (RoI).
Darshana Thakkar is MSME Transformation Specialist and Founder, Transformation – The Strategy Hub. An Electrical Engineer followed by MBA – Operations with rich industry experience, Darshana is an expert in transformation, cost reduction, and utilisation of resources. She has invested 25 years in transforming Micro and Small Enterprises. Her rich experience in resolving pain areas and real-life problems of SMEs helps organisations achieve quick results. Her expertise in managing business operations with limited resources helps clients transform their business practices from person driven to system driven with existing resources.
Darshana has helped many organisations to increase profitability and achieve sustainable growth. She is passionate to support the start-up ecosystem of our country. She is associated with CED, Government of Gujarat as a Business Function Expert in the Entrepreneurship Development program, as faculty for industrial subjects in the Second Generation Program (SGP), and as a start-up mentor and member of the start-up selection committee in the CED incubation centre. She is a certified corporate director registered with IICA and the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Government of India. Apart from this, she is an author and publishing her blog, article, and case study related to the MSME industry. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org