India needs to increase the robot density
Published on : Saturday 03-04-2021
Kapil Boraste, Technical Consultant – Robotics & IoT.
Over 50% of industrial robots in India are used in automotive sector. What are the factors inhibiting growth in other sectors? Delayed return on investment?
Two basic factors which are inhibiting growth of Robotics in other sectors are abundance of labour and higher initial cost. Along with this, there are also several other aspects which inhibit the growth in other sectors.
Indian Industrial Robotics market is primarily dominated by application segments such as welding, dispensing and material handling. India is a major automotive exporter and has strong export growth expectations for the near future. Advancement in technology combined with an increasing need for robotic automation driven by fast, low cost and error-free operation are the major drivers for automotive market.
Articulated robots are the largest robot type being used in India. Articulated robots account for more than 50% of the units being sold annually. These robots allow a high level of functionality and are the most commonly used robots in next-generation robotics. These robots are used in applications like pick and place tasks, handling jobs, thread fastening, soldering, and other similar tasks requiring fast and precise automation.
So other sectors need more special purpose solutions instead of specific solutions only. Lack of cost-effective special purpose solution providers is also one of the important reasons to inhibit growth in other sectors.
Robots boost productivity. Can India scale up manufacturing with such a low robot density (4 per 10,000 employees)?
India is rising as an exporter of many goods along with the ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ initiative. To fulfil this need and scale up manufacturing, India needs to increase the robot density. In India now many companies are working on robotics design and development, and as these companies succeed in providing low-cost efficient solutions, the robot density shall certainly increase in the near future.
One major reason advanced for low penetration of robots in India is the abundance of labour. How valid is this reason?
As stated right at the beginning, there are two reasons – one is abundance of labour and second is higher initial cost. These are the two reasons for low penetration of robots in India. But as India scales up manufacturing, especially for the export market, the industry will need robotic solutions in order to be globally competitive. So in future we will definitely see improved penetration of robots, regardless of abundance of labour. At the same time service robots will also contribute significantly to the growth of robotics. The Covid pandemic has already accelerated the market growth for service robots. Now robots are not limited to manufacturing only, integration of robots will be seen everywhere, in all the sectors and wherever possible.
Covid has boosted the applications for robots in general, service robots in particular. Will this now become the new trend?
Sure, service robotics will be the upcoming trend. Now robots will not be limited to manufacturing only. We will see robots in hotels, hospitals and at home too. At the same time development of robotics is taking a good shape in defence sector also. The most important part is the R&D and manufacturing of service robots happening in India. This will help make service robots available at affordable price, which is very important for India to accelerate the growth of robotic technology.
A new emerging trend for robots in manufacturing is the evolution of autonomous mobile robots. Are these cost effective?
Imported autonomous robots or AMRs are definitely not cost effective. If the AMRs are developed and manufactured in India then definitely they will become cost effective. Because if we look at the hardware of the autonomous mobile robots then we will find that the hardware is not that much costly. As these robots are new to the market so industries are basically paying for the technology. Once these robots become regular in industry then due to increased demand and mass production, these robots will also get the benefit of scale and subsequent reduction of entire manufacturing cost. So ultimately this solution will become 100% cost effective, but until then the end user will need to pay more for it (the price for technology). Till date there were only static robots used in the industry, now after the inclusion of mobile robots there is a great improvement in agility, speed and quality of work.
With increasing payload capacities, can Cobots replace the lighter industrial robots?
Cobots are designed to work safely alongside humans in shared workspaces. These robots, with their increased flexibility and dexterity, can complete more delicate tasks which conventional robots cannot. For example, polishing fragile materials in production processes. Cobots are smaller, lighter, and safer than conventional industrial robots. Because of their flexibility and relative ease-of-use compared to industrial robots, cobots are generally considered to be an affordable and attractive choice for small and medium sized businesses.
Payload capacity is one of the limitations of cobots, and even if they get increased payload capacity, they will replace industrial robots only where they are able to add more value to the process. Cobots will be preferred mostly where there shared work/workspace opportunity.
For business reasons, manufacturers must consider production speeds and volumes they want when deciding between cobots and industrial robots. To run efficiently, assembly lines of humans and cobots must run at the human workers’ speed to avoid bottlenecks on the production line.
The areas where shared workspace, space limitation is not there, in that case industrial robots will be preferred. Also in sufficient, closed spaces industrial robots will remain, as the cost of cobots in comparison to the same payload of industrial robots, is much higher.
How relevant is RPA in manufacturing? Globally, several companies are now increasingly using RPA for back-office activities related. Is this gaining traction?
RPA can add value to administrative and all types of office work support for improved operational efficiency, which indirectly results in improved efficiency of the manufacturing industry. In simple words, we can say industrial robots automate the blue-collar job profile whereas RPA automates white collar job profile. Currently RPA is facing many challenges to gain the traction, as RPA is a new technology in the market so it will take little time to overcome these challenges and gain traction.
Kapil Boraste has accepted and performed challenging roles in the industry since last 7+ years, and is highly motivated in analysing existing systems from the perspective to automate and upgrade for betterment with the help of latest trends and technologies in the market. His areas of work straddle the fields of Robotics, Industrial Automation, Embedded System and Internet of Things.
Kapil is the ex-Chairperson of the Institution of Electronics & Telecommunication Engineers Student Forum, Sanjivani College of Engineering, Kopargaon, as well as ex-Member of Society of Automotive Engineers, India; and ex-Member of ETESA Newsletter Editorial Board.