System integrators play crucial role in successful implementation of robotics
Published on : Monday 05-06-2023
Rajesh Nath, Managing Director, VDMA India Services Private Limited, German Engineering Federation (VDMA).
What is the present status of sector wise robots penetration in India? What are the segments that are witnessing increased demand?
According to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), the sales of industrial robots in India reached a new record of 4,945 units installed. This is an increase of 54 percent compared to 2020 with the total number as 3,215 units. In terms of annual installations, India now ranks in tenth position worldwide.
Robots have made significant strides in the manufacturing sector, especially in industries like automotive, electronics, and pharmaceuticals, being utilised for tasks such as assembly, welding, material handling, and quality control. In the healthcare sector, surgical robots are gaining traction, enabling more precise procedures. While the use of robots in agriculture is relatively limited in India, there is growing interest in employing them for tasks like harvesting, seeding, and weed control to enhance efficiency and address labour shortages. In logistics and warehousing, robots are increasingly being employed to meet the demands of e-commerce. They assist in order fulfilment, inventory management, and goods transportation. Education and research institutions in India are incorporating robots to facilitate learning and exploration in fields such as robotics, programming, and artificial intelligence.
The automotive sector remains the largest customer for the robotics industry in India with a share of 31% in 2021. Installations more than doubled to 1,547 units (+108%). The general industry in India is led by the metal industry with 308 units (-9%), the rubber and plastics industry with 246 units (+27%) and the electrical/electronics industry with 215 units (+98%).
Traditionally the automotive industry has been the main user of industrial robots.
How will the electrification of mobility impact this dominance?
The electrification of mobility is expected to have a significant impact on the dominance of the automotive industry in the use of industrial robots. As the shift towards electric vehicles (EVs) gains momentum, the manufacturing processes for EVs differ from those of traditional internal combustion engine vehicles.
The aforementioned transition requires new assembly techniques, such as, battery pack assembly and integration of electric drivetrain components. These unique processes may make it necessary for the development and integration of specialised robotic systems to be specifically designed for EV manufacturing. Hence, while the automotive industry will continue to depend on industrial robots, the focus is likely to shift towards adapting and deploying robots optimised for electric vehicle production. This shift presents an opportunity for the robotics industry to innovate and provide tailored automation solutions to support the electrification of mobility.
The Covid pandemic struck a blow for digital transformation.Has this led to increased demand for robotic automation?
The disruption caused by the pandemic emphasized the need for resilient and adaptable manufacturing processes. To mitigate risks, businesses sought robotic automation solutions to reduce reliance on human labour, ensure social distancing measures, and maintain operations with fewer disruptions.
Additionally, the pandemic highlighted the importance of localised production and supply chain resilience, leading to increased interest in robotics for reshoring manufacturing operations. The focus on hygiene and safety measures further fuelled the demand for robots to perform tasks that minimise human contact. Overall, the pandemic has acted as a catalyst, driving a surge in demand for robotic automation across various industries.
The pandemic has thus significantly accelerated the demand for robotic automation.
How is the entry of cobots and AMRs/AGVs changing the overall scenario of robotic automation in the manufacturing industry?
The entry of collaborative robots (cobots) and autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) and automated guided vehicles (AGVs) is significantly changing the overall scenario of robotic automation in the manufacturing industry in India. To elaborate on this, we have Cobots working alongside us, humans, taking on precise tasks while humans focus on more complex work, improving productivity and collaboration. AMRs and AGVs autonomously move materials, optimising logistics and reducing manual labour, leading to streamlined operations, and being scalable, thus making automation accessible for small and medium-sized enterprises, boosting their competitiveness. Automating repetitive and hazardous tasks, enhancing workplace safety and reducing risks for human workers. The introduction of cobots and AMRs creates opportunities for workers to acquire new skills in robot operation, programming, and maintenance, expanding their career prospects. This brings flexibility, efficiency, safety, and scalability to manufacturing, transforming processes and enabling wider automation adoption, even among smaller businesses.
While robots are gaining in versatility with integration of machine vision and greater use of AI/ML capabilities, is there a supporting infrastructure in terms of skills and system integrators?
The Indian manufacturing industry has been witnessing significant advancements in automation and robotics, including the integration of machine vision and AI/ML capabilities. However, the supporting infrastructure in terms of skills and system integrators is an important aspect to consider.
India has been making efforts to develop a skilled workforce in the field of automation and robotics. The government, in collaboration with industry bodies and educational institutions, has been promoting skill development programs and vocational training to equip individuals with the necessary technical expertise. However, there is still a need for continuous upskilling and training to meet the evolving demands of the industry.
The presence of competent system integrators plays a crucial role in the successful implementation of robotics and automation solutions. System integrators are responsible for designing, installing, and maintaining robotic systems tailored to specific manufacturing requirements. While India has seen a growth in the number of system integrators, there is still room for further development and expansion of this ecosystem to meet the increasing demand for automation solutions. Also, VDMA India has been organising the symposium on “Robotomation” – Robotics and Automation trends in manufacturing. Through this, we have given a platform for the automation companies to interact closely with system integrators so that overall, the industry can benefit. Further, since this is focused on the manufacturing industry, it gives the SMEs also a possibility to understand the benefits of Automation and Robotics and its applicability even for mid-size firms.
To bridge the gap between skills and system integration capabilities, industry collaborations, public-private partnerships, and knowledge-sharing platforms can play a vital role. Continuous investments in training programs and educational initiatives, as well as fostering a collaborative environment between academia and industry, can help develop a robust infrastructure of skilled professionals and competent system integrators in the Indian manufacturing industry.
Will the recent emphasis on manufacturing incentives for the electronics industry via PLI schemes lead to greater demand for robotic solutions?
The recent emphasis on manufacturing incentives for the electronics industry, such as the Production-Linked Incentive (PLI) schemes in India, is likely to drive greater demand for robotic solutions. These incentives aim to boost domestic manufacturing and make the country a global manufacturing hub. As companies invest in expanding their manufacturing capabilities, they often seek automation solutions to improve efficiency, productivity, and quality control. Some examples would be smooth assembly thus streamlining the whole process, consistent quality of output, efficient handling, reliable testing, perfect soldering and what not! Robotics and automation technologies offer the potential to enhance manufacturing processes, increase output, and reduce costs, making them an attractive option for companies looking to capitalise on these incentives and stay competitive in the evolving landscape of the electronics industry.
(The views expressed in interviews are personal, not necessarily of the organisations represented)
Mr Rajesh Nath has more than 32 years of experience working in various industries in Germany and India. He has been accorded the ‘Cross of the Order of Merit’ – the highest civilian award from the German President, for promoting Indo-German Trade in the Engineering Sector. He has a degree in Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical) with distinction. He also has a Business Management Degree (First Rank, Gold Medal). Further he did an International Business Program from the reputed Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Joka in 2004.
Mr Nath joined the Indian office of The German Engineering Federation (VDMA) as General Manager in 1999. He was appointed Director of the company in 2002. Since 2008, he has been heading the organisation as Managing Director. During this period the export of German machinery to India has increased almost 6 fold and the number of VDMA members in India now stands at around 600.
Mr Nath started his professional career in Germany with Rheinische Kalksteinwerke, Wülfrath where he worked from 1991-1993. He then joined KHD Humboldt Wedag, Koeln in the Environmental Technology Division and worked there from 1993 till 1997. Mr Nath is a Fellow Member of International Council of Consultants, Member of Institution of Engineers in India, Fellow Member of Mining, Geological and Metallurgical Institute (MGMI) and other well known bodies in India. He is also on the editorial board of several reputed industrial publications and a committee member of The Quality Council of India. He is also actively involved in social work with the NGO – KADAM which provides livelihood solutions to women and youth in the rural areas. Further he has been connected with Rotary International since many years.