Robotics, automation and human-robot collaboration are here to stay. Here’s why

Across the globe, manufacturing is improving and has been a hot topic for discussion in all boardrooms, rapidly meeting up with the evolving market. In order to achieve this target, companies in the manufacturing space are pivoting to pair human skills and creativity with the strength and speed of robots.


Manufacturing processes are more efficient and cost-effective when humans and robots work side by side. Otherwise, relying solely on the human workforce can make their work slow-moving, straining and monotonous for the production line. Exhausted and uncomfortable human forces are liable to make more errors, thus affecting the quality of the product. On the other hand, a completely automated unit is expensive and needs detailed programming. As a result, companies nowadays are forming a healthy human-robot collaboration unit. A study conducted by MIT’s Julie Shah on ‘Fluid Coordination of Human-Robot Teams’ stated that the idle time should be reduced by 85 per cent on average when people and human-aware robots work as a team compared to working in all-human teams.


The Pandemic and human-robot collaboration


Advantages of human-robot collaboration were already established even before the pandemic halted the normal functioning of the companies across industries. However, the global health crisis, followed by the disruption in the supply chain and shortage of skilled workforce, accelerated the trends that were already in motion. The silver lining in the dark clouds of the crisis was that companies across various industries began to revisit their plans to adopt automation. According to a McKinsey worldwide poll, 67 per cent of enterprises surveyed stated they boosted their deployment of automation during COVID-19, including robotics and artificial intelligence.


Meanwhile, businesses that were already running on human-robot collaboration (cobot) were quickly able to pivot from producing their usual items to medical equipment. Once things started returning to normalcy, these firms, too, returned to their everyday operations and production.


In the last two years, businesses, as well as industries, have undergone a massive change. As discussed above, companies are now focusing on more advanced technologies that guard them against other unforeseen crises. Furthermore, this cobot adoption is helping companies quickly adapt to the shifting demand with new products and processes. We have witnessed manufacturers deploying cobots in the inspection process, enabling them to meet demands without compromising quality despite experiencing labour shortages during the pandemic. In addition to this, organisations are now able to address consumers’ behavioural shifts, thereby, minimising their carbon footprint.


Considering the level of adoption of automation and robotics in Indian industries, Honourable Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government launched the ‘Make In India’ initiative to position India as the world’s manufacturing hub by 2030. As per the survey conducted by the FICCI, capacity utilisation in India’s manufacturing sector stood at 72.0 per cent in the Q2FY22, indicating a significant recovery in the sector.


Way ahead


Be it the food & beverage industry, healthcare industry, manufacturing industry, and medical, automation and robotics are emerging as an essential part. The duo is helping businesses across multiple sectors grow and deliver in less time with minimal cost. In recent times, India has emerged as an alluring destination for investments in the manufacturing sector. Several big names, from mobile to luxury and automobile to textile industry brands, have set up or are establishing their manufacturing units in the country.


An IBEF report suggests that India’s manufacturing sector has the potential to reach USD 1 trillion by 2025. “The implementation of the Goods and Services Tax is expected to make India a common market with a GDP of USD 2.5 trillion along with a population of 1.32 billion people, which will be a big draw for investors,” the report stated.


In order to make this opportunity last, the government, along with the private players, are emphasising on upskilling and reskilling the existing workforce. This will help industries integrate, monitor, and develop a healthy industrial environment that promotes development while keeping a check on the planet and its bountiful resources.


Lastly, the pandemic has shown organisations a new way to do things or to build the planet’s future differently. Much of this future involves modern technologies like robotics and automation. In the coming years, the industry will witness continuous growth in the manufacturing industry, operating on the back of more sophisticated robots. Of course, a future like this needs a balanced understanding and collaboration between government and private sectors, paving the way for the billions of citizens of India.


-James McKew, Regional President APAC, Universal Robots

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