Collaborative robots: the affordable automation solution for Indian MSMEs
An IFR report states that a new record high of 381,000 collaborative robot (cobot) units were shipped globally in 2017, […]
Anushruti Singh December 13, 2018
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An IFR report states that a new record high of 381,000 collaborative robot (cobot) units were shipped globally in 2017, which is a 114 percent growth in the period 2013–2017. In sync with this global trend of the rapidly rising use of robotic process automation (RPA), even the small and medium scale enterprises (MSME) sector in India is witnessing a steadily increasing penetration of robotics. The layperson thinks of a robot as a mechanical humanoid creature which may or may not be intelligent, but from the perspective of process automation, robotics comprise mechanical non-intelligent arms and bots that perform repetitive tasks, and intelligent bots such as chatbots that are powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) and can chat with visitors to regular or e-commerce websites in a conversational manner. Globally, cobot-enabled automation has become the norm in sectors such as automotive, electrical, rubber and plastic, metal and machinery, and food and beverage. By 2020 almost 67 per cent of all work in factories will be done by cobots globally, according to IDC. Thanks to the increasing simplicity, ease of use and installation, mobility and low-cost, IFR estimates that India will have 6000 industrial robots by 2020, a 128 per cent growth. A case in point is Changing Precision Technology Company. The cell phone manufacturing company in China has replaced 90 per cent of its human workforce with robots and that resulted in a 250 per cent rise in productivity and 80 per cent drop in manufacturing defects. Currently, the factory has 60 robot arms—which is equal to the number of human employees—that work round the clock on 10 production lines. The robotic-automation trend reached Indian shores almost a decade ago when Bajaj Auto Ltd. started using cobots to work their assembly lines in 2010. Madurai based Aurolab, an SME which manufactures eye-care products—such as lenses, surgical sutures, and cataract kits—have incorporated cobots in their manufacturing process of intraocular lenses and for material handling, pick-up and placement of instruments, which has resulted in a 15 per cent growth in output and the company now manufactures over 2 million intraocular lenses every year. Cobots can be used in not just the manufacturing sector but also in people-centric ones such as restaurants and malls. Chennai-based SP Robotic Works has manufactured and deployed a robot, dubbed EA BOT, at Express Avenue Mall at Chennai for handling customer enquiries, informing customers about sales and special offers, and telling them the way to reach the stores they want to visit. The company has also deployed a robot that serves customers at the Toscano’s Pizzeria in Bengaluru. Whether it is large-, small-, or medium-size enterprises, processes with robotic automation have grabbed the attention of the corporate world. Business owners and CXOs believe that RPA offers small-scale business owners an opportunity to make their businesses more productive and hence, more profitable. According to Murli Mohan, Vice President, India Domestic Business at UiPath, “RPA is essential for a small business to support growth. One of the advantages with a small business is that there is less bureaucracy and therefore the processes are simpler and easier to automate.” When it comes to automation, SMEs want flexible, lightweight and scalable systems, which RPAs are. One small-size customer of UiPath is an accounting services provider. The company uses RPA to automate a back-office process that processes 50 transactions every day, each transaction takes 10 minutes, on average. The UiPath’s RPA increased the efficiency of the process by reducing manual efforts by 5 per cent and processing time by 85 per cent, with zero errors.
RPA Gives MSMEs the Much-Needed Competitive EdgeParvinder Baweja, Founder at KeyVendors says that Robotics has brought a tremendous change in the way business is done. He says that “We all know that “Automation” is the most discuss key term these days. You may not believe, but robotics has changed small business completely. You can easily find friendly robots engaged in making pizza, burgers, and coffee.” The Indian MSME sector is a fast-developing and highly competitive market and in order to gain an edge over competitors, enterprises have started automating in a major way. Chatbots has started handling customer queries in most e-commerce websites and intelligent bots are being used in companies’ recruitment processes where they screen resumes and schedule interviews. According to Sneha Priya, Co-Founder and CEO at SP Robotic Works, mechanical robots are, currently,only being used mostly by the big players in the manufacturing sector in India mostly because MSMEs find manual labour cheaper than deploying robotics, but, she continues, “The trend, however, is slowly going towards deploying hardware robots in every industry since the output quality is high, management requirement is low and more—which are valued more than just ROI.” The benefits of implementing RPA into MSME operations include:
- reduced costs;
- better customer experience;
- lower operational risk;
- improved manufacturing processes; and,
- the integrability of cobots into existing systems and processes.
- 106 in Europe;
- 91 in the Americas; and,
- 75 in Asia.