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UR Aims to See the World Where People Work with Robots & Not Like Robots

Universal Robots is planning to hire more than 200 new employees in 2022.

James-McKewUniversal Robots (UR) is enabling Human-Robot collaboration that makes industrial automation safe, easy, and accessible for businesses of all sizes, who are able to automate and streamline repetitive industrial processes. The Universal Robots collaborative robots (cobots) can work right alongside personnel with no safety guarding based on the results of a mandatory risk assessment. In 2016, the company launched its online ecosystem Universal Robots+, and in early 2017 it launched a new online digital learning platform called Universal Robots Academy. In 2018, a brand new generation of Universal Robots’ cobots called e-Series was launched raising the standard for collaborative robots. The world over, including in India, there is a growing demand for collaborative robots or cobots. They remain the fastest-growing segment of industrial automation, projected to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 30.37% during 2020-2025. During an interaction with Nitisha; James McKew, Regional Director – APAC, Universal Robots highlights the demand for cobots and its future growth. He also shares plans to hire more than 200 new employees in 2022.

How are cobots making a difference in your industry?

Organisations are constantly exploring new opportunities and adopting new technologies to grow and expand their business to new heights. This is where collaborative robots or “cobots” comes in. Cobots are designed with safety in mind, allowing human employees to work alongside cobots without safety cages (upon risk assessment). This has become a solution for manufacturers with space constraints on the factory floor. Additionally, tasks that require a high precision level can be prone to human errors due to repetitive processes. Cobots work with precision, reducing production and manufacturing errors. Cobots’ agility and flexibility have allowed them to be easily deployed and re-deployed in various environments, including both industrial and non-industrial settings. Manufacturers are adopting cobots in order to build resilience and maintain a competitive edge in their industry.

Uptime: how customer service evolves with the cobots market?

Universal Robots (UR) are efficient in responding to customers’ queries and quick in offering solutions to their customers. From the purchase of the product to installations, UR ensures customer support is available. UR ensures that the cobots are up and running post-deployment with tools and processes in place in order to provide assured customer satisfaction.

With the expansion of its customer base and advancement in technologies, UR has also developed a new advanced portal called myUR which enables distributors and end customers to register warranty cases, service requests and support inquiries. myUR is not just an issue/problem resolving portal but it’s a whole new platform for building up communication and support. It helps stakeholders to engage and stay connected while at the same time increasing accessibility and usability. In addition, UR offers extended consumer service packages to cater to different customer needs. Manufacturers, operators, learners, or even job seekers can attend the free online training modules, webinars and video tutorials at Universal Robots Academy (UR Academy). The interactive online modules are available in 16 languages, educating customers regardless of their robotics background.

How do cobots address key challenges in automotive production?

The automotive industry is amongst the first adopters of traditional robots and one of the earliest widespread adopters of cobots. As traditional industries remain highly automated, cobots have seen massive growth in the automotive industry. As the automotive industry highly depended on manual labour in the assembly processes, one of the key challenges faced by manufacturers is the unplanned downtime due to human errors. Repetitive and monotonous processes may lead to human errors, resulting in decreased productivity and efficiency. Cobots are capable of working on small objects such as screw driving and fittings. Unlike humans, cobots can operate 24/7/365, repeating tasks without human errors occurring due to fatigue.  In addition, cobots are flexible and can be easily mounted in any orientation after necessary risk assessments and can be deployed alongside humans without any safety fencing. This saves a significant amount of space on the factory floor which itself is a major challenge for the manufacturers in the urban areas.

Cobots: the key game-changer for Indian SMBs. Kindly explain.

Cobots are used in various industries across India, including large enterprises and small and mid-sized enterprises. While traditional industries such as automotive, electronics and manufacturing are highly automated, other industries have witnessed a rise in the deployment of cobots. Industries such as FMCG, food and beverage, healthcare, cosmetic, and agriculture have greatly benefitted from cobots.

For example, L’Oréal, one of the world’s largest cosmetics companies was facing issues at its Indian plant in Pune, as end-of-the-line operations were being carried out manually, posing a severe ergonomic risk to workers. The deployment of UR cobots has led to the plant witnessing a 5 per cent Overall Equipment Effectiveness improvement.

What kind of challenges the automotive industry is facing in adopting cobots?

For more than half a century, the automotive industry has been operating with traditional industrial robots.  Industrial robots have been running for decades in this sector from parts and sub-assembly production to operations at the OEM production facilities. With fixed processes already carried out by the robots, transiting from the large and bulky machines to collaborative robots may be a challenge to many manufacturers in the automotive industry. Manufacturers have yet to understand the benefits that cobots are bringing to the manufacturing floor, including their small footprint, rapid ROI and consistent performance. While the automotive industry remains highly dependent on manual labour, cobots will become the perfect assistance to employees. However, misconceptions that cobots may replace human workers have arisen, resulting in fears and concerns that jobs will be taken by robotics eventually. Instead of replacing human employees, cobots are capable of working alongside human workers and relieving them to work on tasks that require human cognitive skills. In fact, most experts believe that automation will create a massive number of jobs and no robots or machines will ever replace human dexterity and creativity. Without addressing the challenges and unravelling the misunderstandings, the adoption of cobots in the automotive sector may continue to be a challenge.

How was the year 2020-21 in terms of business?

The year 2020-21 has been a great year of success for Universal Robots. Despite the world facing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and uncertain economies, UR has seen tremendous growth. Last year, UR has reported record annual revenue of $311 million, reporting a 41 per cent increase from 2020 and a 23 per cent increase from pre-pandemic in 2019.

The demand for cobots in various sectors has risen last year, due to supply chain challenges and labour shortages witnessed across the globe. The pandemic has resulted in businesses adopting automation and technologies to curb labour shortages. As such, the awareness of automation in manufacturing has played a vital role in the increase of cobots’ demand. Additionally, UR has broken its own records of making 400 cobots in a week, despite facing supply chain challenges last year.

Kindly talk about your upcoming project and future growth planning.

Universal Robots believes in creating a world where people work with robots, not like robots. It is the vision that UR keeps in everything we do. At UR, human values and employees’ work satisfaction come first. For instance, creating a workplace where every employee is happy and every person is rewarded for their good efforts and building a company where engineers, marketers, salesperson and every other person together make the company. In fact, UR is expecting to hire more than 200 new employees in 2022.

UR has exhibited at North America’s largest show for automation technologies, providing new opportunities for manufacturers to ramp up production. The characteristic light-blue joint cobot arms from UR has been showcased in more than 30 booths throughout Automate 2022.


Nitisha Dubey

I am a Journalist with a post graduate degree in Journalism & Mass Communication. I love reading non-fiction books, exploring different destinations and varieties of cuisines. Biographies and historical movies are few favourites.

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