The robotic market in India has achieved huge growth from last few years. The benefits of robotic is huge but, industrial expansion, digital revolution and adoption of automation have been found as a major result in robotic market. If we see the annual installation, so the robotic market in India stood at 5,000 units in 2019 and expecting to touch 11,760 units by 2025. The growth showcases the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 14.41% during the 2020-2025 period. The major market, which uses robotics are automotive, healthcare, pharmaceutical, plastic, metal, electrical and electronics sectors. While talking with Nitisha; Harshit Sureka, Founder & CEO, Robro Systems; James McKew, Regional President Asia-Pacific, Universal Robots; Satish Shukla, Co-founder & Head – HR and Marketing, Addverb Technologies; Srinivasa Reddy, Director – Operations, Quality & Regulatory Affairs, SS Innovations; Nishant Singh Rana, CEO, Vyorius highlights the different verticals of robotics market in India.
Advancement in Robotic Sector
Over the decade, robotics has developed in several ways and expanded its application to several domains of manufacturing. Tremendous research and development have undergone in robotics, exposing us to technologies like Flexible robots, specially developed to execute tasks that were only accomplished by humans until now, Collaborative Robots, which can effortlessly work with humans to assist them in any tasks, Miniature robots, robots that can be used to inspect tiny objects, Active Learning Robots, self-learning robots that learn from their mistakes and correctness, and Vision Guided Robots, robots integrated with machine vision technology to process and analyze objects and tasks just like humans.
With the speed at which robotics is growing today, it’s not too soon to expect more availability in the different ﬁelds as well as in different geographical locations. The adaptation of AI and Machine Vision is increasingly improving the co-working capabilities of robots, making it a near-future sight to see humans and robots working together in most industries, says Harshit.
Whereas James feels that robots are getting smaller, lighter and more integrated into our daily lives. Collaborative robot is an example of such robots. In the past, industrial robots are bulky, space consuming, hard to program and need to be separated from human workers with cages. Today, some of these tasks by industrial robots can be replaced with cobots which are light, work alongside human workers, easy to program, energy saving and safe are available. The pandemic has also accelerated the adoption of cobots as more companies are encouraged to try automation as a solution to disruption brought about by the virus. Besides the usage of cobots in the manufacturing process, we are seeing more cobots breaking into service industries as well, such as food preparation.
Over the past five years, several advancements have been made in the arena of mobile robotics, pertaining to their applications in various fields. The most notable technological advancements were observed in the following areas- Intra-logistics, healthcare, retail, and agriculture. There are a variety of surveillance robots coming up in all shapes and sizes such as drones, amphibian robots for underwater inspection of gas pipelines, biped and quadruped robots navigating in complex terrain in a variety of settings. In upcoming times, we can expect a lot more robots taking up a variety of mundane jobs like agriculture, to even hazardous jobs like waste management at an industrial scale, emphasizes Satish.
Srinivasa feels, surgical robotics is likely to be delivered on real-time networks in the near future, bringing single specialized expertise into a single community setting. If it is properly implemented, it can become the most effective healthcare service, further lowering the operating and overhead costs. While, the surgical robotics in India is highly dominated by global manufacturers, this advanced technology and its benefits are remained expensive for the healthcare providers and rural masses. Our Indian firm SS innovations lead by Dr. Sudhir Prem Srivastava, a world prominent robotic surgeon lead the development of surgical robotics and aim to take affordable and accessible technological innovation to each and every part of the country in the years to come. Nishant highlights the problem in robotic industry. He says, today’s world is not about proving the hardware robotic system. There has been a tremendous improvement in the electronics, operating, and mechanical side of the robots. The major gap is in making sure that these systems can work in a fleet for a business case and provide economic feasibility.
Pros and Cons
Harshit says, over the years, Robotics has become a new necessity for the industries, just like computers have become for oﬃces and administrative departments, in the coming times. As for the pros of robotics, it has raised standards in the industry for speed and quality, because of its fast and error-free applications. Moreover, robots have earned a reputation for their consistency, accuracy, and a wide scope of tasks like heavy lifting which are diﬃcult for humans.
On the other hand, despite having a great many perks, robotics is dependent on the availability of a standardized environment to eﬃciently operate in an industry. Even after having the “ease of industrial operations” vision while developing robots, they are not fully cost-eﬃcient for small and medium scale enterprises, he adds. Collaborative robots bring about higher productivity, eﬃciency, quality and consistency of products because they are capable to repeating the same tasks over and over again, accurately and with little variance, without suffering from fatigue or getting bored. They are tools of convenience, similar to how a car reduces time taken to move from one place to another, or how a mobile phone makes communication much faster, and how a washing machine help us with laundry. A collaborative robot reduces the time workers need to spend on dangerous and dull tasks. The disadvantages of robots used to be high investment costs, scarcity of expertise to program and maintain and other ongoing costs. When Universal Robots launched cobots, they were created to change that by lowering upfront automation costs with shorter ROI, ease of programming and lower maintenance costs, says James.
While sharing his thought on same, Satish clarifies it in pointers. He says;
Cons for robotics in Industrial automation:
- Delivering orders in delay because of lack of workforce
- Customer operations requires a lot of manual workforces
- Often workforce waste time moving around the warehouse/facility to pick items
- Manual repetitive tasks are a money drain for small and midsize businesses
- Customers face problems in fulfilling demand variations
- Challenge in hiring a workforce for peak seasons
- Customer’s order fulfillment capacity is affected due to a breakdown in the process leading to ineﬃcient fulfillment systems
- Often customer face mismatch in virtual and physical inventories because of manual operations
Pros for robotics in Industrial automation:
- Flexible & limited area for travel unlike conveyors & forklifts, hence less floor space investment
- Predictable time consumption, enables scheduling capabilities
- Lower chance of operation-wide shutdown
- Higher Accuracy Levels
- Lowering labor costs
- Improved safety conditions in the workplace unlike forklifts or Hand Pallet Truck (Hopt) which are not safe in mixed environment shared with humans
- Improved manufacturing and shipping duties with fewer shipping errors
- Less worker strain and fatigue
- Dealing with such automated systems/technology creates more appealing and exciting jobs
- Higher workforce retention rates
While focusing on medical robotic systems, Srinivasa elaborates, there is a significant number of challenges for implementation of robot assisted surgery system, it involves significant capital cost (typically $1.5 to $2.5 million per robotic system) and maintenance costs (>$125,000 per year), a shortage of skilled professionals, and the cost of associated surgical procedures. Also, the current suppliers with monopoly are having very uneven global penetration including USA, country and economic-centric, USA, Europe and Japan account for 93% of installed surgical robotic systems and only 7% for rest of the world with a population base of over 6 billion. India with a population of close to 1.4 billion with 450 plus medical colleges and 22,000 medium- large hospitals, has only 1.5% (80-100 systems) of the global surgical robotic systems. Cost and steep learning curve remained main factors for India to implement robot assisted surgery system.
Robotics has the power to transform the world, but it also brings challenges. Robots are being used for anything and everything from agriculture, delivery, damage control and policing to household chores, highlights Nishant. The key problems which businesses hope to solve through robotic systems are: delayed services, human errors, unexpected disruption to production, improper infrastructure and shortage of manpower. It is predicted that the world will see the number of unmanned robots rise up to 1 Million by 2022. The recent COVID situation is having a massive impact and the world will see a fast-tracked adoption to these unmanned solutions capable of reducing exposure and work without human intervention, making sure the work continues. On the other-hand it could lead to loss of jobs, higher cost of initial deployment, change in workplaces to accommodate robot-human interaction and reduce accidents. Getting these unmanned systems to work with existing infrastructure will require experimentation, time, learnings, regulatory changes and documented safety procedures, he adds.
Challenges & Scopes in the Adoption
Although there are a lot of manufacturers of robots, one of the biggest challenges of robotics in the Indian economy is a scarcity of companies that provide adequate services and support which are suitable for Indian operators and workers, says Harshit. Indian manufacturers, still new to AI and robotics, not only require training as there is a lack of talent in robot operation in the country but also a lot of guidance and assistance when introduced to such technology. As we discover more and more applications of robotics, the scope of robotics is widening, as with each application for one speciﬁc manufacturing unit, robots can be readily automated for a similar application in multiple units like Pick & Place.
Robotics excel in repetitive tasks but has limitations when it comes to cognitive tasks, says James. Humans are better at cognitive activities such as problem solving, decision making and making sense of a new situation but suffers from loss of concentration, muscle fatigue, joint damage and increased errors when handling repeated tasks for long periods of time. When robots assist humans in dull and repetitive tasks, it frees humans for higher level tasks, and allow us to embody our human skills, amplify cognitive strengths, spend more time interacting with customers and employees and extend our capabilities. Robots can repeat a task continuously, accurately, and at the same pace without suffering from fatigue. The human-robot collaboration is a cost-effective, and sustainable format as it enables higher productivity, safety and less wastage, he adds.
Satish says, the adoption of robotics certainly has some challenges, like;
- The capital expenditure is usually a little high
- Realizing the complete scope of application is underrated and hard to find skill in the industry
- A lot of economically weaker sections and labor unions are against the idea of robotics and automations because of their assumptions around loss of jobs
The Scopes are:
Given the evident shortage of labor that we have in the market, and the growing literacy rate, more people are becoming open to the idea of robotics. Companies are producing ways to reduce the Capital expenditure by trying out new business models such as RaaS (Robotics- As-A-Service). There is no denying that robotic technologies are poised to revolutionize the way things are done in the industries where they are being applied. Robotics is primarily affecting businesses such as manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, fast moving consumer goods (FMCG), packaging, and inspection. Robotics would also be present in technology. Defense and education are two additional attractive industries.
The world has just witnessed the PC and smartphone revolutions, and now it is time for the inevitable robotics revolution. Given that major giants such as Google, FESTO, and Tesla are investing in robotics, as well as a considerable growth in amateur robotic enthusiasts, open- source tools, and platforms for robotics, quick progress in this subject is expected in the next 5-10 years, says Satish.
Srinivasa emphasizes the condition of medical industry. He says, hospitals in India and abroad are reported currently available surgical robotics are beyond return on investment (ROI) due to capital, maintenance costs and huge learning curve, patients’ affordability, and insurance reimbursement. It is recommended that hospitals should consider several major areas when considering implementing a robot-assisted surgery program:
- Initial acquisition costs
- Cost per procedure for instruments
- Continuing system maintenance costs
- Staff training and credentialing and maintaining a standard robotic surgery team
- OR size and ability to accommodate the system
- Impact on OR scheduling
- Effect on patient referral patterns from MIS to robotic surgery
- Competition between departments for use of the robotic system
- Clinical data supporting robot-assisted surgery for intended uses
- Adverse events associated with robotic systems
- Instrument reprocessing capabilities
- Reimbursement for robotic-assisted surgical procedures
There are barriers to robotic adoption from the point of view of businesses. The challenge of deploying these unmanned systems lies in making the operations eﬃcient, safer and economical. With robotic manufacturers focusing on creating amazing products, the undifferentiated value is to ensure the safety, eﬃciency, scalability, flexibility and productivity of operations to solve real world problems, says Nishant.
The unmanned robotic operational challenges include poor end-to-end visibility due to which they require constant supervision, disconnected disparate systems which can’t communicate with each other and can cause accidents, processing large amounts of data which is humanly impossible and manufacturer’s lack focus to create an end-to-end service and the need to reduce downtime, he adds.
Our strategy is to develop partnerships and collaborations with robotic manufacturers, operators and service providers. Our plan includes test pilots, trial runs and B2B collaborations. Considering we will be doing B2B services, we don’t necessarily require to market to the masses and hence our sales and marketing team focuses on leveraging service providers and businesses. Our clients are our biggest influencers and for us social media like Linkedin is the place to create a hype around our offering. We do campaigns for social impact and push more towards green logistics. With this we aim to be in the public eye while serving the businesses.
We did South Asia’s first live BVLOS drone delivery operation, controlled drones 2500km away using our infrastructure and opened solutions for 5G integration with drones. With our cutting edge technology we are making sure that we always remain ahead of the curve in terms of robotic operation management, concludes Nishant.
Srinivasa says, our cost effective surgical robotic system associated with short learning curve to physicians delivers high quality care and robotic surgery benefits to the underserved population of the world. This innovation would further put India in the Global spotlight for Innovation, centre for surgical robotics excellence and hub of “Local for Global” manufacturing. SSI Mantra is successfully validated through- animal, cadaver, and human clinical trials and has already received the expression of interests and purchase orders from prominent healthcare providers.
As Robro Systems is advancing locally at a feasible pace, Harshit plans on gradually expanding his company’s reach into different industries with industry speciﬁc solutions, like providing web and surface inspection services for textile industries. These industries include Pharma, Printing and Packaging, textile, Food and beverages, FMCG, Metal & Automatic, and Wood & Plastic. We want to be one of the best automation services providers in these industries with an aim of enhancing the automation experience and production process of our clients. We plan to do so by adopting various oﬄine and online marketing strategies including SEO, SMM etc.
Educating end users on the benefits of cobots, concludes James