Future of Robotics in India in the post COVID era

As worse as it has been for people, businesses, livelihood and world economy, even an eternal optimist will find it difficult to take out positives from the COVID headlined 2020. But if I was asked to point finger on a specific thing that accelerated in these challenging times, it would be our desire to produce quality products locally. The rising sentiment among businesses to de-risk their supply chains by moving out manufacturing from China to other countries also fueled our ambition to become a manufacturing powerhouse. There is no doubt that India has the potential to achieve great heights in manufacturing but from a neutral perspective I’d say that we still have a long way to go to match China. For instance, the robot density in China is 100 per 10,000 workers which is almost 30 times higher than where we are today. This is an important metric because robots help boost productivity and improve quality and hence the most industrialised nations in the world have a high robot density.

Finding opportunity in challenge

The current state of robotics deployment in India should not discourage us by any means rather we have to look at it as an opportunity to grow. In fact, we are witnessing an increasing inclination towards robotics adoption in manufacturing primarily due to the following reasons:

  • Motivation: to achieve enhanced productivity
  • Aspiration: to secure consistency & resilience in production & supply chains
  • Confidence: to produce high-quality goods. The emotion is no longer “make in India” only. The Indian makers want to “make in India for the world”

While these positives keep us in contention for the next wave of growth, we must also deal with the potential hurdles in our path. Some of these are:

  • Capital: Capex investment
  • Availability of the right ecosystem: the adoption of automation depends a lot on how the whole project is designed and executed for it to be able to deliver the right performance. It’s not only about robots but about entire peripherals like the grippers, the mechanicals, the integration with the machine control PLCs to name a few.
  • Availability of the right skill set: not only for maintenance but also for implementing the right design and putting it together.

Making most of your investments

To achieve a desired amount of manufacturing quality and productivity, emphasis must be given on selecting the right application to be automated. As a starting point, you can bank on robotics to automate applications like:

  • Pick & Place: Simple activities like picking and placing in a matrix or palletizing, but also complex ones like identifying randomly oriented objects and placing in precise matrices. The robots deliver precision, and speed to the applications leading to greater levels of productivity and quality.
  • Goods Movement: Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) and Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) will surely have an important and greater role to play in the Indian industry.
  • Quality Inspection & Precision: especially for the tasks which require very high level of precision where makers do not wish to depend on manual intervention. Handling naked food like chocolates, cookies, sea food, etc. also fall under this category.

Parting Thoughts

Having come a long way, the Indian manufacturing industry is at an inflection point. While robotics has a higher adoption rate in sectors like automotive; FMGG and digital industries are also catching up fast. As for the MSMEs, they have a huge scope and a requirement for automation. All that needs to be done is to have a big vision and follow a step- by- step approach while forming associations with the solution providers.

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