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Cobots hold promise for Indian SMEs looking to automate

G Balachandar Chennai | Updated on June 24, 2018 Published on June 24, 2018

Rather than replacing employees, these robots work in tandem with them

If you’re an SME looking to keep your employees engaged and productive, Denmark-based technology company Universal Robots may have the solution, through its cobots.

Already, scores of domestic SMEs are deploying cobots, or collaborative robots, on their shop floors.

Unlike an industrial robot, which is typically fenced off while performing tasks in order to keep humans safe, the new-generation cobots are rather friendly — they’re ‘safe’ for human interaction, and have been designed to work alongside people, rather than replace them.

“Cobots can reduce the fatigue of repetitive work in workers while retaining human expertise in the production process, as also making them focus on higher-quality tasks,” said Universal Robots President Jurgen von Hollen.

The $170-million Universal Robots, which claims to have an over 60 per cent share of the global cobot space, is targeting Indian SMEs on the lookout for an affordable automation solution.

“Why should only big companies have robots? Our objective is to make sure that all companies have access to automation solutions. By deploying collaborative robots, a lot of SMEs have achieved scale and enhanced their quality significantly,” said Hollen.

In the two years that the company has been operating in India, it has been doubling the sales of cobots every year. So far, it has sold about 400 cobots to around 100 companies, of which SMEs account for approximately 40 per cent.

High dividend

“Our aim is to increase the SME share to 60 per cent in the near term,” said Pradeep S David, General Manager, South Asia, Universal Robots India Pvt Ltd. “By spending ₹15-22 lakh on cobots, an SME can reap the benefits of Industry 4.0,” he said. (‘Industry 4.0’ refers to the current trend of using automation and data exchange in manufacturing.)

In the near term, the company eyes potential in three segments — auto components, FMCG and electronic units. Company officials said Universal’s cobots are covered by 65 patents, reflecting the amount of technology that has gone into their making.

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Published on June 24, 2018
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