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Subrata Karmakar

Head – Robotics & Discrete Automation

ABB India

ROBOTICS & HANDLING Integration is the key to robotics automation

May 3, 2019

Robotics today is not just about measures of productivity and quality. It’s also about helping factories be more agile to efficiently introduce new products faster and meet the demands of high mix low volume manufacturing and shorter product lifecycles. - Subrata Karmakar, Head – Robotics & Discrete Automation, ABB India

If you look at the use of robots today, what would the market penetration look like in India and globally?

Smart Manufacturing is not just a buzzword today but has become an absolute necessity in the overall manufacturing process. Today, industries require robots not only for faster production and better quality output, but also for process optimisation. The demand today is shifting in such a way that the global industry and that in India will not be able to think without robotics and automation.

What is the greatest challenge facing the global robotics industry today?

Robotics is one of the fastest growing industries and has created numerous opportunities across the value chain. Like any growing technology, it has to keep pace with the changing customer requirements and create value for its users. There are challenges on the way, for example, to create precise AI for reproducing and matching all facets of human intelligence. Better power source is another topic for mobile robots where improving the battery life is a major issue.

What do you think about robot malfunctions in a factory? How frequent are the incidences and what are the possible reasons?

Robots, as machines, are quite stable and ‘smart’ and we have not come across any robot malfunction situations. Its parts may fail, which could cause breakdown. Integration is the key to robotics automation. Often, integrators fail to understand the importance of using all robot features for safety and quality. In addition, end-users sometimes bypass many options due to ignorance or overlook. This can cause line stoppage, accidents or quality issues. Most importantly, using robotics or any automation in the manufacturing industry requires a change in culture and behaviour, without which automation will not succeed. End-users have to be smarter than the robot in order to make it more efficient and productive.

The robotics industry has undergone a huge change in terms of technology and applications. Can you highlight the latest trends?

Robotics, today, is not just about measures of productivity and quality. It’s also about helping factories be more agile to efficiently introduce new products faster and meet the demands of high-mix low-volume manufacturing and shorter product lifecycles. Besides, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence are further changing the game. Customers now want to simulate human intelligence processes by machines.

Do you think the increasing use of robots will affect human jobs? If all the repetitive tasks become automated, what happens to the low-end jobs?

Automation creates better and ultimately, more jobs. When we look at the three countries with the highest level of robotics adoption (Germany, Japan and South Korea), it should be noted that they, in fact, have some of the lowest rates of unemployment. The evolution of automation counter-intuitively created more jobs in sectors where it was not expected. For example, when Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) were introduced, people expected the number of people working in banks to reduce. However, it resulted in an increase in the number of bank branches.

Robots can free up people for more rewarding tasks and take over jobs that are dangerous, repetitive, and hazardous. The future of Smart Manufacturing will bring about a paradigm shift in the way man and machine work.

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