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ROBOTICS & HANDLING Robotics making their mark in the automotive industry

Sep 5, 2019

For several years, the automotive industry has been thoroughly using industrial robotics. They expand on quality and bring down costs, while growing capacity. In this context, VDMA Robotics + Automation recently organised ‘Robotomation – Symposium for robotic automation trends in automotive industry’ in Pune. The symposium explored how robotic automation can increase the standard and quality of the automotive industry. A post-event report…

The automotive manufacturing industry has been one of the fastest adopters of industrial robotic technology. Keeping this in mind, VDMA Robotics + Automation recently organised ‘Robotomation – Symposium for robotic automation trends in automotive industry.’ The symposium focused on the global robotics and automation trends available for the Indian automotive industry & how robotic automation can increase excellence in this sector.

India-Germany relations

The symposium took off with an enthusiastic welcome by Rajesh Nath, Managing Director, VDMA India. He emphasised that the automobile industry in India is expected to reach a figure of $260-280 billion by 2026. Next, Dr Juergen Morhard, Consul General of Federal Republic of Germany, Mumbai, expertly highlighted the Indian-Germany relationships. He stated, “Germany is the number one trade partner in India after Japan. We are especially strong when it comes to academic partnerships.”

This was followed by an engaging address by the chief guest of the day, Dr Abhay Firodia, Chairman, Force Motors. He threw a bit of light on the history of the automobile industry, the affordability of EVs and the robotic automation trends in the industry. He explained that the automobile industry was mainly European from 1855 to the first World War, which was the basic innovation. “After World War II, Japan became the centre of innovation in the industry,” he said. Turning to EVs, he further asserted that once battery costs go down, the affordability of EVs will go up. “And, it will not allow older technologies to surive, while the industry will have to adjust to these changes,” he pointed out.

Robotics globally & in India

After this, Patrick Schwarzkopf, Member, Executive Board of the International Federation of Robotics & Managing Director, VDMA Robotics + Automation, gave the audience a clear picture of global robotics and that in India, through his keynote address on ‘The global robotics and automation boom’. He maintained, “Asia is the biggest user of robots.” Coming to robotics in India, Schwarzkopf claimed that the robotics market in India is small, where the country has about 23,000 robots in operation, which is not much. So, there is a big opportunity.

Integrating robot with CNC control

Shortly after, Vundavally Madanmohan, Chief Manager – Product Portfolio Management, Siemens, took over and gave a winning presentation on ‘Integrated robotic solutions for machining’. He specified that with growing mass customisation, having the integration of robot with CNC controller will make it much easier. “By integrating robot with CNC control, the robot gains all available CNC functionality,” he implied.

Subsequently, Ashwin Vanikar, Head of Cluster India: Application Engineering, Festo India, spoke on ‘Enhancing automation in collaboration with robots’. “Modern information and communications technologies are being combined with traditional industrial processes, thus, fundamentally changing various areas of production by integrating OPC UA interface in Industry 4.0 host enviornments,” he put forth.

Robotic tool changer

Succeeding this, Tushar Mense, National Sales Manager – Robot Accessories, Schunk Intec India, spoke on ‘Flexibility in robotic automation with tool changers’. He expertly expanded on how a robot is flexible to multitask with robotic tool changer, an end-effector with two mating parts, a master side and a tool side that have been designed to couple together automatically, carry a payload and have the ability to pass utilities. This was followed by a gripping presentation by Prashanth Alevoor, Head – Application Technology Division, Dürr India, on ‘Latest technologies and innovative solutions for automotive paint applications’.

It was soon time for the high point of the symposium – the first panel discussion of the day. The discussion on ‘Efficient handling solutions for automotive industry’ was moderated by Dr Ranjit Date, President and Joint Managing Director, PARI. The esteemed panellists were Nilesh Jadhav, Technical Consultant – Automotive, Siemens; Ashwin Vanikar; Satish Sadasivan, Managing Director, Schunk Intec India; Vivek Sharma, Vice President – Central Manufacturing Engineering, Mahindra & Mahindra; and Rajesh Sharma, Head ICT – Infrastructure, Security & Compliance, Fiat India.

Being more export & skill oriented

The first question shot at the panelists was whether the robot density in India is adequate. To this, Sadasivan responded that there can be an improvement in the density. “When we look at some countries that are high in density, we see that they are more into exports,” he answered and continued, “so, we need to be a more export-oriented economy.”

Sharing his views, Vanikar asserted, “We need to move from being labour-oriented to skill-oriented; skill-oriented jobs come with automation and there is a high potential because of the skills being used.” Jadhav added that we are still behind in terms of robots. “It’s not just about the level of automation but what kind of requirement it fits,” he cited and continued, “it’s not just about production, but we also need to serve the society.”

It’s about opportunity

The discussion further examined the challenges that India faces when it comes to getting high-level of automation. To this, Vivek Sharma opined that automation comes with a scale. He expounded, “If we consider an automotive company in China, then we see that their scale of operating is a lot more. So, we must look at how we can be flexible with our automation and robotics.”

So, what should customers look at while considering automation? “There’s no risk factor,” Rajesh Kumar Sharma explained and went on, “It’s about opportunity. One needs to identify what his/her requirement is, which should go into the business plan. Also, people are becoming more aware & laws are becoming more stringent.”

Machine vision system

After the first panel discussion, Dr Horst Heinol-Heikkinen, CEO, ASENTICS; Member of the Board, VDMA Robotics + Automation; and Chairman, VDMA OPC Vision Working Group, had the audience engrossed with the next presentation on ‘The VDMA OPC UA initiative – Industry 4.0 becomes reality’. He threw light on what machine vision system is, in which a system for machine vision is any complex machine vision system or vision sensor or any other component, which, in the production context, is capable of extracting information from electromagnetic waves in accordance with a given image processing task. “No interface standard exists between a machine vision system and production IT systems,” he explained and continued, “for each new project, new proprietary interfaces have to be developed.”

The trend of electrification

The ensuing presentation was an interesting one on ‘Technology trends in engine shop & electrical vehicles’ by Markus Böhmer, Senior Sales Manager Systems International, Zimmer GmbH. He conveyed, “The trend towards electrification already has a much earlier impact on the industry than can it be directly seen by considering the expected sales volume.”

The presentation posterior to this was on ‘Manufacturing excellence through robotic automation’ by Vikas Swami, Vice President, KUKA Robotics. The audience paid rapt attention as he explained how OEMs want to make multiple vehicles on one line for which they need more and more robots. “So, our target is to squeeze and make slimmer robots,” he verbalised.

Requirements of automobile manufacturers

This was followed by a captivating presentation by Sven Baumer, Global Industry Manager – Assembly & Handling, Baumer Management Services AG on ‘Efficient sensor solutions in automotive-related production enviornments’. Baumer focused on the current requirements of automobile manufacturers, which includes refining automated processes, ensuring readiness for greenfield investments and increasing flexibility. “Also, a company like ours should focus on technological excellence, application competence and adding value to the process”, he added.

The symposium eventually delved into the last segment – the second panel discussion, which was on ‘Collaborative technology for automotive manufacturing’. The discussion was moderated by Sudhir Gurtoo, Managing Director & CEO, Leadec India. The revered panellists were Sunil Raibagi, Vice President – Business Development & Strategy, Zimmer GmbH; Vikas Swami; Sunil Hasabnis, Managing Director, Baumer India; S Devarajan, Senior Vice President – PE, TVS Motor Company; and Rajesh Nath, Managing Director, VDMA India.

German presence in India

Gurtoo put across his first question, asking speakers their outlook on German companies responding to collaborative technology. Nath returned that we are seeing the presence of more and more German companies in India, bringing the latest technologies with them. The panellists further deliberated whether robots make the industry more dependent on them. Sharing his views on this, Devarajan conferred that with variety on the rise, flexibity is needed, which in turn requires robotics.

Robots are becoming more intelligent

Gurtoo went on to ask the panellists that as the automotive industry changes, what was the support system from their side. Giving an insight on what his company is up to, Raibagi replied that robots are becoming more intelligent. “Robots are being used in South-East Asian countries even for shoe manufacturing,” he said and continued, “these changes are beneficial developments to bring the cost down. Our company is getting geared up and catching up with these changes.” Coming to applications of collaborative robotics working successfully in India, Swami asserted, “There are not many. Worldwide, we have at least 30 applications only from automotive.”

Besides, the question was raised that if sensors fail, then how will one ever know that? To this, Hasabnis responded, “Even simple systems like, milk storage are using GSM technology to give an advanced warning to the collection plant through wireless internet that the milk is supposed to be collected, which is done directly through what sensors sense. With IO-Link, you can get an advanced warning if the sensor is working or not.”

VDMA Robotics + Automation division conferred the champions serving the automotive industry in India with the 1st VDMA Robotics + Automation Innovation Awards for the automotive industry under the category, Efficient and Effective Production. The winner was International Automotive Components (IAC) and the runner-up was TVS - Sundaram Clayton.

Robotics thriving in the automotive industry

The symposium made clear that robotics have certainly taken their place in the automotive industry. They are a push towards today’s smart manufacturing lines in the automotive sector, while innovative technologies are making them more resourceful.

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