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Patrick Schwarzkopf

Managing Director

VDMA Robotics + Automation

ROBOTICS & HANDLING Safety is a key topic in the robotics sector

May 7, 2019

One of the greatest challenges facing the global robotics industry is the collaboration between robots and humans. If the necessary safety requirements are fulfilled for the designated task, human-robot collaboration allows the support of humans by robots, without safety fences. - Patrick Schwarzkopf, Managing Director, VDMA Robotics + Automation

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

The sales of industrial robots in India reached a new record of 3,412 new units installed in 2017. This is an increase of 30 per cent compared to the previous year (2,627 units in 2016). Between 2012 and 2017, India saw a compound annual sales growth rate (CAGR) of 18%.

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

One of the greatest challenges facing the global robotics industry today is the collaboration between robots and humans (workers). If the necessary safety requirements are fulfilled for the designated task, human-robot collaboration allows the support of humans/ workers by robots, without safety fences, i.e. robots and workers sharing a common workspace.

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

Safety is a key topic in the robotics sector. Therefore, robot safety standards, on a worldwide level, created by international technical experts within the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), have high value and quality. In order to avoid injuries and harm for humans, it is essential to meet and fulfill the relevant safety requirements when using robots. Accidents with robots occur rather rarely. In such cases, they are mostly caused by human failures and not by technical malfunctions of the robot.

Can a robot self-diagnose a malfunction and avoid causing any damage? What role can the human play here?

Due to intelligent machine systems, faults can be recognised before they appear and machines can be maintained before a breakdown occurs. This allows cost efficiency. Predictive Maintenance is closely linked to topics like, Industry 4.0, the Internet of Things and Big Data.

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

The latest trends in the robotics industry are human-robot collaboration as well as easy programming of a robot. Easy programming makes it convenient to adjust the use for different applications, i.e. it provides more flexibility to production processes.

What are some misconceptions of a robot and its use in the factory?

A misconception of a robot and its use would be that they are a total replacement for human labour. Robots are important to perform tasks which are stressful, monotonous and unhealthy for humans. By taking over such tasks, robots support human labour. But other tasks remain important for humans when it comes to higher qualified tasks.

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 and the increasing use of robots will change human jobs. If robots take over low-end jobs, further education and qualification for higher-qualified jobs becomes very important. When we look back in the past, it can be seen that in sectors with a high increase of robot use and automation, new jobs were created instead of leading to a decrease in them.

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