Robotics in the Indian Manufacturing Industry

By N Jayantha Prabhu, Group CIO, Essar Group

I firmly believe humans working along side robots are not the future of the manufacturing industry; it’s the “here and now”. They’re not a luxury either; they are a competitive advantage. In India, if we have properly integrated automation then it can bring the ability to transform a manufacturing plant for the better. Indian manufacturing stands at a critical point in its long history – and how industry leaders view the changing landscape will influence its future. As technology, demographics, and economic climate shift, manufacturers must innovate in order to stay competitive. It is only through a proactive effort that the manufacturing industry will seize the opportunity – and overcome the challenge.

Robotics, conveyors, and machinery can see better and think better than ever before. Paired with smart software systems, these new technologies are making it easier to find efficiencies, assign labor, and balance different elements of the complex systems. While still a capital investment, robotics can now do more than ever, and there are systems available that are affordable for small- and medium-sized operations. Areas of repetitive actions (i.e. palletizing, picking, packaging) are ideal roles for today’s robots, especially in high-volume plants.

The Internet of Things can work hand in hand with Robotics. Internet-enabled machines are powerful. IoT has the ability to transform the manufacturing industry, if these smart machines are implemented both strategically and with purpose – and therein lays the challenge. Many of these smart devices haven’t reached their full potential. Systems need to be in place to harness this information, analyze it, and translate it into actionable changes. It’s possible to have visibility into every step of the manufacturing process. A truly connected production line has data points throughout the warehouse and together they create an extraordinary volume of information.

To thrive in this new data-rich era, manufacturers need to improve data mining from the plant floor. With the right data and analytics in place, manufacturers can make faster, better decisions based on real-time information rather than assumptions or prior experience. As technology improves it will mature from enabling proactive actions to developing predictive insights. Incorporating a robot system is Key!

Technology is always changing and improving. However, by introducing a robot into production lines, companies can gain a competitive edge and stay in the current location.  Some may argue that a welding robot replaces a welder’s job.  But there is still a need for a programmer and a technician to be involved in operating the robot.  Times are changing and so are special skill sets.

Perhaps the easiest way to address robotic automation is to break down various line items that pose challenges in the shop, and then discuss, point by point, potential robotic automation solutions. Then we look at the benefits of robotic automation and some incentives for implementing it sooner rather than later.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

It is the application of technology that allows employees in a company to configure computer software or a “robot” to capture and interpret existing applications for processing a transaction, manipulating data, triggering responses and communicating with other digital systems. Any company that uses labor on a large scale for general knowledge process work, where people are performing high-volume, highly transactional process functions, will boost their capabilities and save money and time with robotic process automation software.

Just as industrial robots are remaking the manufacturing industry by creating higher production rates and improved quality, RPA “robots” are revolutionizing the way we think about and administer business processes, IT support processes, workflow processes, remote infrastructure and back-office work. RPA provides dramatic improvements in accuracy and cycle time and increased productivity in transaction processing while it elevates the nature of work by removing people from dull, repetitive tasks.

IT is what connects the dots in Robotics

Robots equipped with cloud connectivity and IoT capabilities can add significant value to end users via remote diagnostics and preventive maintenance. Further, with the advent of AI-equipped robotic systems, a lot of value-add can be expected in the medical and healthcare sectors.

The manufacturing industry is facing unprecedented challenges, but there is a bright future ahead. Through ingenuity, agility, and technology, the manufacturing industry will be able to overcome its challenges and seize its opportunities and usher in a new era for manufacturing.

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