Q: Please give us a brief overview about your company.
Universal Robots was founded by three founders EsbenØstergaard, Kasper Støy and Kristian Kassow in the year 2005 in Odense, Denmark and are the inventors of collaborative robots technology. They began their operations in India on October 20, 2015 and officially launched an office in Bangalore in February 2016. Presently UR has over 9000 co-bots installed globally, out of which 200 co-bots are in India. Universal Robots decided to open their doors to the Indian market as a part of their global expansion plan.
Collaborative robots are becoming a requirement for Task based industries like food and processing, manufacturing and automobile assembly. According to a report released by FICCI, the packaging industry in India is expected to reach $ 73 billion in 2020 from $ 32 billion in FY 15. To enable this growth, we feel that collaborative robots are the key to easing processes and increasing efficiency. UR India is looking to expand their distributor network and community and currently has distributors in cities like Pune, Bangalore and Gurgaon. UR is targeting the SME sector and they aim to contribute significantly to the Make in India campaign. The machine has no AMC cost involved and the power consumptioncosts are negligible compared to traditional industrial robots. UR’s co-botic arms can automate virtually anything from gluing and mounting to picking, placing and packaging, to streamline and optimize processes across various production operations. They are easy to program and deploy at all levels of production and have a payback period of 195 days.
Q: What are the ranges of product/models you are dealing in India?
Universal Robots have three versions: the 3kg-payload-rated UR3, the 5kg-rated UR5 and the 10kg-rated UR10. All of them are available in India and can be easily integrated into the existing production environments. They are ergonomically friendly and fit for Indian component makers, especially those who face space shortage in their factories. The robotic arms can be mounted on the ceiling, floor or on top of a machine if there are space constraints, thus helping to keep the space clutter free. In India, one of the main problems is that the workers work in confined spaces. Therefore, UR co-bots are designed to work using very little space and can also work alongside humans. Universal Robot’s co-bots help reduce the automation barrier with its flexibility and ability to be used in various complex situations that are potentially risky and repetitive for humans. The other advantage is the low power consumption of these co-bots. It has no AMC cost for its maintenance.
Therefore the three different collaborative robots; UR3, UR5 and UR10 are easily integrated into existing production environments. The co-bots have six articulation points that offer a wide scope of flexibility, the arms are designed to mimic the range of motion of a human arm. Depending on the requirement of the customers, they can choose the appropriate size within these range of UR co-bots and program them for their use.
Q: How competent is the Indian food processing industry to adopt robotics technology?
Unfortunately countries like India, have a low adoption rate to new technologies, currently India has the lowest sales in robots along with the Czech Republic. Unless companies adopt and incorporate robots into their operational frameworks, countries like India stand to lose business. As companies will re-shore businesses back to high wage countries who have incorporated robotic technologies. However, this will change in the coming years and India will be on par with European countries, if not ahead of them. It’s not too late for corporate to start automating their shop floors as it will help preserve jobs through increased business and not vice versa. According to the IFR, It is estimated that by 2018, the yearly shipment of multipurpose industrial robots in India will be 6,000 units annually.
Q: How would you compare India with other countries as per as robotics technology is concerned?
Currently, India is one among several countries with the least adoption rate of industrial robots. According to the IFR data on Industrial Robot numbers, by 2018, India is predicted to adopt just 6000 robots in contrast to our Asian counterpart China, which will ship at least 1,50,000 robots into their country by that time. Currently India has total 200 co-bots installed out of which 120 co-bots are deployed in the Bajaj Auto manufacturing unit.
Q: What are the benefits of using robotics technology in food processing and allied industries?
Co-bots are a combination of light, easily programmable, flexible, economical and safe robots that are extremely strong. Co-bots can be used to complete dull, mundane, monotonous, repetitive, risky and strenuous tasks that do not need much human intervention. The concept behind co-bots are that they are force limited robots that work along with humans and stop themselves the minute they comes in contact with a human.
The UR co-bots correspond exactly to the needs of companies in industries that require precision like manufacturing, packaging and automobile assembly. They are multi-functional tools that can act as a screwdriver, packaging device, palletizer, gluing application or just as a “helping hand” which empower the employees further. This will ensure that humans can spend their working hours doing more constructive, creative and intelligent tasks. We’re calling it the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ now, as we realize the advantages of collaboration in heavy duty industries.
In the food industry, the quality of the products and their flawless processing and delicate handling is especially important. The gripping of already packaged materials and then preparing it for transport is a matter of delicate handling and precision – criteria which can easily be fulfilled by lightweight co-bots. For example a UR5 robot has controlled grippers that are responsible for stacking cartons of 10 eggs each in boxes which finally contain 1,440 eggs. In this way the robot packs about 15,000 eggs per hour. This entire activity is perfectly executed by these co-bots in little time and efficiently.
Q: What are the challenges you face selling your products India, seeing how traditional & cost-effective processes are still in use in manufacturing units?
Currently, we need to drive the idea home that co-bots are not replacing the manpower in any industry, but only smoothly facilitating the entire process of production, by co- working with humans and completing activities that are risky, dull and physically strenuous for humans alone. Using collaborative robots helps empower the manpower thus boosting their quality of production. Co-bots have several advantages over industrial robots, they are small, easy to use and safe as compared to industrial robots. Therefore, the expenditure will also be diminished as the only expense will be on the co-bot and the controller. Universal Robots has the advantage of advanced robotic automation, with none of the traditional added costs associated with robot programming, set-up, and dedicated, shielded work cells. The average payback for our co-bots is 195 days. It is a onetime investment that does not require too much power. Manufacturers can save up to 350W for a 10KG payload robot. It is easily programmable and has no AMC cost which can save manufacturers around 1 Lakh per annum. The software is free with upgrades readily available. This is an attractive proposition for SME owners as it results in extremely low running cost through the life of the robot.
Q: How successful is your R&D department for developing a new machine?
Presently, we have an R&D center in Odence, Denmarkwhich is capable of producing about 33 thousand robots per annum. We have more than 35 patents in our co-bots and are committed to remaining two years ahead in our technology.
Q: What are your firm’s recent achievements and future plans?
Since starting operations in India in October 2015, we have come a long way. As more companies realize the importance of collaborative robots in India, we have the privilege of having customers like Bajaj and Aurolabs in India who have implemented our collaborative robots in their shopfloor and helped standardize processes. We are a preferred option because of the compactness, safety and cost effectiveness of our product.
We plan to further expand on our distributor network as we believe that the sale of these co-bots needs to be done through solution experts who sell complete automation solutions and tailor make the co-bot to suit the end customer’s requirements. Universal Robots has partnered with ten distributors across India, to enable a conducive market and increase the supply of co-bots in India. As they are customer facing and have direct access to the SME manufacturers and also a better understanding of customer requirements, they can facilitate co-bots as tools to manufacturing facility or factory units.
We have sold 10K robots worldwide and in India we have over 10 distributors. Recently we also launched a case study with our first and one of our biggest clients in India, Bajaj Auto Ltd. We are also proud to introduce Universal Robots Academy, a series of e-learning modules. The e-learning modules are open to everybody. All you have to do to get started is to click the link to enter the learning portal.