Dawn of Robots
Since the beginning of human civilization, humans have been devising tools to cope with work that is dangerous, repetitive, onerous, or plain nasty. We have come a long way from our hunter-gatherer days. As time went by, the tools we used kept evolving at a rapid pace. In the modern age, the habit of optimizing tasks has led to the development of the science of robotics.
American consumption was growing at a rapid pace in the 20th century. The thirst for greater productivity and efficiency would be satisfied with robots. The automobile industry was the first to adopt robots. Soon, other sectors saw the advantages of automating their manufacturing plants and followed suit. Today, most sectors have automated/ semi-automated plants.
Closer home, Indian SMEs stand to gain immensely from the rapid rise in industrial automation. Traditionally, SMEs have depended on manual labour. However, India has a tough labour market. Along with archaic labour laws, it is the lack of skilled labour that has hurt the Indian industry. Even though India has a huge number of people engaged in industrial labour, most of these people are unskilled. They cannot perform specialised tasks and change jobs very frequently, making them unreliable employees. Despite government efforts on skill development programs, the number of skilled labourers has not grown significantly. The scarcity of skilled labourers has led Indian SMEs to adopt robots. At the same time, as access to capital has become convenient, many businesses find it easier to invest in robots.
Robots are devices that perform physical tasks which they have been programmed for. The main advantage of using robots is their consistency, precision and efficiency.Consistency of work helps to maintain product quality and prevents deviations. Similarly, the amount of precision that robots offer, cannot be matched by skilled workers. These advantages propel businesses closer to their six-sigma goals. Such improved product quality can do wonders for brand perception. The high efficiency of robots implies that they are more productive than humans. Consequently, businesses which use robots can earn a return on their capital much faster. Lower lead times drive greater customer satisfaction. As manufacturing SMEs face a lot of working capital problems, lower production time implies a smaller working capital cycle since customers pay faster.
A major resistance against installing robots is the high upfront cost. While this is a legitimate concern, in most cases a back-of-the-envelope calculation will show that installing robots is preferable to paying wages. This does not even factor in unforeseen events like worker accidents, pension shortfalls and other liabilities that an organization must endure. Such liabilities do not have any upper limit. Insuring against such liabilities costs a lot of money. Robots are much cheaper to insure.
Another major concern is the difficulty of integrating robots in the factory environment. Traditionally, robots were difficult to program, difficult to install and were used in isolated spots to prevent injury to humans. A solution to this problem is the use of Collaborative Robots (Cobots). These robots are easy to use, made of lighter materials and have limits on speed and force. This makes them safer to use, easier to program and minimises chances of untoward incidents. These characteristics make them easier to integrate into factory environments. They do not need to be pushed into isolated corners with fencing.
Robots are slowly taking up a large part of supply chain activities. Right from raw materials to delivering finished goods. For instance, mining companies use robots to explore and mine in difficult areas, factories use robots to assemble products, logistics companies use robots to sort goods and drones are being used for last mile delivery. Just like our phones, robots are becoming “smarter”. Intelligent robots are a reality today, thanks to Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. In today’s scenario, any business which stays behind technologically, is bound to lose. As India moves towards its goal of becoming a manufacturing hub, robots will become cheaper, advanced and customised to Indian needs. Some companies have already brought quality products to the market at lower prices compared to foreign competitors. Moving forward, we expect robots to become a huge part of the manufacturing process. For more amazing insights and updates follow Insellers. With valuable insights backed with solid research, we help you stay ahead of the crowd.