Danish robot manufacturer, Universal Robots, which launched its India operations in last October, plans to increase the number of distributors to 25 from 10. The company is known for its collaborative robots. It has been selling its products in India since three years and has installed close to 200 robots here.
The automotive industry has over 80 percent of its robots with Bajaj as the main client. Its other clients are in the small and medium-scale enterprises from metal and machining, food and agriculture, furniture, pharmaceuticals and chemistry, plastic and polymers and other industries.
“Bajaj is our biggest customer in India. Almost 120 of our robots are in Bajaj,” Pradeep David, Head of India Operations, Universal Robots A/S told AutoParts Asia.
Founded in 2005 in Denmark to make robot technology accessible for small and medium enterprises, Universal Robots is present in Europe and Asia. Its robotic arms are known to be light, flexible and designed to work in collaboration with human beings. The company believes that collaborative robot technology can be used to benefit all aspects of task-based businesses.
The collaborative robots or ‘cobots’, as they are called, automate and streamline repetitive or potentially unsafe processes and work in collaboration with human beings reducing injury and also boosting morale.
“Universal Robot’s robotic arms are advanced tools that can be used by all levels of production staff to help increase productivity and reduce injuries like wrist injury. With our cobots, it is possible to automate and streamline repetitive or potentially unsafe processes. The staff can be assigned to jobs that provide them with new challenges,” David said.
The Danish-designed robots automate production in all industries – even in SMEs that regard automation prohibitively expensive, cumbersome, and difficult to integrate. Universal considers itself as the best suited for the Indian ecosystem which is dominated by small and medium enterprises.
“When you take automation in a factory the first 80 percent is relatively easy to achieve with some sensors, PLCs and drives. The last 20 percent is very expensive as you need to buy vision systems and put sophisticated mechanisms. What we are saying is do not automate completely. As labour is cheap in India, do not use human labour to load and unload machines or to do repetitive tasks. Combine human ingenuity with robot’s drudgery,” he said.
Range Of Cobots
The collaborative 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, who face space shortage in their factories. The robotic arms can be mounted on the ceiling, floor or even on top of a machine to keep the ground clutter- free for the staff. In Bajaj, the cobots are put in production lines, which are dominated by female staff, where they do repetitive work.
The machines are priced between Rs 15 lakh and 20 lakh depending on the complexity of the set-up. By offering a user-friendly, affordable robot, Universal Robots lowers the automation barrier and enables it in areas previously considered too complex or costly.
Another advantage for the Indian customer is the savings on power consumption. Power consumption by the cobot is very low and it can save Rs 70,000 on power alone in a year, according to a calculation done in a Chennai-based unit. It has zero AMC (Annual Maintenance Contract), no grease, oil and requires very little on maintenance. It is a compact unit. If a joint fails it can be replaced with a new one immediately. After-sales service is also provided by the distributors of the company and the turnaround time is extremely fast.
Return On Investment
The return on investment on the cobots depends on various factors. According to calculations done in Europe it is 195 days. This might be different in India as labour here is cheaper, David said.
In calculations done with cobots at a two and three-wheeler factory in Hosur, the first payback was in 27 months, and the second in 18 months. The return on investment is so high as the installation time is very short. “You do not need to keep the line waiting or shut down for long. They can be installed in hours”, he said.
About the cobot’s return on investment vis-à-vis other robots, David said it was like comparing apples with oranges. “Our robots serve different purposes. The kind of value we provide they cannot and what they do we cannot. The $ 40 billion robotic industry will continue to be there. Those robots have very high speed, heavy payload. Ours is quality conscious, where man and robot can coexist. They cannot do that.”
The company also claims that the average operational efficiency of cobots is 100 percent and there is no down time. The precision of the machines is 0.1mm.
The cobots are compliant with the ISO standard for collaborative robots – ISO TS 15 066. It is the new technical specification passed only in 2016 specifies safety requirements for collaborative industrial robot systems and the work environment, and supplements the requirements and guidance on collaborative industrial robot operation.
The global collaborative robots market was valued at $128 million in 2014 and will likely reach $1 billion in 2019 at a CAGR of 50.88 percent, according to a report by Technavio 2015.
Universal Robots is present in 17 countries with over 300 distributors and sold over 9,000 cobots. It has 17 international awards to its credit. A MIT technology review has listed the company among 50 smartest companies globally including Tesla Motors, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon and Alibaba.
According to the MIT Technology Review report, ‘Breakthrough Factories’, there is a section dedicated to ‘How Human Robot Teamwork Will Upend Manufacturing’. According to the report, robots are starting to collaborate with human workers in factories, offering greater efficiency and flexibility.
BMW introduced robots to its production line at Spartanburg in September 2013. The robots, made by Universal Robots, are relatively slow and lightweight, which makes them safer to work around. On the production line they roll a layer of protective foil over electronics on the inside of a door, a task that could cause workers repetitive strain injury when done by hand. There is 85 percent reduction in workers’ idle time when they collaborate with robots, the report said.