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EBM News

SMEs Contributing Most to Industrial Automation Growth

Industrial automation is on the rise in India, marking a significant increase in the adoption of human-machine collaborative tools. Universal Robots (UR), which offers its popular collaborative robots, or cobots in the manufacturing and factory automation space, has been the biggest benefactor of this in India. However, according to Pradeep David, general manager (South Asia) of Universal Robots, it is not the large companies that have been the biggest growth contributors in recent times. In contrast, it is actually the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that are fuelling this growth.

Speaking to News18 recently, David stated, “In the past three years, we’ve grown in usage and implementation exponentially. When we first came in, our primary businesses were with the larger companies — for them, they don’t really have a choice but use automation in the manufacturing process. But today, I can go as far as saying that industrial automation is growing exponentially in India because SMEs are adopting new tech.”

David further claimed that the SME-boosted growth of industrial automation has made UR’s cobots the fastest growing entity in all of industrial automation today. He said, “The cobots business has been expanding by nearly 65-70 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR), and is expected to continue at that pace for the next five years. There is no segment in India around automation that is growing so dynamically.”

David notes that the International Organisation for Standardisation’s acknowledgement and certification of collaborative industrial robot systems and the work environment has contributed significantly to the rise of this segment across the world, and across various engineering businesses spread all over India. The ISO/TS 15066 paper, published in 2016, lays down the safety requirements of these tools. This allowed UR to sell its products in India, since the requirement of any industrial equipment in Indian regulations is to comply with ISO certification norms.

Two of the most important areas that David touched upon are the aspect of whether these SMEs are ready to implement advanced technologies such as AI and ML, and whether the infusion of automation in small enterprises may lead to eradication of manual jobs. Touching upon the former, David stated, “One of our objectives is to reduce compulsory usage of advanced, smart tech in industries. So, we offer systems that offer fixed locations for components in businesses such as machining. In simpler words, if a part can be placed at a fixed place from where the cobot can make use of it, it is easier to do so.” He further added, “One of the biggest problems that SMEs face is that they do not wish to rely on external engineering companies and pay every time they want to make a change. So we teach the SME and operators to program the robots themselves.”