Industrial Robots: Don’t overlook the risks


Interesting times ahead for the industrial robotics market, as artificial intelligence(AI) has made it easier to train robots now and thereby, making them more accessible to a wider array of industries besides traditional manufacturing. Today the collaborative robots which are designed to work alongside humans have made the adoption of robots easier for industries which are not traditionally associated with the use of robots, such as construction, retail, logistics, healthcare, etc.

 

Thomas Fuhrmann, MD, TÜV Rheinland India speaks on the growth prospects for industrial robots in India, talent gap in the sector, and how it helps companies address the potential risks and hazards to ensure the overall safety of robotic products.

What kind of business transformation and market growth opportunities for industrial robotics do you see here in India vis-a-vis globally?

Globally, the Industrial Robotics sector has been on the upswing for the past few years. Industrial robots are improving in terms of capability and performance, and their use is rapidly growing across manufacturing and associated industries where fast, accurate and repetitive work is the norm. In India too, Industrial Automation is on the rise, marking a significant increase in the adoption of human-machine collaborative tools primarily in the automotive and electronics sectors.

The demand for industrial robots has been witnessing a huge upsurge over the past decade due to the rising adoption of smart factory systems. Global manufacturers who would like to set up their smart factory production facilities in India and be a part of the Government’s marquee ‘Make In India’ initiative, will definitely look at deploying industrial robot ecosystems in the country. As per published market research, robotics is a desired necessity for making the Indian industry globally competitive and for attracting the right domestic as well as global companies to invest in the ‘Make in India’ dream.

How has been the adoption among discrete and process manufacturing sectors?

Industry 4.0, along with digitalization initiatives provides lucrative opportunities for the industrial robotics. Industry 4.0 has fuelled the development of new technologies such as collaborative robots, AI-enabled robots, etc., and has enabled industries to streamline processes while increasing efficiency, improving quality and eliminating errors. Increased focus on workplace safety and enhanced production capabilities have further driven industries to invest in robotic systems.

The Indian market for industrial robots is expected to double over the next 3-5 years. Rising labor costs, increased quality considerations, and hazardous tasks are forcing Indian manufacturers to opt for industrial robots, despite the relatively high capital investment. Currently, the adoption of industrial robots is primarily in the manufacturing sector for a variety of operations such as welding, painting and material handling operations as it satisfies the business need for consistent quality and repetitive. Another business need is flexibility in manufacturing multiple product models while adhering to shorter time-to-market standards. All of which are guaranteed with the use of robotic systems.

How crucial is it to adhere to testing and certification standards? Could you please tell us about some of those testing parameters?

Due to its own characteristics and application environment, the risks of a robot are relatively high, and safety is extremely imperative. Being familiar with local as well as international standards, we can help corporates understand certification requirements for robotic products in global markets but also to obtain certifications and secure regulatory approvals in the domestic market. TÜV Rheinland has extensive knowledge and experience to perform both risk assessments and safety circuit evaluations. We evaluate design schemes, identify the hazards and risks for humans and analyze the overlap between robots and other machines, systems, materials, and software. Our reporting can be used directly in the CE-marking process, and our certification services are well known and accepted all over the globe.

Could you please tell us about your Robot Integrator Program and the value it brings to your customers?

TÜV Rheinland has launched the industry’s first comprehensive ‘Robot Integrator Program’. This new program saves robot integrators significant time and reduces investment costs by allowing them to mark each cell compliant with ANSI/RIA R15.06. As opposed to a traditional certification or an on-site field labelling program, TÜV Rheinland’s Robot Integrator Program certifies the knowledge and skill-set of robot integrators in addition to testing robotic cells and processes against ANSI/RIA R15.06. This reduces the need for frequent on-site or off-site testing and allows manufacturers to apply a single TÜV Rheinland label to multiple cells.

How big is the cybersecurity threat for industrial robots?

Robots are a combination of mechanical structures, sensors, actuators, and computer software that manages and controls these devices like any other machinery and need to be considered in such a way when evaluating cybersecurity risk.
As industrial robots become smarter, better connected and linked to the internet, there are increased risks from cybersecurity-related threats that can undermine usage and deployment of robots, lead to intellectual property loss, production delays and possibly inflict physical damage.

The need for safety in systems has been recognized for many years, and now the increasing proximity of collaborative robots with human workers continues the need for safe working practices. With an appropriate cybersecurity risk review, followed by product testing and implementation of safety controls an organization can be assured that its industrial robots are operating in a safe and secure way.

Robotics companies often find it difficult to reach the right talent and skills for the work- How do you bridge the gap?

We all agree that robotics is one of the most exciting categories emerging in India today. Sectors such as manufacturing, construction, and healthcare are playing a huge role in driving up demand for robotics talent in India and there is enormous scope for the application of the technology across other industries as well. And when it comes to hiring manpower in this field, companies focus more on niche talent rather than years of experience.

It’s not always possible to find the right people with prior experience in the robotics sector, especially for entry-level jobs. While hiring talent for the first time or adding talent to an existing team, we use a strategic approach to the process by drawing up the required traits, training, experience and capabilities the desired candidates should have. We have also initiated and expanded the personal development plan for employees at every level starting with support for young talented professionals who work with us.



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