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Robotic market moving smoothly to the future

“We want to go in a right way for the growth of robotic industries as a whole in India,” emphasises Vikas Swami, Vice President, KUKA Robotics
German robotics manufacturer KUKA will celebrate the grand opening of its Shanghai plant with a spectacular event. Table tennis legend Timo Boll will be present in one of the most thrilling duels of all time. Yes KUKA Robotics, which entered into the Guinness Book of World Records with its biggest, strongest industrial robot KUKA Titan with six axes in 2007. In an exclusive interview with Swati Rana, Vikas Swami talks about the robotics industry and how the next generation of robots is going to shape the future.
KUKA is one of the world’s leading suppliers of robotics. How do you view the demands of robotics in India?If we see the demand side, 2011 was bit of stagnant year whereas the demand had gone up 2012 and 2013. We expect the year 2014 should be better than 2013. The latest announcement on the excise duty cuts on the cars should drive the growth trend because automotive is the biggest consumer of robots in India. We think things are going to be brighter for robotic market in 2014.
What is your view about the penetration of robotics in Indian industrial manufacturing sector? How do you expect the change in scenario?In India major users of Industrial Robots are automotive Industry and its suppliers, the general industry which includes all other major industries like electronics, pharmaceuticals, food and beverages, foundry and forging, FMCG etc. are not using robots in a big way. In India, the penetration in this sector is comparatively low. But in the past 2 years, many major multi-national companies have already gone into robotics, which is a bright sign. We feel, the scenario has started changing since 2013 and the next 2 years would be very interesting for India.
What are the potential application areas for industrial robotics as far as Indian OEMs are concerned?The automotive industry and its suppliers are one of the big users of industrial robots. We have realised lot of applications with robots like spot welding, MIG welding, laser welding, handling, hemming, gluing, inline measurement etc. But still there is a lot of potential in assembling operations which are one of the least automated shops within automotive OEMs. Then there is electronic equipment handling industry. Even the interesting area can be solar industry. In solar, there are a lot of robotic applications for handling the wafer films. The paint industry as well as tyre industry can be the big users. Pharma is also interesting sector, where all the robotics companies are working on small and fast robots which can pick and place 90 components a minute. Packaged food industry will also use a lot of small and fast robots. These companies are going to be the key for development of robotic industry in India.
Over the years, KUKA has created a niche for itself in the robotics industry, globally. How important is India to KUKA’s global strategy?India is a part of BRIC countries, and all the European companies are looking forward to investing in BRIC countries — same applies for KUKA also. After China, these companies are looking at India as a big potential. If you see the consumer industry, you can see it’s now closing up on China. It’s a matter of time before we have good level of system providers who can integrate these robots and put them into the real working system. Once this level comes up to level of China, India is going to be equally big market in years to come. On the global side, India is looked as the next big country after China, so the focus is very much there and we are expanding very quickly in India. 
What is KUKA’s commitment toward the Indian market? What sort of roadmap have you planned?KUKA is looking forward not only to giving robots as the product, but also to educating the Indian industry. To do this, we are working very closely with technical and R&D institutes. Most of the IITs and premier private technical colleges are KUKA Customers. We work very closely with most of them. We have also set up the centre of excellence at few colleges. We are making the bridge between the industry and technical institutes. The plan is very simple that the students should have the key knowledge of the robots and where it can be used. They should have a clear understanding so we want to go in a planned way to educate the youth about the use of robot and then referring them to the industry. In next step, these universities should work directly with the industry and help them in designing and making the architecture for robotic cells. It should be a win-win situation for both the industry and technical institutes or universities. The same trend we see in other Asian countries like China or Korea. Europe, of course, is much ahead in this kind of cooperation. They have very close academia-industry cooperation. At the moment, this is missing in Indian industries. And that’s what we are trying to cover up. In the past 2 years, we have done lot of progress in this area. The deans, the owners, the vice chancellor of these universities are interacting with the industry on many common platforms, forums, and seminars. We want to go in a right way for the growth of robotic industries as a whole in India.                   
Can you brief why Indian manufacturing sector needs next generation of robots?Next generation of KUKA robots are fast, lightweight, energy-efficient and more productive. Indian companies need them in order to be more productive and competitive globally. The consumption would be huge, as India has got huge manpower. To produce the huge numbers, either we have to use manpower or we have to automate. Hence, to work on the quality side and consistency of the quality, we need robots. The next-generation robots are smaller in footprint hence saving lot of floor space. Their footprints are small yet they are very fast. They are really high on energy saving so the energy consumption is quite low compared to the old-generation robots. The next-generation robots fit very well for the future requirement. We got a very positive response from the Indian Industry for these new generation robots.
What are the robotic solutions you offer for industrial manufacturing?KUKA Robotics doesn’t offer complete solutions; it offers robots and the related software. Our sister company KUKA Systems and KUKA System Partners are providing the complete turnkey solutions. If you see our portfolio, we have products and solutions for every sector — be it the industry or for the entertainment. For industrial sector, we give the solutions for complete BIW Lines (Body in White), handling solutions like glass handing, gluing, welding solutions like MIG, TIG, laser palletising etc. and the list goes on and on and on the other side we have product for the entertainment industry called Robo-coaster which gives joy rides to the human beings.

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