“Robotics industry matching global counterparts” [November 2012]

“Indian robotics industry is worth approximately $ 750 mn and is expected to grow at two to two-and-a-half times the average global growth rate,” said Ajay Verma, Vice President, Dassault Systemes in an interview with OEM Update
Brief us on the current status of robotics industry in India highlighting the demand-supply scenario.India is quickly gaining the maturity needed for using robots. Certain industry verticals have been at the forefront of adoption and Industrial robots are used in the manufacturing lines.  Customers in India are beginning to understand their usefulness. In addition going beyond the manufacturing space, many ventures have been initiated in India, wherein robotics technologies are being developed for improving the quality of life of people. Clearly the future would see a wise prevalence of robots in various spheres of human activity.
There is an urgent need for Indian manufacturers to be very competitive in India and abroad. Production of international quality goods at much lower costs would be requiring complete retrofitting or change over to advanced production techniques inclusive of industrial robots, FMS, CIM, etc.
What are the major growth drivers for this sector?There are various factors that drive this technology and the criticality of it is based on the nature of usage – from handling of explosive material – impact being direct human risk, to ensure high predictable quality in repetitive activities – welding, assembly, human convenience etc. Therefore, there are numerous reasons on the growth potential for this sector.
Where does the Indian robotics industry stand in comparison with global market?World over, the industrial robots technology is being spearheaded by large corporations and multinational research organisations mainly in Japan, USA and Europe. In these leading countries, technology development is done on a cohesive basis and is a well co-ordinated activity. The advanced level of research combines numerous state-of-the-art technologies including electronics, communications, measurement, control, mechanics and material sciences.
The global robotics industry is estimated to be worth $17.6 billion. The Indian robotics industry is worth approximately $750 million and is expected to grow at two to two-and-a-half times the average global growth rate. In conventional understanding, robots are associated with industries in the manufacturing domain. However, advancements in technology have enabled robots to be put to use in energy, medical functions as well.
How do you see the availability of technology and skills as far as Indian market for robotics is concerned?This domain requires skills that are multi-disciplinary and most domains are core technical and engineering and programming related. At a fundamental level these are domains that India does have skills in. However, there is another level which is the ecosystem which fosters R&D work in these areas. Certainly there are companies in India that are addressing this space. However, we do not have a very robust model to encourage and drive innovation in this space. As a result, at this time most of the critical electrical and mechanical components and systems including harmonic drives, servo valves and cylinders, servo motors, controllers, encoders, position resolvers etc. are currently being imported, making the final product extremely expensive. This is in fact a factor inhibiting end-users from implementing such systems in their manufacturing plants.
In the long run, we would need to create the environment that facilitates innovation at a core level which would then allow development leveraging the skills that we already have.
India has several skills essential to robotics. Then also we could not achieve much in this spectrum, could you highlight the bottlenecks which are obstructing the growth of robotics sector?At a fundamental level – the level of R&D spend in our country is quite low. That in itself does not allow a robust innovation framework. There has to be a value to innovation and a system / economy that is an eager recipient of these advances. As we grow as a country in the global economy, market forces would get us to innovate and integrate robots and robotics in many different spheres.
System engineering of industrial robots around specific applications is a crucial area. This need an environment where there are people trained in system engineering. This is also a bottleneck and needs to be addressed on an urgent basis. Our tendency to rely on manpower as a solution to all problems, and the attendant reluctance of industry to advanced methods of manufacturing has led to a stunted demand for Industrial Robots.
Tell us about your robotics business and commitments to the Indian market.Dassault Systemes core DNA is innovation and our tools and technologies help create a platform for our customers to do so.
3DS technologies are manifold. On R&D front our technologies enable effective design of control systems using the systems engineering modules. On the robots programming and enablement, our robot offline programming software enable engineers to learn programming of industrial robots in a virtual environment. These technologies have enabled many OEM’s to effectively plan and program robots in their respective plants.
We are also working actively with the academic world to ensure that we help create the ecosystem that is so critical to long term growth of this sector.
Where do you wish to see the Indian robotics market five years down the line?Led by the automotive sector, robot orders in 2012 have the potential to surpass the mark set in 2011 which marked the beginning of a major rebound in the industry. We see growth in many automotive programs, from new domestics in the Big Three to tier-one suppliers. New models are coming on-line and car makers need to invest in the robotics needed to build them. India also anticipates growth in the general industry sector as well as seeing increases in aerospace applications.
Going forward, we see more rapid adoption and this would be driven by market forces as I discussed earlier. As the industry realises to deliver world-class quality at an affordable price in their own products and services, there would be a clear movement that would be extremely positive for the growth of this sector.

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