Intelligent technologies, like robotics, offer great potential for businesses to get smarter and more efficient. This is an advantage recognised by Southeast Asian business leaders. By Sakari Kuikka, APAC Regional Director, Universal Robots.
IN A RECENT survey by McKinsey, 90 percent of business leaders in Southeast Asia agreed that new technologies will bring about improved performance. However, when it comes to adopting these solutions, awareness is not rising fast enough and uptake is low, except in the case of Singapore. According to the International Federation of Robotics, an average of 63 industrial robots were installed per 10,000 employees in Asia. Thailand and Malaysia registered robot densities of 45 and 34 units each. This figure is much lower in Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam.
Due to the region being been known for its relatively cheap labour, this may encourage companies to forgo innovation investment, which to some extent explains why uptake does not closely mirror the raging robot adoption growth seen in the wider Asia region, that has been led by China, Korea and Japan.
However, this may not be the case for long as manufacturers face rising operational costs, shortage of workers coupled with increasing demand for high quality products at competitive prices. Thus, companies must act fast and take steps in automating, utilising robotic solutions such as collaborative robots or cobots to drive sustainability.
Sakari Kuikka, APAC Regional Director, Universal Robots
Cobot Adoption Drives Business Growth
Cobots are designed to work side-by-side with people and are valuable automation tools, helping businesses increase productivity and product quality. Concerns by SMEs regarding high integration costs tend to be largely unfounded due to the flexible redeployment and reassignment capability of a cobot used in combination with strong manufacturing planning.
Cobots produced by Universal Robots (UR), for example, are present in over 25,000 production environments, benefiting businesses globally across various industries. Cobot adoption is higher among Southeast Asian electronics players particularly, with forward-thinking leaders like PT JVC Electronics Indonesia transforming manual labour-intensive processes with automated operations to remain competitive. This has enabled greater productivity, improved safety and enhanced workers’ well-being.
Delivering Sustainable Growth And Competitiveness
The global cobot market value is expected to reach USD 3,268.8 million by 2020, up from USD 283.7 million in 2017, and will grow at a CAGR of 63 per cent from 2018 to 2020. Unlike bulky traditional industrial robots, cobots are lightweight and mobile, affordable, and can be modified for different applications. Cobots are also used in a wide variety of processes including handling, assembling, inspection & testing, packing, dispensing and even populating and coating circuit boards and other assemblies. The wide range of applications is part of the reason why the market is growing so fast, clearly marking a highway forward for works operated generally across all industries. The sector is getting smart, and it is cobot adoption that’s driving this new efficiency.
Cobots – The Agile Human Assistant, Improving Working Environments And Output
A single installation can handle multiple jobs, with production layout flexibility and excellent cost management available to the operator. Cobots are typically installed without drastic changes made to the workspace layout, and they support the use of various end effectors. This includes a wide range of metal cutting and forming solutions, grippers, soldering irons, screwdrivers, etc.
This allows production teams to customise cobots to undertake various tasks. Output quality is also more consistent, and with a move towards automation, operators find that manpower can be redeployed to higher-value processes.
Safety is an important contributing factor when purchasing cobots. Universal Robots (UR) cobots, designed with a patented safety system, allow employees to work in close proximity without the need for safety fencing, although this is subject to risk assessment. Moreover, cobots are highly effective at relieving workers from handling high risk tasks such as soldering and separating hazardous cut metal sheets, or in environments where the employee would be exposed to emitted fumes and/or dust particles.
Looking Forward To The Future, With Some Smart Assistance
To achieve success, automation is integral in a company’s business planning. Companies must take steps in automating with support from available resources and channels.
For example, the UR Academy offers free high-calibre robotics training, with nine online modules covering basic programming training for UR robots. So far, over 20,000 users from 132 countries have signed up. This training programme works in parallel with UR+ which is UR’s global ecosystem of third-party developers. The online platform offers a plethora of readily available resources from cobot end-effectors and accessories to vision cameras and software, saving system integrators and end users time and effort to source for compatible integration tools.
Speaking at the recent World Economic Forum on ASEAN, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that ASEAN is in “good position” to take advantage of the tech revolution which can deliver productivity gains worth USD216 billion to USD627 billion. Southeast Asia has no time to waste in adopting automation and robotics to ensure they ride the wave of Industry 4.0 and avoid being left behind.