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Cobots – Revolutionising Businesses In Southeast Asia

Cobots – Revolutionising Businesses in Southeast Asia

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.

Universal Robots Encourages Vietnam’s Robotics Development During 25,000 Cobot Milestone

Universal Robots Encourages Vietnam’s Robotics Development During 25,000 Cobot Milestone

SINGAPORE: Universal Robots (UR), the pioneer and market leader in collaborative robots (cobots), has cemented its market leadership after hitting 25,000 cobot sales.

To celebrate this significant milestone, the company awarded ten of its 25,000 global customers a Gold Edition cobot. The lucky winner in Southeast Asia is Vietnam’s Vinacomin Motor Industry Joint Stock Company (VMIC), which was presented with the UR10 cobot on 9 October 2018. The special edition cobot has the joints painted in a rich, gold-coloured finish, a refreshing take on UR’s iconic blue and grey cobots.

Based in Vietnam’s Quang Ninh province, VMIC is engaged in the manufacture, assembly, maintenance and repair of transportation vehicles. The Company’s leading products are heavy duty trucks used in the delivery of mining products, together with light trucks and other utility vehicles. Other business activities include the production of automotive parts, industrial machinery and equipment trading, the construction of industrial and civil infrastructure, as well as the provision of technical consulting services.

“We are thrilled to receive the Gold Edition UR10 cobot which will be deployed to assist in the production of parts for transport vehicles, working alongside our employees,” said Pham Xuan Phi, VMIC Chairman and CEO.

“The need to improve productivity and reduce operational cost led us to opt for cobots as the ideal solution. Since deploying our first cobot in July this year, we have already seen productivity surge 30 per cent and improvements in product quality and takt time stability,” he added.

“We couldn’t have reached this historic 25,000-cobot landmark without excellent customers like VMIC,” said Sakari Kuikka, APAC Regional Director of UR. “With this, we celebrate not just the success of UR in empowering customers, but also the successes of our customers in innovating and changing their workplace with cobots. The Gold Edition cobot reflects our continued commitment towards making the unlimited potential of robotics accessible for all.”

Present in Vietnam since 2016, UR distributes cobots through local distributor and system integrator partners – Servo Dynamics Engineering and Tan Phat Automation JSC. Cobots are deployed in multiple industries including automotive, electronics, textile, footwear and food processing sectors.

Robotics Key to Vietnam’s Industry 4.0 Journey

Vietnam has identified robotics as one of the pillars of Industry 4.0 as automation becomes integral for businesses to remain competitive. However, 82 percent of Vietnamese businesses have yet to take steps to prepare for Industry 4.0 while just 10 percent are ready. Furthermore, a report by the Ministry of Industry and Trade showed that interest among enterprises to invest and apply new technologies was still modest.

Acknowledging this, the government has been aggressively focusing on developing initiatives and legislation to speed progress in the era. Among the efforts are the 2011 – 2020 Strategy for Science and Technology Development to enhance economic competitiveness and speed up industrialisation, prioritising the importance of industrial robots and hi-tech automation.

The government has also identified other measures including collaborations between technology enterprises and science & technology organisations to consult and support local firms as appropriate steps to ensure the successful acceptance of robotic opportunities.

The Vietnamese economy is one of the fastest growing in the world. The country recorded a 6.8 per cent increase in GDP last year on the back of a humming manufacturing sector. The economy in 2017 was worth VND5 quadrillion (USD223 billion).

Cobot Adoption Rising

Cobots are now the fastest-growing segment of industrial automation, expected to jump tenfold to 34 percent of all industrial robot sales by 2025, according to the International Federation of Robotics.

The automotive and electronics industries are big users of cobots globally. The market value for cobots in the global automotive industry was USD23.5 million (547 billion dong) in 2015 and is projected to reach USD 470 million (10 trillion dong) by 2021, at a CAGR of 64.67 percent between 2015 and 2021. Electronics is the second largest cobot integrator, accounting for 18 per cent of global demand in 2015. By 2021, electronics is forecast to invest approximately USD 480 million (11 trillion dong) in cobots.

Since the sale of the first cobot in December 2008, UR cobots have been utilised in various industries ranging from food production to scientific research, taking on tasks that include industrial assembly, pick and place and even quality inspections. Today, UR is the unrivaled cobot market leader with a 60 percent global share, selling more cobots than all other robot makers combined.

Unlike conventional robotic solutions, UR’s cobots are designed to work hand-in-hand with operators with maximum efficiency, opening up more opportunities for human-robot collaboration in the workplace. These highly versatile cobots can take on a wide spectrum of tasks and have the fastest payback time in the industry, making them a viable option for small-scale businesses where conventional options may be too expensive.

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Universal Robots: E-Series Cobot

Universal Robots: e-Series Cobot

Universal Robots’s new e-Series cobot platform includes technology advances that enable faster development for a wider variety of applications. Improvements include the ability to economically address even more applications, thanks to greater precision and sensitivity provided by a built-in, tool-centric Force/Torque sensor.

Like other offerings from the company, the new e-Series offers unparalleled convenience. It takes just one hour to unpack the cobot, mount it and program the first task. A wrist-join-tool communication interface reduces production line integration time and complexity. Meanwhile, from a service standpoint, all joints can be replaced in 2 to 6 minutes. A re-designed intuitive and responsive-touch user interface expedites program development by simplifying programming to a few clicks on a new lightweight, wide-screen Teach Pendant.

Seventeen safety functions, including customisable stopping time and distance, make collaborative automation easier.

Universal Robots To Boost Robotics Literacy With UR Cobots Course

Universal Robots to Boost Robotics Literacy with UR Cobots Course

SingaporeCurrent and potential employees in Singapore will soon be able to add robotics literacy, an increasingly important skill, to their CVs as automation gains wide adoption in the country.

Universal Robots (UR), the pioneer and market leader of collaborative robots (cobots), has partnered with National Trades Union Congress’ (NTUC) e2i (Employment and Employability Institute), to establish the UR Collaborative Robotics Course.

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Co-founder And CTO Of Universal Robots Wins Engelberger Award 2018—The “Nobel Prize” Of Robotics

Co-founder And CTO Of Universal Robots Wins Engelberger Award 2018—The “Nobel Prize” Of Robotics

Singapore: Esben Østergaard, co-founder and chief technology officer (CTO) of Universal Robots (UR)—a market leader of collaborative robots—has been awarded the automation industry’s most prestigious honour, the Engelberger Robotics Award.

The American Robotic Industries Association (RIA) announced Esben Østergaard as the recipient of the Engelberger Robotics Award 2018. Østergaard spearheads the development of UR’s collaborative robot arms (cobots), representing one of the most significant technology breakthroughs coming out of the robotics community in decades.

The company has sold over 23,500 cobots, used in thousands of production environments, benefitting businesses globally, across various traditional and non-traditional industries.

In Southeast Asia, cobots have strong adoption in the electronics, semiconductor, metal and machining, automotive, food and beverage, and pharma sectors. The company has expanded its distribution network in the region through channel partners—distributors and system integrators—to cater to rising demand.

Jeff Burnstein, president of RIA, calls the UR CTO a visionary in defining a new category of robotics. “His work in the field of collaborative robot applications has allowed robots to enter previously unthinkable sectors in just about every industry,” said Burnstein.

Burnstein added: “Esben Østergaard’s emphasis on robots that work side-by-side with people and are easy to use has created enormous interest among many small- and medium-sized companies who never even considered robots before. In a world that is increasingly characterised by people and robots working together, Esben’s pioneering technology advances play a pivotal role.”

UR’s 2008 launch of the world’s first commercially-viable robot able to operate safely outside enclosures alongside people came at great financial risks in a market unaccustomed to human-robot collaboration. Yet Esben Østergaard and his team prevailed by offering the industry a robot that was not only safe to work with but also lightweight, easy to use and flexible.

These accomplishments have placed UR as the unrivalled market leader of collaborative robots—also referred to as “cobots”—with a current 58 percent share of all cobots sold worldwide, posting a rapid 72 percent growth in 2017.

“I am deeply honoured to win the award named after Joseph Engelberger, who revolutionised industrial manufacturing with robotics. Engelberger’s view that a robot should be able to handle a range of tasks in a factory aligns with Universal Robots’ core mission, and I am a great admirer of his work,” said Esben Østergaard.

Esben Østergaard leads a team of developers that became the first to launch user-friendly, yet sophisticated, 3D robot programming via an intuitive tablet interface. This has enabled users with no previous programming experience to quickly set up and operate the UR robots.

Safety Consideration In Cobots

He also developed the robot’s force and safety control features, which ensure that if the robot collides with a person, the robot automatically stops operating and does not cause bodily harm, adhering to the current safety requirements on force and torque limitations. These features have eliminated the need for safety guarding in a vast majority of the UR robot applications currently installed, and remain a trailblazer for the “collaborative robot” concept.

Safety, however, according to Esben Østergaard, is just “the cost of entry” in the cobot market. He continues to propel UR’s frontrunner position by constantly raising the bar for what the term “collaborative” entails—the label not only means humans can collaborate directly with the robots potentially with no safety guarding between them. The term also addresses the ease of use—a robot is not truly collaborative if it is not affordable and easy to work with.

“We want to place control of factory automation back into the hands of operators, instead of replacing people we want to give them a tool to do their work more efficiently,” said the Engelberger award winner.

“We want to remove them from working like robots to becoming robot programmers and handling more value-added tasks. Doing this will perhaps be the best long-term result derived from leveraging collaborative robots,” explained Esben Østergaard calling this new era, the 5th industrial revolution.

He added: “This redeployment of human creativity interspersed with the robot’s repeatability addresses the market evolvement and customer requirements demanding a high degree of product individualisation. It is qualitative change both in the products made and for the people making them.”

According to a report by the International Federation of Robotics, an average of 63 industrial robots were installed per 10,000 employees in Asia. In Southeast Asia, robot density is led by Singapore with 488 units per 10,000 employees, followed by Thailand and Malaysia with 45 units and 34 units respectively.

Universal Robots: Table-Top Robot

Universal Robots: Table-Top Robot

The Universal Robots UR3 robot is a compact lightweight 11 kg table-top robot with a payload of 3 kg, equipped with 360-degree rotatable wrist joints and an infinitely rotatable end joint.

The robot is capable of working with a human team or as a standalone operator, and can be used in applications requiring 6-axis capabilities such as assembly, polish, glue and screw to create products of uniform quality.

The robot optimises production workflow while maintaining safety, and reduces production costs.

Upping The Gears Of Productivity

Upping The Gears Of Productivity

Robotic technologies are gaining popularity across the world, especially Asia, with their improving features and functionalities. Small and medium-sized enterprises are also gaining increased accessibility to these robots as they become more affordable and simpler to implement. By Shermine Gotfredsen, general manager, APAC, Universal Robots.

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Robotics Then & Now: Operational Efficiencies With Cobots

Robotics Then & Now: Operational Efficiencies With Cobots

Robots designed to work side-by-side with humans are safe, user-friendly and are easily integrated into existing applications. By Shermine Gotfredsen, general manager at Universal Robots, Southeast Asia and Oceania

In the early stages of robotics, automation was tedious as robots were usually used to automate large-scale productions. This was a lengthy process, taking up to months at a time, and often involved high implementation costs.

Robots were usually deployed in the manufacturing industry to automate large-scale production and for complex tasks. Such robotic applications involved complex deployment processes and required high levels of maintenance that could only be carried out by engineers with specialised skillsets.

Introduction Of Cobots

More recently, there have been significant strides in the development of robotic technology which has made automation easier than ever before. With the introduction of collaborative robots (cobots)—robots designed to work side-by-side with human workers—the process of automation has been simplified.

Offering features such as safety, user-friendliness and an ergonomic design, cobots are able to carry out a wider range of tasks at a lesser cost.

It is now more accessible and affordable for small and medium-sized business owners to deploy robots to carry out even the simplest of tasks, such as machine tending and pick-and-place operations. This has translated into high demand for industrial robots, with investment projected to grow at 10 per cent each year for the next ten years globally.

Robots now have enhanced safety features which make them perfectly safe to work alongside humans without the need for safety barriers, subject to prior risk assessment. They are also user-friendly—easy to program and easy to use—due to their intuitive nature, allowing them to be integrated easily into existing applications, regardless of a company’s production type or size. Robots have also become ergonomically designed in that they are lightweight, small and compact, creating more opportunities for robotic automation and process optimisation.

Cobots In Automotive Manufacturing

With the automotive sector in Asia poised for great growth, the adoption of cobots in automotive production processes to maximise operational efficiency is becoming increasingly common place.For instance, Nissan Motor Company streamlined its large-scale production processes at its Yokohama plant through the deployment of cobots. The company redeployed cobots from Universal Robots to assist with a range of different processes as required.

Using cobots to automate manufacturing of its engines and parts for electric and hybrid cars, the company achieved consistently high quality output while reducing production downtime and overhead costs. This also allowed its ageing workforce to enjoy a reduced workload and to be redeployed to less strenuous tasks.

Advantages For Businesses

Firms can easily benefit from the use of cobots without incurring high integration costs, making cobots a viable investment for long-term business sustainability and growth. Cobots have proven to be a valuable tool through which businesses can enjoy increased efficiency and productivity with output per worker shown to increase by as much as 30 percent in the manufacturing sector.They are also designed to perform a particular task round-the-clock, allowing businesses to maximise operational efficiencies and reduce production downtime.

Bringing Value To End-users

Cobots not only bring benefits to businesses, but also to the end-users who interact with them on a daily basis.The greatest benefit offered by robots is that they help end-users reduce mistakes by ensuring consistent, dependable output while relieving the amount of arduous physical effort required to carry out certain tasks.In such instances, cobots serve as an assistive tool to enhance performance and raise productivity by delivering high-quality results each time, rather than as a replacement for human staff.

Employees can also be redeployed from dangerous and repetitive tasks to take on more stimulating and higher level responsibilities, allowing them to upgrade their skillsets. Contrary to popular belief that many jobs will be lost through the automation process, an entirely new set of roles will be created. These roles will require people with the relevant technical skills needed to upkeep and update these systems.

As businesses grow and expand, additional manpower will be needed to meet the increased market demand and new product offerings. The use of robotics in business has in fact created many new jobs. Market research shows that robots will create up to two million jobs globally from 2017 to 2020.

Thinking Ahead

Robots have been deployed to solve business problems and maximise efficiencies, presenting a gamut of benefits for both businesses and end-users.

As businesses continue to automate, new robotic applications will be developed in more industries. This will result in a significant improvement in productivity and upgraded skillsets for employees, delivering a greater competitive advantage.

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