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Corona Lockdown Creates High Demand for Robotics and Automation

By - Dr. Ankush Ghosh, Assistant Professor, Robotics & Automation, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

Due to sudden outbreak of Covid-19, human lifestyle has changed a lot recently. To stay safe people has to stay their home to avoid human interaction. However, it is almost unavoidable in the country like India, where people prefer to buy offline and most of the industries run with human labour. The developed countries have the infrastructure to run the business with machines. At this time, we are feeling the necessity of humanless business since this Covid-19 problem is here to stay for a long time.

Since the starting of Covid-19 outbreak, China has started to use Robot heavily from delivering daily necessity to medical emergencies. However, the deployment of autonomous delivering Robot can only protect the couriers and consumers. Since Covid-19 is a highly contagious disease, there are high chances of widespread while working in the warehouses. Recently, Nokia had to shut their Tamilnadu plant in the unlock phase due to large number of employees test positive for Covid-19. This type of situation could be avoided with autonomous manufacturing process which required minimum number of human involvement to run the machines.

The developed countries have already deployed fully autonomous systems into their factories and warehouses. Contrarily, manufacturing industries in India are facing major problems due to labour dependency, cost cutting and low efficiency. This will drive them to adopt Robotics and automation in the manufacturing process rapidly. Arup Roy, research vice president of Gartner said, “Resistance to change is very high in manufacturing sector in India. However, of late there are tailwinds working in their favour. Many organisations want to divest in China and are looking at India as a potential destination. Manufacturing sector will look at it as an opportunity. That will call for tremendous amount of adoption of automation in manufacturing. This will do what industry 4.0 has not been able to do in last few years".

 Even the small scale industry, MSME segment is also facing problems of absent migrant labour and social distancing imperatives. Therefore, they are also considering the option to automate their manufacturing process by Robotics and Automation. Ram Venkataramani, Director at mid-sized auto components manufacturer, India Pistons Ltd. Told, “This pandemic has strengthened our resolve to continue to invest not only in robotics, but in a whole lot of automation solutions that will make our manufacturing systems less people-dependent and more intelligent”.

The demand of robot sells increases suddenly. Pradeep David, General Manager in-Charge of South Asia at Danish company, Universal Robots, which is the world’s largest cobot manufacturer told, “Manufacturers are looking for solutions to ensure that there is no loss of efficiency”. However, rather than cheap Chinese Robots, Indian industry is inclining towards home-grown Robots. A lot of Indian startup company rising fund to take this opportunity.

IIT Kanpur-incubated start-up, Nocca Robotics developed low cost ICU-grade ventilator for handling coronavirus patients is coming to the market soon. Club First, a Jaipur-based company has developed robots to help health workers in conducting a thermal screen of the people amid Covid-19 crisis. Delhi-based AIIMS hospital has deployed a floor disinfectant and a humanoid robot in covid-19 wards. Fortis Hospital, Bengaluru has also deployed an interactive robot at its entrance to screen everyone, including medical staff, entering the premises. “We have seen an increase in demand for our robots coming from hospitals across India. We are already in talks with several hospitals including Fortis, CloudNine and Max. Some hospitals have shown interest in how robots can be leveraged in the long run," said Rajeev Karwal, founder chairman, Milagrow, the Gurugram based Robotics Company that made the robots deployed at AIIMS.

But many people are concern on the issue that robot will significantly hurt the job sector. It is unfortunate that Automation and robotics will definitely impact lower-skilled people. However, this will create new, high-skilled jobs for technicians, programmers and other newly essential roles; just like what happened after computerization took place a decade ago.

Therefore, almost every sector will need new kinds of workers: those who can design automation and robotics; and those who can adapt and maintain the new equipment. New jobs will be created as a direct result of automation. But the career opportunities for this newly emerging field required interdisciplinary knowledge of hardware, software and firmware, which differ widely from the conventional engineering courses.

Inevitably, a new era is coming to accelerate the deployment of robotics and Autonomous in the post Covid-19 scenario.

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