Interview Duty free import of robots will provide major push to ‘Make in India’

Author / Editor: Ahlam Rais / Ahlam Rais

Raj Singh Rathee, Managing Director, Kuka Robotics India talks about the robotics industry in the Indian market.

Raj Singh Rathee, Managing Director, Kuka Robotics India
Raj Singh Rathee, Managing Director, Kuka Robotics India
(Source: Kuka Robotics India)

How do you view the robotics industry in India?

Industrial robotics has been on a steady but slow growth trajectory since 2011 in India. With the ‘high’ in 2017 with nearly 3000 robots, it is estimated to grow around 20%. The Tier 1sector is one of the key contributors for this growth.

Traditionally, industrial robots were used in the automotive industry and its suppliers but now more industry verticals in the manufacturing space have started evaluating and using robots in their processes to meet the ever-growing requirement for productivity, quality and safety. The service robotics sector in India still is at a nascent stage.

What are the latest trends in this sector?

‘Safe’ or ‘Human Robot Collaboration’ (HRC) and Mobile Robotics are the prominent emerging trends in Robotics. The LBR iiwa, a HRC-enabled robot works as a new colleague for the operator, directly supporting them. The KMR iiwa is an autonomous, mobile and safe solution with a sensitive lightweight robot – LBR iiwa and mobile platform. For example, it can independently fetch tools from the warehouse and load them into tool magazines on the machines – without the need for additional safety equipment.

The operator still has unhindered access to the machines. Transportation of workpieces between the warehouse and the machine, or between different machines, is carried out in the same way. If the production sequence changes, all that changes; is the route taken by the autonomous vehicle and not the layout of the machines. The manufacturing process is geared towards maximum productivity and not determined by the constraints of rigid automation.

Experts have predicted that the Indian market is expected to become a leader in the two-wheeler and four-wheeler markets by 2020, how are you planning to leverage on this opportunity?

With a strong presence in the Indian automotive market and excellent references, Kuka has been the first choice of many existing as well as new entrants in the market. We will continue providing the most reliable robots to our customers combined with the best training & service facilities. We are also adding more capacity.

What are the opportunities you foresee in other sectors for the robotics industry?

As technology advances, the range of potential applications for robots is growing wider. Robots are becoming more flexible, easier to programme, capable of integrating with wider range of machines, safer, faster, more accurate, more energy-efficient, lighter, compact and so on.

In India, the use of industrial robots has increased steadily in recent years. For Kuka’s customers, automation ‘made by Kuka Roboter’ is the decisive key to higher productivity, reliability of the system and greater cost-effectiveness. It improves product quality, reduces cost-intensive use of materials and minimizes the consumption of dwindling energy resources. Robots replace the rigid and expensive special machines that were still customary fifteen years ago with highly flexible automation solutions.

In the past, industrial robots were used almost exclusively in the automotive sector and in series production. Thanks to the systematic ongoing development of Kuka robots and control technology, Kuka robots have now become established in many other sectors besides the automotive industry such as food, plastics, metal, electronics, medical and so on.

What are the challenges faced by the industry?

There are a few key challenges that need to be addressed by the government such as reliable infrastructure, clear & simple Tax policies such as GST and simple labour laws. The industry too needs to address the challenges of investing in skilled labour and fair trade practices.

Lastly, industrial robots do not fall under any special category; hence the standard import duty is applicable. This means higher investment for the users. Duty free import of robots will not only be good for the industry but also provide a major push to the ‘Make in India’ campaign.

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