The automation market is projected to reach a valuation of $253 billion by 2026, growing at a CAGR of 8% during the forecast period (2021-2026), as per the Global Industrial Automation Market Outlook report.
Analytics India Magazine got in touch with Sangeet Kumar, Co-founder & CEO, Addverb Technologies, to understand the ins and outs of intelligent automation and how the company is supporting its customers in implementing automated workflows.
“Our products are enabled with advanced technologies such as AI, ML and deep learning, thus giving us an edge in comparison to the existing products and players in the market,” said Kumar.
AIM: What is industrial automation? Why is it important?
Sangeet Kumar: Industrial automation uses intelligent machines in operations so that the processes can be carried out with minimal human intervention. It can be achieved through several means, including mechanical, electronic, robotics, AI, ML, deep learning for leaner operation processes that require less energy, less material, and reduced labour waste. In the current era, technological advances have overcome many of the traditional limitations of robotics and automation. A new generation of flexible and versatile robots cost far less than those used in manufacturing environments today. It can be trained by frontline staff to perform tasks previously thought to be too difficult for machines— picking and packing irregularly spaced objects, resolving wiring conflicts in large-scale projects can be taken care of with the help of industrial automation.
Manual work is getting replaced by smart robots. Demand for precise production without compromising on quality, increasing need for digital transformation across sectors – healthcare, transportation, retail and favourable government policies in the manufacturing sector are driving the industrial automation market. As the potential of IoT and interconnectivity is realised, the industry is expected to grow at a fast rate in the future.
AIM: What are the current trends in automation?
Sangeet Kumar: The automation trends that will disrupt the Industrial automation sector in 2021 include the adoption of autonomous mobile robots in the manufacturing and warehousing sector. The industry will migrate to more advanced navigation technologies such as LIDAR, RADAR & cameras. Secondly, the growth of e-commerce has catalysed the use of mobile robots in the warehouse and instigated R&D for continuous improvement. To optimise the value chain, companies are investing more in their core business and outsource the rest. Hence RaaS (Robotics as a Service) will be the new trend.
Moreover, cobots with easy configuration, app-based controls and built-in safety mechanism, including power and force limiting technologies, make them safe to collaborate with human operators. Competitive pressures and onslaught of technology such as cloud, augmented reality, etc. will prompt manufacturers to look at industrial IoT solutions. Areas like remote diagnostics, predictive maintenance, fire hydrant management shall be the first areas for disruption.
AIM: What is the role of AI in robotics?
Sangeet Kumar: Artificial Intelligence gives robots computer vision to navigate, sense and calculate their reaction accordingly. AI-enabled robots are trained to handle repetitive tasks at inventories, logistics and supply chains, thereby reducing human work. From medical supplies to sanitisation, disinfection, and performing remote surgeries, AI makes machines more intelligent.
Moreover, robotics for cargo handling speeds up the operations and performance efficiency, including baggage handling, ATRS, trolley tracking and disinfection. Similarly, AI-enabled logistics processes deliver multiple benefits to growth in minimal human intervention, combined with savings in labour cost, improvement of accuracy, and cumulative savings in energy consumption.
AIM: How does Addverb leverage technologies such as AI, ML?
Sangeet Kumar: We are one of the rare Indian startups which is into both hardware and software. A large chunk of 400 engineers is working in the R&D, driving our innovation through various products and building solutions that seamlessly integrate with any software or hardware in factories and warehouses. Our state-of-the-art manufacturing is the facility where “robots make robots”. With innovation being at the core of our DNA, we spend 10% of our revenue on R&D to create an extensive, affordable product portfolio for SMBs through affordable and sustainable technologies.
We have recently developed our own AI engine for text-to-speech conversion, which powers our product Khushi, a voice-based order picking system for warehouses. We have also launched Veloce, a hybrid product that adds the reach of a carton shuttle and the flexibility of a mobile robot, thus proving to be the most flexible product in the warehouse automation segment. We are also working extensively on low-cost vision picking solutions and have launched multiple variants of Dynamo (500 Kg & 1 Ton) with tugging applications.
AIM: Tell us about your flagship products and solutions
Sangeet Kumar: We have successfully devised an array of products and technologies for industry 4.0 with solutions. In our robotics category, we provide in-house developed AMRs (autonomous mobile robot) capable of carrying loads of up to 1,500 kg in a controlled environment. We also have a UV disinfectant mobile robot, pallet shuttle robot – ideal for high inventory turnover operations and even the carton shuttle robots for movement of storage and retrieval of carton loads. Additionally, Pick by Voice, a voice-directed picking solution powered by Addverb’s NLP-based engine, offers paperless hands-free order picking and fulfilment solutions. Similarly, Pick by Vision, equipped with augmented reality, offers hands-free operation. Our Smart Conveyors help in swift material movement and have predictive maintenance capabilities as well.
Our WCS Software ensures real-time tracking and tracing of the material flow inside the warehouse by interacting with all the automation equipment and optimises the material handling operation through dynamic load balancing. Our WMS software, armed with intelligent IoT, ensures effective inventory management and provides complete visibility into the end to end operations of the warehouse. Recently, we have developed a novel solution to cater to the exponential demand of e-commerce sector i.e. Micro Fulfilment Solution. These small-scale warehouse facilities located inside the cities at strategic locations enable a less than two-hour delivery from when an order is placed until it gets delivered.
AIM: What are the potential applications of industrial automation?
Sangeet Kumar: Manufacturing companies use technology to assemble or create products, monitor maintenance tasks, or manage inventory levels using AMRs, ASRS for pallet and carton storage and semi-automated picking technologies. Robotics will expand into the food and beverage industry, where they will perform tasks such as packaging, palletising, and filling. Similarly, the automotive industry, with its need for mass customisation of electronic goods and the re-standardisation of the semiconductor industry, is leveraging the power of robotics.
New forms of progress in software, hardware, and materials development, coupled with advances in necessary infrastructural support systems, enable uniquely new and diverse Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS) applications in spaces like hospitals. Currently, the movement toward self-operating vehicles, both used at a commercial and personal level, will incorporate industrial automation developments. Once products are made and are ready for shipment, the distribution industry takes over. Expectations for faster delivery continue to accelerate in all areas.
AIM: How can next-gen cobots unlock the power of automation for different sectors?
Sangeet Kumar: Manufacturing industries such as electronics, heavy machinery, even furniture, toys, and clothing benefit from the precision and speed of smart and automated payload arms. Traditional manufacturers that handle metals, plastics, and electronics can streamline their assembly lines and get work done faster without compromising product quality. Mass-produced eatery products and wrapped food can regain a personal touch with cobot integration. Robotic arms flipping burgers, frying fries, and whipping up concoctions in a coffee shop or bar could eventually become a common sight. Additionally, pharmaceutical companies can achieve higher efficiency and lower error rates while maintaining workplace sterility in areas like research and testing and marking and packing with cobot integration.
The smart features that make cobots safe around humans prove useful in warehouses, especially with regards to e-commerce distribution and fulfilment. In an interesting twist, robots are now helping today’s students learn robotics and programming faster than ever. A less-known use of cobot nowadays is in the entertainment industry, where they are used in filming to carry cameras that are too heavy for humans to handle. They are also great for situations where filming spaces are too tight for a traditional crane.
AIM: Tell us about Addverb Technologies’ roadmap
Sangeet Kumar: We have launched a new robot called Veloce. This product provides immense flexibility by combining the vertical reach provided by a shuttle system with the natural navigation of a mobile robot. This product will change the warehousing paradigm by increasing the picking efficiency in warehouses by 3-4 times. Also, the deployment time will crash significantly as compared to traditional automation systems.
Additionally, we are looking forward to expanding globally, especially South-East Asia, the US, Europe, and Australia. We have established offices in Singapore, Australia & Netherlands and we are keen to penetrate these markets. We are expanding our presence in these geographies. We are opening an office in the US in the next three months.
In the domestic market, we already have a powerful presence in FMCG, organised retail, e-commerce, grocery, beverage and tyres. For this quarter, we are keen on pharma, electronics, automobile, airports and hospitals. Many airports are coming up in India, and our mobile robots can help create highly automated, reliable, and flexible baggage handling systems. We already have an employee base of 400+, and we look to expand to around 600-700 by the end of the current financial year. We are also looking to expand and augment our current manufacturing capacity shortly.