TAdviser Interview: Katerina Slanska, Universal Robots - how robots can reduce labor shortage at the plants
In the world use of collaborative robots on production gains popularity. What machines are about the widespread and unusual fields of their application and also about the attitude of customers towards them in Russia TAdviser was told by Katerina Slanska, the marketing manager of Universal Robots company in Central and Eastern Europe, Russia and the CIS.
Universal Robots specializes in development of collaborative robots. Explain, please, in brief for our readers what means a kollaborativnost in this case?
Katerina Slanska: Collaborative robots or in abbreviated form – kobota (cobots), left a segment of the industrial robots installed on productions. Industrial robots usually are large, heavy and difficult devices which often are placed behind a special safety barrier where employees cannot pass during operation machines. Also they are equipped with different security systems: for example, sensors, scanners. All this is necessary to secure the staff of the plant.
Founders of Universal Robots from Denmark in 2008 created new category of industrial robots – small, easy, simple in the programming and use safe for the person. These robots have many built-in functions of security at the expense of which they can work side by side with people in open space. They do not need to be placed in cages or to separate an obstacle. From here and their name – collaborative robots. They act as assistants to the person who can be with him nearby.
The idea of such robots still is quite new: it is impossible to tell that the segment of such robots in the market was already created. But they already exist and are used.
For what sort of tasks collaborative robots are suitable? They cannot replace "classical" industrial robots?
Katerina Slanska: Yes, they cannot replace big industrial robots. Kobota have the restrictions connected with the weight, speed. But replacement of big machines was also not among the purposes of creation of such robots. They are designed to fill a certain niche: perform the work on production connected with the multiple repeating transactions. Kobota can act as assistants to the employees or replace a part of employees on production lines.
How large the niche of such robots in the world and in Russia is?
Katerina Slanska: In family of Universal Robots robots there are four models of robots in the form of a hand with a loading capacity from 3 to 16 kg now. The model capable to work with loads up to 16 kg, - the newest in our line, it appeared in the market in September. It is already available also in Russia. The most often ordered kobota are the UR5e and UR10e models with a loading capacity of 5 and 10 kg respectively.
Range of tasks for which kobota, very wide can be used. The most frequent tasks for which they are purchased, for example, are packaging and palletizing of products, service of machines and materials. Also the range of the industries where they can find application is wide: since laboratories, and finishing medicine with food and automotive industry.
Kobota Universal Robots are used also in Russia. From the large organizations, for example, Sberbank tries to use such robot at itself. They showed recently video in which kobot helps to unload bags with coins. In what else industries do the Russian customers already use your robots?
Katerina Slanska: Palletizing – perhaps, the most frequent task for which purchase our kobot in Russia. Especially it concerns the production area of foodstuff and drinks. Also they are often ordered for service of machines with the numerical control (NC). They are demanded and for tasks like "lift and put". For example, on production where there are pipelines, the robot can take a quantity of a product from a tape and place it in boxes.
It is necessary to tell that palletizing, and "lift service of CNC machines and put" are the most widespread tasks for which our robots are used and around the world. Quite often kobot use also for twisting something at assembly, movements of objects using computer vision.
But we have examples and unusual use of our robots. For example, one of customers uses the kobot in quality the barista who brings glasses, there is Also an example when kobot it was used as the operator for shooting of video on TV. It perfectly is suitable for stabilization of the camera. One of interesting cases - use of kobot as assistants to the medical personnel helping to rehabilitate the patients who are in a coma.
It is necessary to tell that the range of the industries where kobota can be applied, depends, including, on the legislation of the country in which they are bought. In the USA, for example, the law does not allow to use the robot at restaurants.
On what productions do industrial robots pay off most quicker? And what payback periods?
Katerina Slanska: Payback periods strongly depend on scope of kobot and additional functions, replaceable nozzles with which they are equipped. For example, there is a fascinating nozzle, there is a nozzle for welding and others. If to speak about a basic configuration of the robot, then it usually pays off for the period in 8-12 months. But to a basic configuration also expenses on services of the system integrator, on customization of the solution under tasks of the specific customer increase that increases the total cost of the solution.
The fastest term for which our robot in a final configuration at the customer – paid off 34 days. And if the customer needs a difficult configuration, then the payback period can make also about 2 years. I think, it is a maximum in our case.
The prices of Universal Robots robots are fixed in euro for all countries, or they can vary for the different markets?
Katerina Slanska: There is a recommended price list for our distributors where the prices are recorded in euro and are valid for all markets where our products are provided. And for the Russian distributors there are recommended prices taking into account all overheads in addition to factory price, including costs for customs, logistics, obtaining allowing documents and so forth.
How do customers needs of industrial robots change? How does your product line after change of customer needs develop/change?
Katerina Slanska: We began as a startup about 11 years ago, and in 2008 sold the first model of the robot which on design and a form was practically the same as products which we have in a line now. Since then we submitted the new platform of the e series in which there were new features of security and the built-in force-torque sensor installed on "head" of the robot. He allows a kobot to feel, so to say, when there is some obstacle in a way of its movement and to stop in that case. At the same time the sensitivity of the sensor can be regulated.
As for demand, customers, as before, will be need large industrial robots, but now they have an opportunity to close a part of tasks using small devices, now they have more choice.
Besides, now where people on the pipeline are required, it is possible to use kobot, having left only pair of people to control and coordinate their work. At the same time this is not about replacement of the existing employees with machines. On the contrary, we see that now there is a shortage of working hands in the market, there are often simply not enough people who would like to be engaged in monotonous work on the pipeline. Often at monotonous work people long are not delayed, it bothers them, and the producer should look for and train personnel again. Therefore some of our clients solve a staff deficit problem due to use of kobot now.
At the same time robots have advantages over workers-people: at them concentration of attention for fatigue does not decrease, they are not ill, do not depart on need. With the robot it is possible to be sure that the quality of the made products will be identical throughout the day, and it will be issued in time, the machine can work on three changes a day.
How do you estimate competitive environment in a segment of collaborative robots in Russia? At the expense of what do you compete with other producers here?
Katerina Slanska: The competition in this segment begins to develop what we are glad to: it pushes also us to development. We look forward – where and as kobota will be applied further what new features we should develop. Our engineers whose main part is in Denmark constantly issue some new ideas which we could use in the future.
Simplicity of programming of our robots, their lightweight and functional flexibility allows to compete with other producers to us. Even medium and small business in Russia can use kobot for at once several tasks. The small companies can purchase one-two kobot which it is possible to move on the production site for accomplishment of different transactions. Having once loaded programs into the robot, if necessary it is possible to start them on accomplishment of required tasks. Switching between tasks takes no more than 20 minutes.
For example, since morning kobot can execute palletizing, and then work with materials of the CNC machine, it is rather simple to start the required program.
Automation level gradually grows in Russia. The first completely robotic productions begin to appear. When, in your opinion, on production robotization level will Russia reach level of the USA and Western Europe?
Katerina Slanska: As far as we know, so far the Russian market is insufficiently robotic therefore there is a high potential. I would tell that at the moment the most robotic markets are in the countries of Europe and Asia. In a case with Asia the most robotic countries are South Korea and Japan. And in Europe it is, perhaps, Germany, France and Spain.
It is difficult to give specific forecasts for terms when Russia reaches comparable level. It can be long process. But we see progress: Russia aims at competitiveness, and it now to a large extent is defined by the level of automation and robotization. A lot of things at the same time, of course, depend on opportunities of producers to invest in such technologies.
What normative, legislative initiatives, in your opinion, could promote faster penetration of robotics on the Russian productions?
Katerina Slanska: I think, it depends not so much on the state how many from consciousness of people. So far people at the plants still are afraid of robots, and because of it their application is often slowed down. At the state level in Russia there are already motions: technologies of the Industry 4.0., 5.0 move ahead. In Russia many state enterprises appear. It is important that the state informed them of need and advantages of robotization. You should not be afraid of these machines, they can significantly increase enterprise performance, quality of products.
Advance robotization at the level of the state, including, it is important, because as we already spoke, staff shortage in many areas is now observed. For example, there are not enough welders, it is difficult to find them because of what their work is well paid. Now many want to be managers, but not to master working specialties.
In the spring the Russian president said that there is a big task - to reorient professional organizations and to alter professions on which people with focus study as training in the specialties requiring high qualification. It is necessary that the overall level of education of the population raised, and robots should carry out simple tasks.
At the same time training of the personnel capable to ensure functioning of robots on productions is important. And for this purpose it is necessary to interact with universities as often the students who got an education are badly familiar with robotics densely.
We try to pay to work with universities much attention both in the world, and in Russia, providing them our robots on special conditions. For example, our kobota are set to Universal Robots in a number of universities in St. Petersburg, Belgorod, Perm.
- Robots (robotics)
- Robotics (world market)
- In the industry, medicine, fighting
- Service robots
- Collaborative robot, cobot (Collaborative robot, kobot)
- IoT - IIoT
- Artificial intelligence (AI, Artificial intelligence, AI)
- Artificial intelligence (market of Russia)
- In banks, medicine, radiology
- National Association of Participants of the Market of Robotics (NAPMR)
- Russian association of artificial intelligence
- National center of development of technologies and basic elements of robotics
- The international Center for robotics (IRC) based on NITU MISIS