The leading names and practitioners in the field of “collaborative robots” (cobots) said that Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) in the Philippines stand to benefit immensely from the use of cobots.
Their comments were made during “Meet the Cobot Leaders,” a discussion among leaders in cobot technology held during the sidelights of “WeAreCobots APAC,” the first collaborative robots virtual expo in Asia Pacific hosted by Universal Robots, the world leader in cobots. Together, they shared their insights on what cobots bring to the table to Philippine SMEs.
James McKew, Director of Universal Robots in APAC, told Frontpageph.com that at the onset, their focus since the early days is actually on SMEs. “Large companies can already afford traditional robots and many companies already had automation. SMEs, however, may not have the space needed for traditional robots and have automation in place yet. However, SMEs can benefit immensely, if they understand the value and opportunity that cobots give.”
He said that in the Philippines, the big manufacturers, particularly in food and some electronics, are already deploying cobots.
“In most of Asia Pacific, we are at the early stage of the automation phase, and that’s the opportunity we see for cobots and collaborative automation. UR delivers an incredibly cost-effective solution that is able to deliver return on investments, calculations that will satisfy almost every finance department.”
As regards the value of using cobots amid the pandemic where many companies may be cash-strapped already, Jürgen von Hollen, President of Universal Robots, said that rather than dwell on the financial effects of COVID-19, he suggests for businesses to consider and weigh how investment in a cobot will help them get back to full production and profitability.
“I think that COVID-19 provides this opportunity to have a conversation with SME owners, about the value of cobots and how they can allow businesses to resume production during this pandemic.”
He believes that a lot of SME owners are frightened at the potential costs of a robot is and questions if they can or should invest in that. What they don’t realize, he adds, how investment in a robot can actually yield a very handsome return.
He explained that for example, social distancing is in place for most of the countries due to COVID-19. With the help of cobots, he pointed out that companies can resume production, reduce the number of staff in the production line to achieve social distance while keeping up productivity.
“Cobots can help you distance, and use your current floorspace to get back to the same or potentially, higher levels of production. This allows you to bring back as many people onto the production line as physically distancing guidelines will allow.”
At the same time, von Hollen said it solves the current labor crunch because of COVID-19. “You can’t get and keep labor, and you incur a high cost of retraining and retaining labor. All these costs are often not considered. Of course, we don’t want robots unnecessarily replacing people. But if robots can help factories reopen, stay open, stay profitable? We would hope that other people who those robots displace because they can’t be distanced safely, can be deployed to more creative, value-added alternatives.”
Moderating the “Meet the Cobot Leaders” was Dr Che Fai Yeong, Director of DF Automation and Robotics and Associate Professor at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia. Dr Yeong is associated with robotics and inventions in Malaysia, a winner of more than 100 awards nationally and internationally.