Why robots in business, industry may be round the corner
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Why robots in business, industry may be round the corner

Why robots in business, industry may be round the corner

Innovations seen in robotics are attracting the attention of key players in small, medium and large enterprises as well as OEMs

Gulf Business
Mohammed Aldousari_Regional Robotics Lead_Proven Robotics, on why robots in business, industry may be round the corner

Global economies are facing multiple challenges. They range from unpredictable levels of demand and supply, increasing complexity of global supply chains, challenges of climate change, the move to zero carbon emissions, and the need to digitally transform, including organisational structures and the future of work.

Chief executives of enterprises, whether small, medium, or large, are being compelled to build their skills to tackle these challenges with any degree of success.

The rate of change in technology and knowledge economy is also soaring. Over the next decades, digital platforms are expected to disseminate knowledge and data at an ever-increasing rate. While it is easy to say that humans should keep reskilling themselves and schools and colleges should keep adding courses and learnings to address new technologies and new skills, there are limits to this speed of change.

Human beings cannot continuously reskill themselves at speed in education, knowledge skills or hands-on training. They have a definitive cycle of learning, adaptation, and execution. So can large-scale automation be a possible solution for the need to continuously adapt and respond as demanded by our modern macroeconomic conditions? New technologies have successfully disrupted industries whenever their benefits could be brought down to the shop floor and adapted at scale. Can large-scale engineering industries be a starting point for automation, enabled by digital technologies to be deployed, innovated, and applied to all forms of societal requirements?

Advanced industrial automation in the form of robots could be rapidly adapted to new roles requiring skills still in their infancy among humans, or in situations where the learning curve is high.

In the past, robots have been deployed in industrial environments based on their rapid output, ability to withstand environmental conditions, and ability to keep functioning for long periods of operation.

This is why robots were categorised by engineering specifications rather than compute or technology specifications or business use cases. However, rapid advances in sensory, spatial, compute, data, cloud, 5G, wireless networks and coding frameworks mean that robots can now be taught and adapted for a much wider range of business and corporate tasks than just the industrial shop floor.

According to an announcement by the International Federation of Robotics in February 2023, the stock of operational robots around the world has now reached 3.5 million units, and the value of installations has reached an estimated $16bn.

According to the federation, robotics now plays a fundamental role in the changing demands of manufacturers around the world. Innovations in robotics are attracting the attention of key players in small, medium and large enterprises as well as OEMs (original equipment manufacturers). The areas of convergence with robotics are of key interest to early movers and investors around the world.

Read: Robots slash construction material testing time, find out how

Here are some of the innovations taking place that are impacting the application and use cases of robotics around the world.

#1 Impact of AI and ML

The information technology industry is witnessing an integration of machine language, artificial intelligence, and generative AI across a full range of solutions including business applications, connected devices, networks, security, databases, and so on. AI and ML platforms are also being included in robots that will allow them to learn from usage and improve their performance and behaviour, thereby becoming more intelligent.

In the consumer space, premium delivery robots such as BellaBot or KettyBot, using autonomous navigation technology, have already demonstrated their ability to enhance productivity, improve operational flexibility, and expedite processes.

These robots are an example of the transition from conventional production lines to integrated, scalable, and modular production cells with delivery across facilities.

#2 Global supply chains and reshoring with robots

Many nations are looking at nearshoring and will move away from offshoring. While manufacturing plants can be set up and activated, do the human skills exist at the required price point and in the numbers required to make the plants viable?

Automation of the plants with robots, programmed to function in various roles and at various places in the plant, would be the way forward. Intelligent visual and spatial recognition, through the Internet of Things and AI would help rapidly build and customise the robots into their required roles.

#3 Energy saving function

As corporates become increasingly aware and demanding of their scope 1, scope 2, and scope 3 emission levels, there will be an increasing emphasis on energy efficiency and conversation. In-built intelligence in robots will allow them to adopt the most suitable energy-saving profile that suits their role.

A robot that has been deployed to assist first responders will probably never be in an energy standby mode while a robot that has been set up to match humans on duty may go into a deep sleep mode to conserve as much energy as possible. Similarly, the sleep mode of most connected devices would need to become more intelligent to match the work profile of their users.

#4 Arrival of low code

Over the last decade, the IT industry has seen the arrival of robotic process automation, business process engineering, hyper-intelligent automation, everyday AI, and predictive analytics, which have required close mapping of business processes. This has also meant that the IT organisation has been compelled to work more closely with business departments, and collaboration levels between IT and business heads have vastly improved.

Low code is now built into many applications to allow business users to become hands-on with these tools and map business processes much more rigorously into IT workflows and collaboration defaults.

Robot OEMs and vendors now provide low-code tools to customise their robots for specific roles and functions. In the past, robot OEMs provided specialised software kits that would restrict the appeal of the robots to IT departments and not business owners.

As in the past, stand-alone innovations and technology advancements have not been sufficient to disrupt industries and introduce large-scale societal upheavals. The convergence of multiple technologies and innovations with macroeconomic conditions has triggered large-scale disruptions. Will this happen in 2024?

The writer is the regional robotics lead at PROVEN Robotics.

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