“Robotics will take the world to high order of human skills”: Vikrant Yadav, CM India, GreyOrange

by July 17, 2017 0 comments

GreyOrange is a recognised name in the robotics industry. They have forefront of warehouse automation innovation, democratising such solutions for various industries.

The company’s marquee solutions Butler (goods-to-person inventory storage and picking and combining system) and Sorter (modular system for automating sorting processes in warehouses and fulfilment centres) are catering to customers across industries and geographies to increase efficiency multi-fold and improve last mile delivery.

In about 5 years, the company has transformed to a multinational robotics company growing at about 300% year-on-year. Headquartered in Singapore, it has offices in Hong Kong, Japan, India, Germany and UAE. It has made foray into new markets across the globe such as Japan, China, and Latin America through strategic partnerships.

GreyOrange’s current customer portfolio includes Flipkart, Myntra, Jabong, Pepperfry, Aramex, Gojavas. DTDC, Delhivery, Kerry Logistics (Hong Kong), Ninja Van (Singapore), Nitori Holdings Group (Japan) and Loggi (Latin America).  With 55+ installations (customer sites) across the globe, GreyOrange is growing to become a global robotics enterprise.

Talking about the achievements and working of the company, Vikrant Yadav, Country Manager India, GreyOrange shared some insights of the robotics industry and profile of his organisation.

Robotics industry now and before

According to The World Robotics Federation, the numbers of robots working in the factories around the world will more than double to reach about 2.3 million by 2018.  The role of advanced robotic technology in overcoming operational inefficiencies and optimizing supply chains will be critical. It will help businesses improve order fulfilment time, reduce errors, and optimize costs.

From self-driving cars and drones to virtual assistants, robotics has made noteworthy progress in recent years. Now in the fourth phase of industrial revolution, the manufacturing landscape will be driven by robotics and machine learning to improve productivity and reduce cost of operations. IOT, 3D printing/additive manufacturing, design thinking and nanotechnology will create smart factories making them competitive at global level and enabling mass-customization of products.

From manufacturing to servicing, robotics will revolutionise industries in the next few years. For instance, less than 1,000 robot-assisted surgeries were performed around the world in 2000. The number had gone up to about 570,000 in 2004 and is well expected to have crossed 2 million marks by the end of 2015. High precision procedures during the surgery can be handled by robots (under human supervision) to increase the chances of success of a surgery. Similarly, when you are in Japan the next time, try checking into the Henn-na hotel in Nagasaki. The hotel is completely staffed by multilingual robots that can process language to understand the orders and requirements of its guests and take care of them.

Robotics in India

 In India, the adoption of robotics and AI has been very sporadic. Robotics has found its applications across manufacturing and assembling in automotive industry. Industrial robots have been around for a few decades now doing high-precision tasks such as welding and assembling, heavy lifting and auto body painting. Robotics have made automotive assembly lines faster, safer, more cost effective, and efficient- all at the same time.  While the entry of robotics has been slow in the other industries over the last few years, their applications are now fast expanding to various verticals in a variety of new sectors such as e-commerce, FMCG and Retail.

The challenges include lack of an adequate manufacturing ecosystem. While investments and discussions are being made in this space, it’s due to lack of understanding of the new age technologies, be it at the manager or at the shop floor level for slower adoption of robotics. Manufacturing and Making in India, thus needs to start running faster and companies need to realise this. Government and industry need to collaborate to reskill the workforce, making them employable in this vision of the future.

India now needs a framework that allows it to build relevant capacities and competitiveness, at par with global manufacturing standards. Ease of doing business, infrastructure development and foreign direct investment (FDI) will open up avenues for product development and designing in India. India presents as a massive opportunity for being a manufacturing destination for the world. With government policies like Make in India and Smart City Mission spearheading the transformative journey towards Industry 4.0.

 Products and solutions to cater the Indian market

The company’s marquee solutions Butler and Sorter are being deployed at e-commerce, omni-channel retail, CPG, and logistics industries to help them increase efficiency multi-fold and improve last mile delivery and break bulk cargo process.

GreyOrange Sorter is an advanced robotic sortation system that automates outbound profiling and sortation process in fulfilment and distribution centres. It is a conveyor based system powered by pneumatic arms, that routes packages based on dynamic logic such as pin code or hub code. It can be integrated with the proprietary GreyOrange PPTL (Pick-Put-To-Light) technology for further sub-sorting the items to the last mile.

GreyOrange Butler is an automated storage and goods-to-person order picking robotic system to streamline and accelerate the order fulfilment process. Reducing order fulfilment and inventory replenishment time in warehouses is imperative for businesses today to gain a competitive advantage. The GreyOrange Butlers help accelerate order fulfilment and inventory replenishment time, while enabling warehouse managers to reduce stock losses and pilferage by tracking inventory in real-time.

These solutions are not force fitted into a warehouse but are customized to meet the specific needs. So, GreyOrange Butler and GreyOrange Sorter can work in almost any kind of warehouse environment.

Robotics in the manufacturing sector

 The manufacturing sector presents a massive opportunity for robotics and automation. Tasks and operations that are complex, repetitive, tiring, or hazardous in nature.  For Make in India, robotics process automation will enable overcoming operational inefficiencies and optimizing supply chains to remain competitive. To increase the contribution of manufacturing sector in the GDP to 25 per cent by 2020, from the current level of about 16 per cent, smart manufacturing and digitalisation will be catalysts in changing the dynamics of industrial manufacturing.

 Robotics as a career in India

In the past 5-6 years, robotics has emerged as a popular academic specialization in India. Robotics is a well-recognized profession in India.  Since people from diverse domains become part of this industry, they have opportunities to work in the other industries that provide solutions based on mechanical, electrical, and computer engineering.

Given that India is one of the fastest emerging economies in the world, Robotic automation will be adopted here at exponential pace. The Indian manufacturing arena is poised to grow larger in the coming decades. Hence Robotics will be adopted across sectors. With the “Make in India” initiative, the quality of manufacturing and supply chain management will have to be up the ante.  The bulk of India’s robotics requirement is purely at the manufacturing stage. From manufacturing line to experimental robotics in the automotive, pharma, and retail etc. career opportunities will be immense in the coming years.

 Challenges throughout the journey

Back in 2011, our journey began after realising the immense passion for robotics and caters to a specific industry problem with the power of robotics technology. We identified an industry that had been technologically starved for years, and where automation could play an impactful role.

We found there is immense opportunity for industrial automation in India, given that the current level of automation is very low as compared to other markets like USA or China. Also, as not much can be done in the area of transport logistics, the pressure on warehouses for delivering faster in lower costs is increasing many folds. Therefore, the company chose to build hardware robotic solutions to solve complex supply chain problems and transform the way logistics and supply chain processes across the world are being optimized.

 Machines; a compliment to humans or a replacement

Machines may continue to evolve and demonstrate sophisticated artificial intelligence capabilities but may never match human creativity and intellect. Robots add real value by enhancing human capabilities. In other words, it complements and not replaces a human worker. Robotics will take the world to high order of human skills.  Our goal is to aim for a scenario where both complement each other.

Collaborative robots will be designed to work alongside people, assisting them with a variety of tasks on the shop floor thereby increasing efficiency. With robots taking over the hazardous tasks, there will be a high demand in job functions like designing, programming, manufacturing and repairing of these robots. We will also require skilled technicians to operate or monitor these robotics systems. To be smart and adaptive, robots need to be coached and watched over by humans.

Future plans

What has worked for us so far is our ability to customise our technology to include industries and solutions as we have moved in our journey. In the coming years, we see GreyOrange entering new industries/verticals like such as FMCG, Pharma and Retail. Further, we would be expanding into newer geographies across Europe, having recently set up an office in Germany. From an ecosystem perspective, we will be focusing on building stronger partnerships with new players in the automation space.

 The Next thing in AI (Artificial Intelligence)

In the coming years, AI, machine vision and predictive analytics will enable addressing security concerns, predict uncertainties, minimise wastage and prevent accidents. The manufacturing landscape driven by machine learning will push up economic growth, while improving productivity and reducing cost of operations.

GreyOrange has always been at the forefront of AI and machine learning. More than one third of our workforce is dedicated to breakthroughs in innovation at the state of the art R&D lab in India. At this point, it will be premature to talk about any developments; however, we will surely announce them when we are ready.

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