AI, ML, cobots can help firms streamline their supply chains: GreyOrange India head

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Vivekanand is country manager, India and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) of Singapore-based GreyOrange, a company that designs, manufactures and deploys advanced robotics systems for automation in warehouses. GreyOrange’s marquee solutions are the Butler (goods-to-person for inventory storage, picking and consolidation) and Linear Sorter (modular system for automating sorting processes in fulfilment centres).

In an interview last week, Vivekanand spoke about how robotics can help companies improve their supply chain, among other things. Edited excerpts:

How is robotics transforming warehouse processes and efficiency?

With the ongoing e-commerce boom, customer expectations are at an all-time high, and supply chains need to be faster and more efficient. The increasing demand for goods to be delivered, not only on time, but on the same day, is pushing the need for robotized warehouses. Warehouses constitute 60% of the supply chain function. Therefore, technologies, such as AI and machine learning (ML), as well as collaborative robots (cobots), are being deployed to streamline various in-house operations such as inventory storage, replenishment, picking and combining orders.

How do you see the robotics market shaping up by 2020?

Currently, conditions for the manufacturing ecosystem are positive and efforts are ongoing to develop a thriving manufacturing ecosystem. More investments, initiatives and discussions are being made in this space and many more companies and organizations are investing in robotics and AI. We are glad to see the government’s increased focus on Digital India and emerging technologies such as robotics, Artificial Intelligence and machine learning, which are fostering innovation in the country. In the last five years, e-commerce and logistics companies have pioneered adoption of advanced robotics technology to create high productivity warehouses and optimizing supply chains to match the dramatic retail evolution—in terms of volumes and values. With GST (goods and services tax), these companies will look at consolidation to create state-of-the-art warehouses, increasing their size by five to ten times. The challenge, however, will remain faster adoption of new technologies and trends such as 3D printing, automation, robotics and big data in the supply chain function.

Can robots complement humans, or are they a threat to human jobs?

In India, industrial robots have been around for a few decades, doing high-precision tasks such as welding and assembling, heavy lifting and auto body painting.

Robots have made assembly lines faster, safer, more cost-effective and efficient. As the size of distribution centres grows, hiring more and more people to operate such facilities efficiently and reliably may work up to a certain point.

Thereafter, robotics process automation will be required to manage the increasing complexity and tasks. Collaborative robots work hand-in-hand with humans to support their roles. This results in freeing up time for the person to handle more meaningful activities.

Which sectors can adopt robotics at a brisk pace?

Currently 70% of industrial robots are at work in the automotive, electrical/electronic and metal and machinery industry segments. Sectors such as military and defence, retail and automotive (parts) are adopting new and emerging technologies.

This article was first published on livemint.com