Colombo, October 7 (NIA): Collaborative robots may well be one of the solutions to post-war Sri Lanka’s labor shortage problem – a problem which is making Chambers of Commerce and Industry clamor for the import of labor from labor surplus counties like India and Bangladesh.
While migration of labor, both skilled and unskilled, to the Middle East, Korea and Italy, is a major cause, the more worrying aspect is the popular aversion for repetitive and boring mechanical jobs.
But now relief comes in the form of the Collaborative Robot (or co-bot) invited by Dr.Esben Ostergaard of Denmark.
Collaborative Robots are user-friendly and easy to set up and operate. Being light-weight, they can be shifted around by a single worker. They can be programmed to perform simple and repetitive functions by the worker himself through a simple procedure which can be learned in an hour. They are safe and need not be caged. A Co-bot stops the moment someone touches it.
Demonstrating the use of a typical table-top Co-bot in Colombo on Thursday, Pradeep David , General Manager for India of the Danish company Universal Robots, said that studies have shown that shop floor productivity can be increased by 85 percent by using co-bots. And start-ups break even in 195 days in the West and in about two years in India.
Asked if the use of co-bots would not lead to retrenchment and unemployment, David said that experience across the world, including labor-surplus India, has shown that with the increase in productivity, production, competitiveness, exports and earnings brought about by the use of co-bots, firms have been able to expand, diversify and, employ more labor.
The Co-bot takes the drudgery out of industrial employment but taking over the repetitive, boring and tedious tasks from the worker. The worker can then do other kinds of work requiring intelligence, creativity, artistry and sensibility. At any rate, there are always finishing touches to be given to an assembly line product ,which only the human worker can give, David explained.
To answer the question on employment, David cited the case of a small cataract lens manufacturing company in Madurai in Tamil Nadu, which improved the quality of the lenses, and increased production, sales and manufacturing capacity by switching to co-bots. The factory made a larger number of lenses with amazing accuracy. The co-bot using factory became a bigger employer too.
A number of varieties of Co-bots are available each with different capabilities and the prices vary from INR 12 lakhs to 20 lakhs.
Universal Robots’ large number of corporate clients include Volkswagen, General Electric and Bajaj Auto. In Sri Lanka, garment factories making international brands are likely to go in for the Co-bot, David said.