At Automation Expo 2017 in Mumbai, the OMRON booth, curated around the theme of SENSING & CONTROL + THINK, displayed robotics, SysmacAutomation solution with IIoT, vision and traceability, motion control, smart panel and safety solutions. Mr Sameer Gandhi, Managing Director, OMRON Automation India, spoke to Milton D’Silva, Associate Editor, Industrial Automation. Excerpts…
OMRON Automation India
Proximity sensors, photoelectric sensors, industrial automation products, temperature controller, etc.
What has OMRON brought to the Automation Expo 2017?
There are two main themes we are focussing on at this event – the IIoT solutions and the mobile robotic solutions – besides our usual automation solutions for high end machines, smart sensors and safety solutions. What we have brought for the very first time to the Automation Show is the mobile robot.
Is this mobile robot a new Omron concept?
This is actually a product of Adept, a company OMRON acquired two years ago, which specialises in intelligent robots, autonomous mobile robot solutions and services. Typically we have six-axis articulated robots, the SCARA robots and the Delta robots that are used for assembly and Pick n Place applications, which are fixed type of robots. With the mobile robot we are adding another dimension to shop floor automation. It is an autonomous, intelligent indoor vehicle that does not need any external navigational aids like tracks or magnetic path, etc.
So how do these mobile robots move around?
These mobile robots use on-board lasers and other sensors to detect obstacles on their moving path and are programmed to pass around the obstacle, and equipped with the mechanism to stop to prevent collision, and are totally safe. They can operate individually or in a group, run on rechargeable battery, and in case of low battery power, can automatically dock with the charging station for recharge.
What are the applications for this type of robots?
These mobile robots can be programmed for various tasks on the shop floor in a collaborative atmosphere – moving small components or PCBs for line side replenishment, transporting stuff to and from injection moulding stations or moving green tyres from intermediate storage to curing press stations, etc. These can also be use in logistics, e.g., ecommerce delivery or shipment distribution in warehouses; in hotels for linen and room service delivery; in hospitals for surgical instruments delivery, etc. These robots can carry loads up to 130 kg and move around the place safely, and are ideal for transporting ‘Work in Progress’ between process steps, and moving finished goods to the warehouse, etc.
Another aspect is, shop floors of the future are going to be a lot more flexible than they are today. The requirements of products and the processes are changing. The changed configuration of the shop floor may not have a place for fixed conveyors and it is in this situation mobile robots like this will have many applications.
Are these already in actual operation? Is the concept catching up?
It is a new concept and still early days, but yes a few are in operation and there is a lot of interest. Anything new needs some time to get accepted.
You already have a range of fixed robots. Is there any new development here?
Yes, these are the six-axis articulated and other robots mentioned earlier which are basically Pick n Place robots used mainly in most demanding yet repetitive manual 24/7 tasks. These robots reduce manual labour work and allow employees to be more efficient, focusing on higher-level tasks that require more complex and creative human skills. Another application of robots is for vision inspection, which is a new trend catching up in the industry for which we have the SmartVision solution. Large parts or systems like engine or air conditioners of large passenger vehicles are not easy to inspect from just one side and need visual checking from various sides or angles and this is a solution for that.
What about the IIoT solutions and applications?
These are very exciting times for IIoT and related technologies as new trends are catching on. We have stated how OMRON automation solutions are positioned to establish harmony between ‘Man and Machine’ aiming to support the manufacturers in the country to make world-class products as they rise up the value chain in terms of many deliverables such as productivity, operational efficiency, quality and safety to name just a few. We have had a large number of pilots on the table, have done some and are doing more. The SysmacAutomation solution with IIoT is our latest machine automation platform with integration from controller to software. Our IIoT based exhibits exemplify the best use of real-time sensor-based information in reducing downtime improving the efficiency of product changeover and many more.
How do you see the SME segment in terms of automation? Is there some reluctance? Do you have products for them?
SMEs today cannot remain away from automation – if they are into manufacturing of machines, today’s production environment demands automation. If they are users of production machines, these come with automation and either way, they are involved with automation – it is no longer a choice. Though OMRON traditionally has catered to the requirements of large users and high end of the automation spectrum for very fast and very complex systems, we have also launched some mid range solutions sometime last year and these are suitable for SMEs and other users – for relatively simpler, less complex requirements. So now we also cater to the mid-range requirements apart from our traditional high-end business in automation.
Typically how does one approach automation – at the concept stage or later?
Ideally automation is best considered right at the conceptual stage of a project – whether it is a factory or a machine or product – the starting point should be the conceptual stage. Because that’s when we can give the maximum benefit of automation to a customer or project. At OMRON India we have over 40 application engineers and their role is to work with clients at the conceptual stage, understanding their requirements, match the mechanical with the automation part and design the best solution together. Of course if someone comes to us for products we also provide those!
So you are basically a solutions company?
We are out and out a solutions company though we have great products too. We are a much bigger solutions company than we were earlier and that’s where the bulk of our business comes from – offering solutions.