How technology has facilitated SMEs to scale up
The Indian economy is expected to emerge as one of the leading economies in the world and likely to become a $5 trillion economy by 2025, major emphasis is being given to strengthen and encourage the backbone of our economy - the SME sector in India in the recent past. The SME sector contributes about 8% to GDP besides 45% to the total manufacturing output and 40% to the exports from the country which has the potential to spread industrial growth across the country and can be a major partner in the process of inclusive growth along with their significant role in national development through high contribution to Gross Domestic Production, Significant Export Earnings, Low Investment Requirements, Operational Flexibility, Location Wise Mobility, Low Intensive Imports, Capacities to develop appropriate indigenous technology, Import Substitution etc. Indian Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) sector has emerged as a highly vibrant and dynamic sector of the Indian economy over the last five decades.
Despite of their inherent capabilities to grow, SMEs in India are facing a number of challenges like sub-optimal scale of operation, increasing domestic & global competition, working capital shortages, insufficient skilled manpower, change in manufacturing strategies and turbulent, and uncertain market scenario. To survive with such issues and compete with large and global enterprises, SMEs need to adopt innovative approaches in their operations.
SMEs that have a competitive spirit and a willingness to restructure them can withstand the present challenges and come out successfully to contribute 22% to GDP. Indian SMEs are always ready to accept and acquire new technologies, new business ideas and automation in industrial and allied sectors. The advent of advanced technology is opening newer channels for SME businesses across several sectors. The technology and innovation is playing a pivotal role in the growth and development of SMEs in India. The presence of unconventional technological platforms is bringing on board a rising number of small players in the Indian market.
One of the path breaking advancements in technology is the development of Robotics and Automation in India and Robotic technologies have certainly transformed SME businesses substantially in India. We are in an age where the application of next-generation industrial automation, which is the use of
Automated machinery for continual mass production for better output and higher productivity is doing more than we ever thought possible, impacting individuals and businesses, in many instances without even being noticed. A new generation of robots, which are user – friendly and flexible, ushers the SME sector in an era of human- robot coexistence in the workplace. Especially for small and mid-sized manufacturers, a question is arising sooner than most probably expected: “If prices keep declining and capabilities of robotic technologies keep expanding, is now the time to hire some automated help?” Indeed, many have already answered this question. According a PwC survey of manufacturers, 59% of SMEs are already currently using some sort of robotics technology.
One of the success stories of is that of Aurolab, out of Madurai, Tamil Nadu, a SME handles eye care systems which are associated with Arvind Eye Care Systems that operates in Tamil Nadu. Through use of superior and innovative human-robot collaborative technology, the production improved from 150 to 10,000 Intra Ocular Lenses (IOL) per day. Aurolab have seen a 15% increase in the annual product output. This was a unique scenario where the increase in use of Collaborative Robots that works alongside the employees, has added to the manpower and now, they have made their mark in the international market and export to over 130 countries. The Collaborative Robots have increased affordability helping people regain vision at lower cost, and have considerably reduced the power consumption and quality problems.
Recent interviews with Owners of SMEs suggest that safety and security of their operators is one of their major worries. There are many examples of operators flouting safety norms, defeating security switches etc. leading to disasters. Robots that work along with the workforce which are user – friendly have decreased the risk – factor at a marginal cost making the workplace safe for employees and have eliminated the risk of accidents in the factories by adhering to ISO TS 15066 safety specifications.
A recent study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology undertaken by Julie Shah, who studies human-robot collaboration at the BMW plant, discovered that teams of human and robot collaborators worked with better efficiency and precision with higher productivity, when compared to an all human or an all robot team. This co-operative process reduced the human idle time by 85% and she also observed that humans do not mind robots taking the lead.
For every industry, automating the last 20% of a production line is the most expensive part. Human – Robot collaboration (HRC) is necessary to make automation affordable for SME’s. Automated robots that work with human employees create tremendous advancements in industrial processes. They can be programmed by operators adding tremendous flexibility to meet human problem solving needs. Accessible automated machinery gives SME manufactures the opportunity to grow in measured steps so they can maintain competitiveness in a global landscape without taking on undo risk. SME’s have the need of protecting their IP (intellectual property) – it’s a small competitive advantage they have developed through home-grown means. Since these new robots that work in hand-in-hand with the manual labour are user - friendly, IP can be retained within the manufacturing industries or companies, without hiring external consultants for the automation process.
The APAC market is expected to grow at the highest CAGR between 2016 and 2022. The main drivers for this growth are the demand for industrial automated machinery from small- and medium-scale enterprises in China, Japan, South Korea, and India as well as the growing investments in countries such as India to boost manufacturing under projects such as Make in India.