"People often think that robotics is the solution to everything. We are still not quite there.”

13 August 2021
Arvind Vasu Photo
Vinod R
Author

There are many misconceptions about robots – but also exciting opportunities ahead according to Arvind Vasu, #HowToRobot Partner and founder of Avatyr business consulting in India. 

Arvind Vasu is an accomplished entrepreneur with expertise in robotics, industrial automation, management, sales, and corporate venture capital – based in Chennai, India.

When asked about the most common misconceptions about robotics that he encounters regularly, Arvind remarks, "People have this illusion that robots are intelligent.  We are still not quite there yet. Robots still need to be programmed."

Consider the case of an articulated robot, which is a six-axis machine shaped like a human arm. It may be fixed to the floor or mounted from the ceiling or a wall. It can grip, cut, paint, weld, and do whatever a human arm can do. But of course, the arm itself is a dumb machine as it cannot do anything on its own. We must put different tools on the robot and program it to make it functional. 

A lot of other peripheral equipment is also required to make the robot functional. He points out that the actual robot costs only 20-25% of an entire robotic system. Meanwhile, the engineering, design of the saddle, brackets, and fixtures, pneumatics, conveyor belts, and other components make up the rest of the cost. Arvind's measured response is also a timely reminder about the human expertise and ingenuity still needed in the industry.
 
The second major misconception: robots are going to take away human jobs. Indeed, robots take away mostly repetitive jobs. But he reiterates that there are still several things that a robot cannot do and only humans can. Arvind envisions a future where "robots are going to create more and better jobs for humans."

Growth opportunities post-pandemic 

"Today, especially after COVID, there is a need for a lot of automation in new kinds of industries and by people who may not have considered automation in the past," Arvind is optimistic about the future.
 
There are a lot of opportunities in vision, the holy grail of robotics. There is a need for service-related robots. He believes that the logistics and warehousing space is prime for a revolution. With the growth of e-commerce, there is still scope for a lot of warehouse automation.
 
Because of the pandemic, medical robotics is also an area that is picking up. There is tremendous scope in robotic surgery and lab testing. But more than that, Arvind opines that there is potential for revolution in all kinds of testing, whether it be lab testing or testing of electronics and touch screens.

Even in heavily automated industries, like the automotive industry, it is rare to find a fully automated line. There are still thousands of customers who have not automated at all. So, Arvind believes that there is plenty of scope for the future of automation. 

About the partnership with #HowToRobot

Arvind's company Avatyr recently became the first official #HowToRobot partner in India. Avatyr will market #HowToRobot to end customers and suppliers in India and help them sign up on the #HowToRobot platform. Customers can then use the database "to get quotations for all their automation needs," Arvind is upbeat about the partnership. He continues, “We can help customers do feasibility studies, arrange in-person visits to manufacturing plants for learning purposes, and finally provide them a report on how to prioritize investments in automation."

As a digital marketplace for robotics players, he believes that #HowToRobot provides an opportunity for different players who are either product suppliers or system integrators with their specialty to connect with potential customers. From a customer perspective, #HowToRobot helps them prioritize investments, make a roadmap for their automation journey, and find suppliers.

Customers often struggle to define the outcome they want. We can help guide them with that.

Arvind observes that the main challenge faced by customers is to define what they want as an outcome. Some customers may not have an idea about the complexity. They are not able to appreciate why something is more or less expensive. Over the years, Arvind has come across customers who wanted a robot with AI or vision, but they have not thought through why they need it.
 
There are many questions someone new to robotics needs to ask themselves: Is a piece of equipment or software going to help? Is there already a standard solution available?

Do not buy the wrong robot!

Arvind recommends anyone who wants to get started in robotics to get advice from someone experienced. The absolute worst thing that can happen is that somebody buys a robot and then realize that it is not the robot they needed for their application. By the time they get everything working, it could be three to four months, even longer, before they see any result. "So, unless you know what you want, and you know it is worthwhile, hire an expert to advise you at the beginning rather than spending a lot of money on some expensive equipment, which doesn't get used and may not even be required. Reach out to us. We're happy to help."

About Arvind Vasu

A computer science engineer by education, Arvind has always been fascinated by robotics and automation. Arvind's career started as a management trainee at ABB in 1992. He worked in the US, China, Malaysia, and India in various roles. Arvind joined the Finnish welding company Kemppi OY in 2010 and worked as the Managing Director of their operations in India. He started his consulting practice in 2014. Having invested in several start-ups and having led ABB's investments in Asia from 2016 to 2020, Arvind has vast experience in venture capital and advising start-ups.

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