Despite the rate of automation increasing in the French market, robots are still underrepresented in terms of benefits and capacities offered. An initiative dedicated to speed up adoption of industrial robots in France is Innorobo, an exhibition that took place at the Docks of Paris, May 16-18.
During these three days, industry professionals and people with an interest in robotics were able to meet and exchange knowledge around the latest innovations and products in the industrial automation sector. The trade show also featured a conference with some of the thought leaders in the field; one of them Esben Østergaard, Universal Robots’ CTO and founder, who invented the first commercially viable collaborative robot – or simply cobot – able to work alongside people. He was present to co-host a conference entitled "Collaborative robotics: the vision of a world leading pioneer" with the Odense Robotics cluster. A conference during which the cobot pioneer shared his vision of robotics and the process that led him to develop collaborative robots; An accessible-to-all, flexible, easily programmable and inexpensive automation technology. Although robotics always generate interest, it often comes with worries about the possible impact on employment.
CTO and founder of Universal Robots, Esben Østergaard, provided his vision of Industry 5.0 at Innorobo in Paris
Robotics beyond prejudice
Yet automation increases productivity without necessarily affecting the labour market. Germany, for instance, has four times as many robots as France and yet the country has fewer unemployed. Moreover, in 2016, the Employment Policy Council (WCC) estimated that less than 10% of jobs would disappear in France and other OECD countries, due to automation and Digitization. A view shared by the France’s former Minister of Industrial Renewal, Arnaud Montebourg, also present at the show. "With robotics, the manufacturer hires, increases turnover and takes market share," he said. By April 2017, two years after launching the program "Industrie du Futur", 4,100 French companies have been assisted in initiatives to modernize their productive tools with a potential to scale to 8,000 companies. A significant growth, but still in an unfavorable context, as explained by the minister for whom the suggested and much discussed robot tax, would be a "serious mistake".
The former minister himself had previously promoted automation with the launch of "France Robots Initiatives" that pledged considerable financial support to the industry from public and private sources.
At the time of the balance sheet and according to Constant Bernard, President of the Symop, (The Association of Production Technologies and Machines), 80 companies now attend the Robot StartPME program aiming to promote the purchase of a first robot, the initial objective however was to include 250 companies.
In this context, it is difficult not to notice the importance of an exhibition like Innorobo to change attitudes and catch up. A recent study by Technavio stated that the global market for collaborative robots is expected to grow at an average annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 60% from 2017 to 2021 and could reach, at the end of this period, $ 2.1 billion. This clearly shows the place that robotics already holds in the industry in other countries.
Applications as a lever?
What is convenient with robotics is that it never hinders creativity of mankind; For example, Smart Robots markets an application that, with the help of a camera connected directly to the robot, detects the presence of a person, to enable it to control the robotic arm remotely. Thus, based on gestures, the machine operator is able to manipulate the robot without touching it. According to Accenture Consulting, 85% of manufacturers consider that "connected labour" will be common in their production processes by 2020. So, while robots excel in the manufacture of standard products, standardized process and in high production volumes, adding this little "something special" for each product is a challenge, in which robots need guidance.
CTO and founder of Universal Robots, Esben Østergaard, (left) with former minister of Industrial Renewal, Arnaud Montebourg.
Industry players must therefore realize that automation will not make their factories disappear, but will change their shape. Though the robot may be seen as a threat, it is ultimately the guarantor of maintaining an activity. It allows bringing humanity back into the production, a trend that is already called "Industry 5.0" or collaborative industries.
Universal Robots are distributed in France by FIT-SECMI, Hmi MBS and Sysaxes, locate them on our distributor page.
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