What motivated the six co-founders to pursue this idea by investing their own money in an automation & robotics venture?
All six of us were working with Asian Paints and setting up some of the most automated factories in the world. This helped us experience how technology was disrupting manufacturing. Indian manufacturing got a boost in 2014 when India embarked on the ‘Make in India’ campaign. As we all had a passion for technology and had seen first-hand how robotics and automation can help to manufacture, and also due to the dearth of robotics players suitable to serve businesses in Indian conditions, we decided to start our own Robotics & Automation venture. The aim is to help businesses embrace automation and Industry 4.0 for their supply chain and manufacturing operations, thereby achieve flexibility, scalability, and improved operational performance.
When it comes to automation, there is a certain reluctance in even considering the option. Are things changing now?
Indian companies have not really embraced technology for their supply chain and not automated their operations to a large extent. When we started, there were only a few automation players and all of them are foreign players like Italian, German and British. But their products were typically not accustomed to Indian conditions and had little scope for any customisation as per the business requirements and operations in India, thus leading to a large ramp-up and commissioning time. This limited the adoption of automated solutions to a few large companies and these companies were also a bit reluctant to try out new solutions as they used to face a lot of challenges from the already installed solutions. Also, as these solutions are expensive the small and medium companies could not afford them. But now things are changing, our approach has been to educate the customer about the benefits of automation and as Indian companies are scaling up, they are realising the need for automation.
At Addverb, we offer automation solutions that are flexible and affordable, leading to wide-scale adoption. We have been able to provide solutions to a wide stratum of companies from young and budding start-ups to Fortune 500 companies. Indian companies have also started realising that to cater to a more flexible and dynamic supply chain, they need to use technology and go for automation. Covid-19 has only hastened this move towards more automated and reliable supply chain and technology adoption.
What are the latest trends in India’s supply chain and manufacturing sector – is it ripe for advanced technologies like voice- and vision-based systems Addverb offers?
There have been some key triggers in last 5 years which have changed India’s supply chain and manufacturing sectors, such as the rise of E-Commerce and it’s spread into every nuke and corner of the country after internet data revolution, the growth of organised retail in major towns and cities, implementation of GST which led to the consolidation of small warehouses, the high real-estate prices in cities which forced the consumer warehouses to outside the city and supply and demand fluctuations.
These triggers necessitated a flexible supply chain to accommodate the demand surges and reliable warehousing operations that help in fulfilling the requirement within the stipulated time and in an accurate manner. As operations scale up, it is critical to improving the productivity of people working in the warehouses and factories. Technologies like Light, Voice and Vision-based systems can improve the productivity of manual operations by almost 5-10 times. Also, they ensure a 99% accuracy in warehousing operations. For instance, an operator in a warehouse can pick up to 60 items in an hour if he is using pen and paper to search and locate the item, the same operator can pick up to 240 items in an hour if he is using a Pick-By-Voice and up to 500 items in an hour if he is using a Pick-By-Light solution. Also, our solutions are custom designed to perform with rugged usage like our Rapido, pick to light is quite robust and Khushi, our pick by voice is available in 14 Indian regional languages apart from English and Hindi. Features like these make products quite versatile and universally applicable.
Does the company have its own infrastructure for hardware manufacturing? What kind of R&D set-up and spend it involves?
Consider the following points:
1. Addverb has built a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Noida with an area of 1,30,000 sq.ft and it is going to become operational in September 2020. This facility will be unique and one of its kind in the world where Robots will make Robots
2. Most automated factory in this space where robots will build robots. Both articulated and mobile robots would help us build our equipment
3. We are deploying ASRS, Carton shuttles and Mother and child shuttle for our storage and manufacturing
4. Capacity of the plant – 60 km of Case Conveyor, 8 km of Pallet Conveyor, 10,000 Carton Shuttles, 1800 Pallet and Mother shuttles, 2000 Mobile Robots, 10,000 Sorting Robots, 2,00,000 PTLs pa
5. World-class tool room and machine shop comprising of laser cutting, Powder Coating, Electronics Pick & Place and Assembly, VMC, CNC, and Vending Machines
6. For a company like us, R&D is an overly critical element to ensure our product pipeline remains ahead of the curve and we spend around 10% of our revenue on R&D. And this new factory will have a seating capacity of 450 engineers and one of the best robotic R&D lab with all the high tech equipment.
Covid-19 has added an urgency to adopt more automation – do you see this translating into business opportunities?
The latest development has been the rise of online deliveries for grocery and other personal care and home care items which has been triggered due to Covid-19 pandemic. Companies are also constrained by manpower availability to manage the warehousing operations as many people have left for their hometowns due to the lockdown. To maintain adequate social distancing and to ensure that the product is not touched by many people during the warehousing operations, the Goods-To-Person technologies like Mobile Robots, Carton Shuttle Robots have been picking up extremely fast. These technologies ensure fast, productive, and reliable warehousing operations. Another reason the rise of micro fulfilment centres which are sprouting across the country to ensure a low cost and fast last mile delivery of orders. MFCs can achieve their performance expectations through manual and automated solutions.
What ails Indian manufacturing which is proving so hard to scale up despite initiatives like Make in India?
Of late, the ease of doing business in India has improved by leaps and bounds, with many states now taking the ownership to attract investments from Indian and foreign companies. One of the most critical problems that Indian manufacturing faces is of availability of skilled manpower, which hampers the productivity of manufacturing operations. The lockdown implemented from March to May will only aggravate this problem as many skilled labourers have now migrated back to their hometowns. Also, high real estate prices, force the industries to move away from cities and towns to rural areas, which often do not have adequate infrastructure to support the operations. Automation seems to be the most potent solution to solve these two problems as it leads to optimum utilisation of space and makes your operation more reliable and accurate.
Can Frugal Innovations and Scalable Solutions help make a self-reliant India?
Native intelligence has always solved pressing and complex issues. Apart from initial resistance, the most critical factor for technology adoption is affordability. Technology can only be adopted on a mass scale if it is affordable. Self-reliant India can only be formed with indigenous products. For instance, Indian Kiranas (grocery stores) have been unique and have survived the test of time despite the onslaught of e-commerce companies. We can very well see e-commerce companies tweaking their business models to accommodate the Indian kiranas. Similarly, Indian manufacturing also has problems which are very local in nature like manpower skill, quality of electricity supply, dust, etc., on top of the tremendous RoI pressures for automation projects. Also, automation solutions need to be affordable to a wide stratum of companies, i.e., big, medium, and small companies, hence a plug and play approach of arriving at solutions through different products, combination of both manual and automated products, etc., need to be devised. This make automation friendly to all sorts of companies depending on their scale, budget, and expectations. Steps like these, can make Indian manufacturing self-reliant.