Sergio Bautista
Local Division Manager of Robotics and Motion and Local Business Unit Manager of Robotics
ABB México
View from the Top

Collaborative Robots Coming to Factory Floors

Fri, 09/01/2017 - 12:58

Q: What future do you see for collaborative robots in the automotive industry and how will they compete with traditional robotics solutions?

A: Collaborative robots will offer the best added value in the automotive industry in final assembly applications for car interiors. Powertrain components will also provide an opportunity for this type of equipment, as well as electric and electronic parts for harnessing, board manipulation and deck applications where human-robot collaboration is needed. All these operations will open a niche with Tier 1 suppliers.

However, these units will not compete with traditional robotic solutions. Collaborative robots have a niche market and if a traditional robotic solution is the right one, it should not be replaced in favor of a collaborative robot. That could put the entire manufacturing operation at a disadvantage and in the end, no added value would be gained.

Q: What does ABB Ability bring to the manufacturing industry and how will it help Mexico take the next step toward Industry 4.0?

A: ABB Ability is a unified, cross-industry platform based on the concept of the internet of Things, Services and People. This new initiative will provide simplification, collaboration and digitalization to the manufacturing industry by collecting data through sensors and software that will be later monitored on-site and remotely to simulate and optimize processes. Together, all these operations will build the factory of the future. To make this a reality, ABB Ability is bringing together all the capabilities of ABB’s products and putting them in one single platform that can speed up manufacturing operations. Clients will see improvements in performance, pre-engineering, connected services and predictive maintenance.

ABB is partnering with Microsoft and IBM to bring extra benefits to its customers. Microsoft Azure will be the Cloud platform that will ensure ABB Ability’s connectivity features, while IBM Watson will provide industrial artificial intelligence capabilities for real-time understanding of what is happening on the production floor.

Q: With Industry 4.0 practices gaining pace in the automotive industry, what challenges or opportunities does Mexican talent face?

A: Mexico has skilled talent when it comes to basic technical operations. However, local talent must understand new technology and learn how to implement it. The Mexican industry needs more digitalization, more connected equipment, advanced protocols and increased data safety and Big Data applications. All these concepts are already applied in the global automotive industry and people must be able to understand that language and apply digitalized tools. Augmented reality will also redefine interactions for task development, engineering and design operations, as well as how new processes are carried out in production plants.

Q: When do you think the benefits of automation will outweigh Mexico’s perks as a low-cost manufacturing hub?

A: The automotive industry must first define how processes will change in car manufacturing and implementation will follow. Automation will improve certain processes but skilled human labor will still be needed within the same production environment. Mexico will remain an attractive low-cost manufacturing hub; the only difference will be the increased presence of automation. Nevertheless, the country needs to switch its focus to an added-value human labor force focused on advanced knowledge and innovation.

Q: How important has the automotive industry been for ABB in Mexico and what are your growth projections for 2017 and the near future?

A: The automotive industry is critical for ABB in Mexico and all over the world. We have defined specific actions to strengthen our position in the automotive market and to grow our efforts to support our customers. These initiatives are part of our 2020 strategy, focused on delivering an excellent customer experience for all players doing business with ABB.