The intelligence and obedience of the indefatigable ‘Jarvis’ in the Hollywood flick Iron Man has become almost possible in the upper echelons of science and extreme technology. Today, computerised artificial intelligence systems (A.I.) such as Jarvis are already operating in ways that are beginning to deliver value to the ordinary man. But this is just the beginning, and the benefits of robotics driven automation will soon become a tangible reality for everyday value and needs.
Companies around the world have already started adopting robotic systems for automating various processes within manufacturing or in supply chain, to overcome operational inefficiencies and make data-driven decisions. For instance, e-commerce companies such as Flipkart stock more than 1,00,000 varieties of products in a single warehouse, shipping a mindboggling 2,000 units every minute. Naturally, they stock several units of each of these products in warehouses that size up to 2-3 football fields, in seemingly endless arrays of racks with multiple products each. So, how do these companies handle such scales, and, at the same time, meet the growing consumer demands? It is no surprise that these companies have equipped their warehouses with advanced robotic technology to simplify complex processes, drive efficiency and speed up order processing time, so that they can not only manage high throughputs but also offer services such as ‘same day delivery’ or ‘4-hour delivery’, thereby beating the competition and satisfying the consumers. A similar use of robots in the pharma, healthcare, hospitality, retail, FMCG and many other industries is also increasing. In fact, Bank of America Merrill Lynch predicts that the global robotics market will reach $152.7 billion by 2020.Academic options
For aspiring engineers, robotics has already become an in-demand stream. But does one need to be a qualified robotics engineer to make a career in this field? Perhaps eventually, when there are enough robotics engineering courses to meet the demand. Some of the acclaimed engineering institutes in the country already offer specialised courses at the postgraduate level. These are the IITs (Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kanpur, and Kharagpur); Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru; several National Institutes of Technology (NITs); Birla Institute of Technology and Science (Pilani and Mersa); Jadavpur University (Kolkata) and the University of Hyderabad.
The good news, however, is that robotics is a multidisciplinary science that combines the power of hardware and software. Typically, a robot has moving parts (mechanical and design), power optimisation (electronics) and an algorithm (software). Therefore, a career in robotics requires deep understanding of any one and appreciation of the other fields among the following — design, software, electrical, and mechanical engineering.
Those who decide to pursue a career in robotics at the undergraduate level can look for short-term certification courses such as Robotics Certification Standards Alliance (RCSA). Aspirants also equip themselves with relevant exposure by participating in robotics competitions and becoming active members of robotics clubs/societies in their institution or region. One can speed up the progress by interning with robotics companies in India.
Automation and technology will make it a brave new world by 2020, and like in most streams, the academic fraternity will widen the robotics stream to make this skill set more accessible for the industry. But the demand for the skill set is already soaring in India and across the world. Now is the time to be part of this wave.
The writer is Lead,
People Operations, GreyOrange Pte Ltd.