Although the COVID-19 crisis has severely affected economic and industrial sectors of the around the world, industrial companies that have invested in robotics and production automation are not holding back, and Lithuanian robot developers are exploring new opportunities for business.
Automation enables companies continue their business
In situations like this, the health of employees becomes vulnerable and therefore most important to protect. As companies have to limit their activities to stop the pandemic, business automation helps to manage the risk of job loss due to the spread of the virus and allows to continue or easily reorganize the operations. Companies that have already installed robotic lines do not report downtime, mass redundancies or unpaid leave, on the contrary – they adapt more flexibly to the changed conditions and, if necessary, can increase production volumes and operate at any time of the day.
Aurelijus Beleckis, the head of Elinta Robotics, agrees that the solutions they have implemented allow companies to continue their work during a difficult period. One of the most important aspects is the elimination of direct contact between employees. Even large-scale automated systems can be managed by a single system operator, which can work in isolation and the maintenance of the systems can be performed remotely. This completely reduces the risk of the virus spreading among employees, and the company does not have to halt or slow down its work.
Vytautas Kazlauskas, the head of the Kaunas-based company Robotex, which has been integrating robots in industrial companies for over 10 years, agrees that robotics help to reduce the social contact in factories. He also notes that companies that have already benefited from robotics do not slow down during quarantine and continue to look for ways to automate their operations: “There are no canceled robotics orders and we plan to install at least ten more robots in different industries this year alone.”
Robotization helps in the fight against crisis
UAB Teltonika which operates in the field of Internet of Things (IoT) and telematics has already chosen the path of automation and, with the help of “Elinta Robotics”, installed a fully automated product assembly line in the autumn of 2019. Since then, six robots are responsible for the complete assembly cycle of GPS tracking equipment components. The successfully installed assembly line today represents the value created by ten employees, and reliable operation allows to maintain uncompromised product quality. These advantages of automation make it possible to continue production and save skilled jobs.
Such conditions also allow investment in the production of devices that are essential for the fight against a pandemic. Earlier, the representatives of UAB Teltonika announced that they had started designing professional lung ventilation equipment, the first prototypes of which are expected to be presented already in May.
Julius Švagždys, Head of Corporate Marketing at Teltonika, points out that the prototypes are focused on a professional artificial lung ventilation (DPV) device that would be adapted to the infrastructure of existing clinics. The development and production of such devices is not a fast process, it requires not only a large team, but also special knowledge, solutions to ensure the efficient operation of the device. To date, a team of 30 highly experienced employees not only designs an artificial lung ventilator, but also prepares methodologies for mass production of devices. After successful medical tests and prototype testing, the current production infrastructure would allow the production of thousands of devices per month.
Robots contribute directly
Robot developers operating in Lithuania not only help to automate industrial activities, but also offer to meet the rapidly growing demand for protective equipment and medical devices in the world. From autonomous disinfection systems to the production of protective shields, the benefits of robots are being seen around the world.
One of the most important tools in the fight against the spread of a pandemic is disinfection. In medical institutions and potentially infected premises, disinfecting workers pose a risk to their health. Autonomous and highly accurate disinfection robots can be used to eliminate this risk. Lithuanian robot developers UAB Rubedo sistemos, together with partners in the USA and Hong Kong, are developing a unique disinfection robot, capable of killing up to 99.99% of bacteria and viruses in the air. According to Linas Vaitulevičius, Commercial Director of Rubeds, “Currently, robots are already being tested in Hong Kong hospitals, and orders are being received from Asian and EU markets. We are proud to have made the decision to focus on the development and mass production of disinfection robots at the right time. We hope to start the manufacturing as soon as possible. “
In the event of a crisis, other producers are also showing solidarity. UAB Elinta Robotics is ready to robotize the production of FlexBlow Shield face shields manufactured by UAB Terekas. At the request of the COVID-19 mitigation fund, the company is ready to mobilize available resources and deliver an automated solution that would increase production to as many as 100,000 protective shields per day.
Digitalization of the company should be planned in advance
According to Justinas Katkus, one of the founders of the Lithuanian robotics association and the head of UAB Factobotics, this new type of crisis has revealed the shortcomings of companies that have not explored digitization yet. If processes are not digitized in time, they have to do it when difficult times strike and focus is needed elsewhere. This will have a major impact on the ability of companies to quickly reorient and work in the new changed environment.
“We look a little further than the current pandemic,” says Justinas Katkus. “We are watching what robotics solutions will be needed after the crisis, how it will change the habits of people and companies, what new areas may emerge and why. One of the most popular areas of robotics is telepresence, which allows people to experience being elsewhere by controlling the robot remotely. Don’t be surprised when iRobot or Samsung home cleaning robots are soon to come up with solutions to disinfect your home. People’s fears and desire to protect themselves will definitely turn into new products and services.”