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How to use smart robots and key points for entering the robotics businessYoji Kuroda

<Series 4(Total 4 series)>

2020.05.28

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In this four-part series, we have been exploring the possibilities of SMEs in the robotics field by interviewing Mr. Yoji Kuroda, a professor at Meiji University who is also a robotics engineer and runs robotics operations at a robotics venture company he launched. In the final part, we will introduce the government's policy for the robotics business and advice to SMEs on adopting and commercializing robots.


Many SMEs increase productivity by adopting robots

Making robots the key to solving challenges such as labor shortages and improving productivity in the service sector, and at the same time making the industry one of Japan's growth industries that opens up the global market. In order to formulate a strategy, the government convened a Robot Revolution Realization Council of experts in 2014, and in February 2015, the Headquarters for Japan's Economic Revitalization formulated the New Robot Strategy. From that starting point, various initiatives have been promoted.

One example is the Robot Adoption Demonstration Project (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry) to promote the adoption of robots in companies. Thanks to this project that subsidizes the adoption of robots, many companies have succeeded in significantly reducing the burden on workers by using robots, halving work time, reducing personnel in the manufacturing process, and recreating the skills of skilled workers.

In addition, tax incentives and financial support for robot adoption are being implemented under the Act on Special Measures for Productivity Improvement and the Act for Enforcement of the Small and Medium-Sized Enterprise Cooperatives. Some local governments are subsidizing the cost of adopting robots, so it makes sense to make use of the subsidies at the time of adoption.

Identify goals and adopt robots wisely through careful consideration

By successfully making use of robots, companies can expect a variety of benefits such as cost savings due to labor savings, improved productivity, and stable quality. However, what should be noted is that the adoption of robots should not be a foregone conclusion.

"Again, robots are a means of solving problems. The first priority is to determine the challenges and objectives, such as whether to reduce the amount of human work and eliminate labor shortages, or to improve profitability by improving business operations and saving labor. There are other ways to solve problems than robots, so it is important to carefully compare costs and consider what to do."

In recent years, the barriers to adoption have fallen, as robots have become more affordable, and "collaborative robots" that can work on the same line as humans have appeared.

Robots required by society will spread globally

What should a company aiming to roll out a new business be concerned with in regard to robot manufacturing?

"If you are considering entering the robotics industry, you should gather information on both robotics technologies and the current status, future prospects, and risks of the market. Then you should identify the strengths of your technology and consider how to make the most of them."

In particular the service robot field which remains without an established market has large uncertainties. Large companies are bound to their existing profit structures, so it is difficult for them to generate innovation. Mr. Kuroda says that in other countries, startup companies are supporting the development of service robots. SMEs are agile, but need to steadily connect their investments to profits for the sake of stable management. The key point for them is how to create a ready system, with a view to cooperation.

"In Japan today, the implementation of robots in society is not yet complete. In light of that reality, we are seriously considering what the causes are and how to solve them, and developing robots that society really needs. If we can do that, they will surely spread all over the world. I think that is the key to revitalizing Japanese industry."


Series How to use smart robots and key points for entering the robotics business

Series 1 Improving robot capabilities expands the potential for wider implementation in our society
Series 2 Understanding the market, robot aptitude, and use conditions is essential for commercializing robots
Series 3 How can SMEs play an active role in the robot industry?
Series 4 How to use smart robots and key points for entering the robotics business


Yoji Kuroda
(Meiji University School of Science and Technology, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Professor / Co-founder of SEQSENSE Inc.)

Completed a doctoral program at the University of Tokyo Graduate School of Engineering, Department of Naval Architecture and Ocean Engineering in 1994. He has been in the current position since 2013 after serving as assistant professor at the Meiji University School of Science and Technology, Department of Mechanical Engineering; as visiting associate professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and as associate professor at the Meiji University School of Science and Technology, Department of Mechanical Engineering. In 2016, he founded the startup "SEQSENSE Inc." to develop autonomous mobile security robots. Researcher at the Institute of Industrial Science of the University of Tokyo, joint researcher at the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (currently the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency [JAXA]). Participated in JAXA's asteroid exploration mission and was involved in the development of the asteroid exploration rover mounted on Hayabusa and Hayabusa2.

Coverage date February 13, 2020

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