Dubai: Demand for robotics services in the Middle East is expected to grow by 30 per cent annually for the next 15 years, according to DigiRobotics, the largest provider of automatic equipment in the Middle East.
Currently, most of the demand is robotic services is from seaports, factories and warehouses, according to Svitlana Voznyuk, marketing manager for DigiRobotics. According to Voznyuk, converting a medium-sized factory — which usually includes the purchase of robotic cargo movers, self-driving vehicles, and other equipment — could cost upwards of $6 million (Dh22 million), with an estimated 200 factories along in Saudi Arabia considering moving to robotics.
“Companies are mainly seeking robotics solutions, which is the most cost effective,” Voznyuk said. “That this the main demand in the markets. They want to reduce labour. A robot can work 24/7. That solution in 5 or 7 years may not give the saving most companies would want to have at first, but in the long term — you’re purchasing a robot for 20 to 25 years, you’re just updating the software from us — it’s a very good investment for many of the factories.”
Most companies looking to make the transition to full automation hope to save money by replacing unskilled labour, although the use of robotics also requires the hiring of skilled, and therefore higher paid, engineers and maintenance staff. Voznyuk estimated that for in a factory that previously employed 200 unskilled jobs, the company will need to hire 3 skilled employees.
However, even with those numbers, many companies in the region are often reluctant to move to full automation. DigiRobotics CEO Bilal Al-Hattab says the reason include a reluctance to trust technology or simply the fear of moving away from a trusted method of production.
“It’s still very difficult for them to trust the machines, rather than their own people or their own hands,” he said. “They’ve been doing their business for 30 of 40 years, and it’s very difficult to use this [technology] instead of the 10 or so people they’ve been working with.”
He also cites cheap labour in the markets as a disincentive for many companies considering an investment, although he says the new technology increases capacity and reduces the need for manpower.
Al Hattab says he hopes that adoption of automatic equipment by major government entities will help remove some of the mistrust of robotic technology. Currently DigiRobics, which is a private company, is working with DP World, where they are working to provide automation to seaports, and Dubai Municipality, where the company is providing automated cleaning equipment.
DigiRobotics is a Dubai-based company that was established three years ago. The company currently has offices in Saudi Arabia and the UK.