Maria Gafurova, Innopolis University - on women engineers, industrial robotization in Russia and combining career and family

Maria Gafurova— engineer, employee of the Center for Robotics and Mechatronics Component Technologies in

Innopolis University.She graduated with honors from Samara State Aerospace University with a degree in Aircraft Engines, and also has an economic education. In 2009-2010, Maria worked as a manager at the non-profit organization AIESEC and as an economist at Aviakor. Has experience as a process engineer at NPO Saturn. Since 2010, she worked at JSC PES/SKK (automotive business), where she launched the Renault Duster and Nissan Terrano projects.

How to implement robots for production in Russia

— Maria, what did you do before Innopolis and how did you get there?

— After university, I followed the economic path, but after working for three months in the financial department of an aviation enterprise, I realized that this was completely not my thing and was very boring.

Then I switched to a manufacturing plant.PES / SCC (now APTIV - “Haytek”) is an international company that manufactures electrical wiring for our and foreign cars produced in the territory of the Russian Federation. I started there as an ordinary technologist when the project was just launched, and then I became its leader - I brought it to mass production. Launched a wiring production line for Renault Duster cars. These are two conveyor lines and a large number of stationary workplaces, as well as large volumes of finished product production per year - for 120–180 thousand cars. I managed a team of technologists on the Renault Duster serial project and in parallel launched a new project based on the serial production of electrical wiring for Nissan Terrano machines.

Then I went on a long maternity leave - onfive years, and after the decree I was invited to work at Innopolis University, at the Center for Robotics. They opened a new direction related to industrial robotics - the development of road maps for automation and enterprise robotization. Just my experience is very suitable for this work.

- What are you doing right now - as an engineer in the laboratory of industrial robotics?

- Our team is developing a roadmaprobotization and automation for one Russian company belonging to a large machine-building holding. We examined key workshops for the possibility of introducing robotic automated technologies, conducted a full audit, developed a set of optimal solutions for the company, calculated economical and engineering effects, to the extent that this is relevant. We are already developing more detailed technical and commercial proposals with calculations of new labor intensity in these areas and an assessment of how much productivity will increase and how much it will give an economic effect, what will be profitability, payback period, up to visualization - how the new workplace will look like robotized technologies.


- Do you develop solutions yourself or use ready-made ones?

- We had 37 sites that we offeredto robotize Some of them are unique, and this is our vision of a possible concept of organizing production with the use of robotic technologies. For the rest, ready-made solutions of world practice that are applied at other enterprises are applicable, and the economic effect in this case is predictable.

- Russian enterprises are beginning to actively introduce the latest generation of robotics. What stage is Russia in robotization now?

- It all depends on the scope of production. Some enterprises are more advanced, for example, in the automotive industry. For example, the use of robotic welding. And some enterprises are quite far behind world trends or have lost their relevance. For example, some aviation industry enterprises that I managed to visit each industry need to be assessed individually, but the potential of robotization is great. And I believe that the roadmap of robotization is very relevant for Russian enterprises, because we give an integrated approach and vision of production as a single system, and do not consider the robotization of a specific area of ​​the enterprise.

- You said that part of the aviation industry is in a deplorable state with us, but at the same time a lot of money is pouring in there. Why is this situation?

- Why is this happening, I, unfortunately, don’tcompetent to answer. For example, one positive example is NPO Saturn, I was there twice as a student, when I was part of an elite training group at the university. This was 12-13 years ago, and they were just beginning to implement MRP and ERP systems. And we had to evaluate how effectively this was happening, find weaknesses and identify them to management. And yes, NPO Saturn looks good, money is invested in it, it lives, and there is production there. Currently, the SaM-146 engine is being produced there together with Snecma, which is installed on the SuperJet 100.

But, on the other hand, I was on Aviacor. And this is no longer such a positive example. The company was in a deplorable state. There were half-tidy shops, lack of specialists, salaries are not paid. I was there about 8 years ago, but I think that little has changed. I would be glad if I am mistaken.

MRP (or Material Requirements Planning)— methodology for planning the company’s needs for materials and supplies.

ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) Systems— improved management systems, in which much attention is paid to financial subsystems.

Aviacor- an aircraft plant located in Samara.It is part of the Russian Machines engineering holding, controlled by the financial and industrial group Basic Element of Oleg Deripaska. Over the past 15 years, the company has been assembling Tu-154M aircraft.

"There is work for everyone - both to man and to robot"

- Let's go back to the roadmap. How many years and funds will it take, if it can be predicted to modernize production from the point of view of robotics?

- It depends on the specific decision. If this is a standard solution that is used in world practice, for example, the welding area is the replacement of manual labor with robotic ones. The implementation period, within six months or a year with a margin, and the payback period can also be quite fast, about a year or two, depending on the specific case.

In our case, the development of the roadmap tookabout three months. Everything, as always, depends on the conditions that are negotiated with the company, on the cost of the project, because it can be a short time, in which a large number of people will be involved in the development. And the degree of study.

There may, of course, be longer periods.payback and implementation, if these are some unique solutions, but this gives good effects in terms of ecology and industrial safety for the company’s employees. Since there are very harmful industries associated with working with toxic materials and harmful working conditions. These could be areas of work with getinax, for example, or with asbestos, where there are carcinogenic substances that cause cancer. People in these types of production retire very quickly. Replacing manual labor with robotic labor brings not only an economic effect, but also improves working conditions.

Getinax- an electrically insulating layered pressed material with a paper base impregnated with phenolic or epoxy resin.

- Russia is in many ways a conservative country, andThe news that robots will replace a person in production frightens people. But when you talk about enterprise robotization, do you still mean collaborative robots?

- As for industrial robotics, II think that robots are only good. Man is always needed, there is just a replacement. Robots replace any unskilled labor, such as installation and unloading. The person will need more qualified. It seems to me that it is even good, there will be an incentive to develop and receive education. Serve these robots, be an operator. Robots protect people from dangerous and harmful working conditions. This is a big plus. But some operations can be performed only by humans. Human labor will always be needed. There is a job for everyone: both for man and for robot.


- Most of the production is in smallcities where the level of education is lower. And low-skilled labor is necessary for people, because they need to go somewhere. But what if this niche is occupied by robots?

— Yes, but not all low-skilled laborcan be replaced by robots. Moreover, it is not cost effective. Sometimes it is cheaper to leave a person to perform some operation than to install a robot that will never pay off.

For example, if we talk about my practice, thenonly the people stand on the assembly line of the wiring harness on the conveyor lines. I honestly can’t imagine how a robot will assemble them, because it’s very hard work that only humans can do. To install and unload some small parts in some cases, it also does not make sense to install a robot, because it does not pay off economically. But for the installation of large-sized heavy parts, where a person needs physical strength and time and special shop equipment, installing a robot is economically advantageous. It is not entirely correct to speak and summarize here, all situations are individual. Robots now, as I see, and industrial robotics, go to help people, but not as job cuts (laughs).

Put the robot in a bottleneck

- How high is the cost to create a roadmap for an enterprise?

- I think enterprises can afford it. The cost of the project depends on the degree of development. This may be some recommendations, expert assessment. Or a more detailed study is possible, more accurate calculations of economic and engineering effects, payback periods, then, of course, the price will change. This service is useful, it gives a systematic approach and an expert opinion from the outside on the organization of production of the enterprise. The company's management may not see any solutions, some tasks that we can suggest.

- How is the selection of places to be robotization? These are the nodes where a person does something very slowly and delays the entire conveyor belt?

- All very individual and selection criterianegotiated with the management of the enterprise on the basis of their priorities. One of the priorities for many enterprises are “bottlenecks” that slow down the production process. For example, do you know what is metal casting in the ground?


- Not really.

— The technology of casting into the ground is divided intoseveral stages: making a model, preparing a flask, molding the earth, casting metal, and ultimately extracting and processing the resulting workpiece. In general, metal is cast for casting housings and gearboxes or some large large parts. To cast them, first the master makes a model by hand, that is, the geometry of the future part. People take a very long time to make it, sawing it out, cutting it, and so on. This is a very long process, it takes one or two days, depending on the complexity of the part itself. Or you can make a robot that, according to a clearly defined program, will do this in a couple of hours, or maybe less. Thus, more accurate casting will be produced and the production cycle of the part will be reduced.

- Does it happen like this: if we put a robot in this “bottleneck”, then the cost of human labor falls? How does this affect the salary of an ordinary employee?

— There is a reduction in the number of personnel byarea after robotization, but this personnel can be used in other areas. And what remains will be more qualified and better paid. For example, at the enterprise where I worked, it was very difficult to find people, namely operators, for low-skilled work. This was quite a big problem, because no one wants to go to a low-paid job, everyone wants more qualified work and better paid work.

There is just a redistribution of humanLabor, a site becomes a robotic one, where one qualified operator remains who can control this robotic cell, and the rest of the staff is distributed to other sites.

- And for large enterprises, if they reduce the cost of production in one place, they can launch something else where people are required.

- Of course, besides, on the current projectIt is expected to increase the production of finished products. Increases in volume can be achieved with the help of robotizing labor and maintaining the current number. And not just increasing the number of personnel and equipment, namely, maintaining its current value and improving current business processes.

- That is, people in such enterprises do not suffer at all, but, on the contrary, it becomes easier for them to work?

- I think yes. In addition, in most enterprises, there are areas with harmful working conditions, since industrial production is inevitably associated with them. It becomes more comfortable and safer for a person to work. For example, in the painting and painting areas in which young girls work and paint the details there and inhale the paint. I think you yourself understand how harmful it is. And this can be done by a robot, and this girl can do some other safe operation.

- Well, yes, if we are talking about your health, then it is cheaper not to ruin it.

- Yes, when I was on a student practice at“Saturn”, there was a large workshop of aircraft blades polishers, and I was very impressed that they all retired with vibratory sickness. This is quite a serious disease, it may even be given a disability, but I could be wrong. Young guys and girls work in the shop, because there is a very large salary: 2-2.5 times higher than that of other operators.

Vibration disease- occupational disease caused bylong-term (at least three to five years) exposure to vibration in production conditions. Also known as white finger syndrome, pseudo-Raynaud's disease, vasospastic disease of the hand from trauma.

Vibrations are divided into local (from manualtools), general (from machine tools, equipment, moving machines) and combined (the influence of general and local vibration when vibrating concrete). Vibration exposure occurs in many professions.

- But they still go there for salary.

- They go, but they can learn better and go to work as a CNC machine operator, for example.

Good base for development

- I understand correctly that it is education inSamara Aerospace gave you a way into the world of robotics. That is, classical education, even in small cities, is valued in such a modern direction as robotics?

— I can talk a lot about my university.One of the most powerful aviation universities, along with Kazan and Moscow. We have a very good base, we were taught to learn and gain knowledge, and were given a very good foundation for further work and further career growth.

My husband and I work together at the Robotics Center. Together with him both the first and second higher education were completed. Now there will be a moment of advertising a husband (laughs). With the help of such a basic education, he became a Ph.D. in technical sciences and received a PhD from the Finnish LUT University in Lappeenranta. In the Center for Robotics, he is engaged in autonomous transport, leading a project on KamAZ. You can still enroll at the University of Innopolis in the magistracy, to supplement the robotic knowledge.

- If a modern teenager wants to develop in robotics, then the easiest way is to go to university and study robotics there?

“At Innopolis University, yes.”

- Probably, and not only there. I mean that our classical education, despite criticism, gives the necessary base in the field of robotics.

- It depends on which direction and which university. For example, I have a specialization in production, I am always more connected with it, and robotics is such additional knowledge.

And speaking specifically about specializationrobotics, some good universities will give some kind of base, but in order to build up this base and be a more qualified specialist, you need to enroll at the magistracy of Innopolis University to be a stronger professional in this area.

Mom - Programmer, Dad - Designer

- When you studied in high school, how was your separation by gender?

- Mostly at the faculty there were boys, becausethat we studied aircraft engines and power plants. Technologists were girls, and as far as designers and other things were concerned, of course, guys.

- Was it not such that you were told that you went to a completely male specialty, to do something masculine rather than feminine?

- No never. Mom only (laughs).

- Well, mothers are like that… Did you initially want to go into aviation or did it develop over time?

- Immediately. It so happened that the whole family from the aviation university, and mom, and dad and sister. Mom has a first degree in systems engineering, and she worked at the department of the theory of engines, wrote programs for calculating engines, and after perestroika she became a lawyer. Daddy Designer. He worked very long as a designer at TsSKB Progress. Was in very good standing, respected person. Yes, I always wanted to go to aerospace university, but my mother was against it and said it was for boys, but I thought I would try. She enrolled in all universities, in which she applied, but chose aircraft engines.

- At the same time, your mother was a programmer and still said that this is a male specialty?

“Moreover, I have her as a lieutenant colonel in justice, a senior investigator for particularly important cases in the field of economic crimes. Also not very feminine profession.

- How do you feel about the fact thatRobotics and manufacturing specialties, which are engineering, are considered masculine? Maybe this should not be accentuated by gender, do you think?

- No, I think it should not, of course. Each person should do what he is good at, or what he likes. It does not depend on gender.

“But most teenagers have moms and dads who are subject to gender stereotypes.” How do you even look at this problem and how do you see its solution?

- Difficult question, I do not know how to solve. Probably by personal example. I am happy with my career, and I have two children and a family. Everything is possible in any field of activity. But, of course, production is a masculine world, and a woman must have a strong character in order to be on a par with them. But the female role is also important, because women are very diligent, they can perform some more laborious tasks, you can always divide responsibilities most effectively. Men think more strategically, see some interesting solutions. Women can do more mundane things.


“When you became a project leader in an enterprise, there was no such thing that experienced men told you that you were a girl who had just stepped out from behind the desk — and you say what to do?

- I was lucky, I didn’t have this.When I was looking for my first job after graduating from university, I came to apply and was offered a position as a box designer. They said, whatever you want, you can only be a box designer, you are a young girl, now you will get married and go on maternity leave. Of course, I understood everything and did not go to work there. Where I worked, I had absolutely no such thing.

I was taken quite seriously. It all depends on you, at first they still perceive one way, but when you start working, taking on responsibilities and powers, doing your work efficiently and quickly, then you already have a working attitude. They start giving more serious tasks, more responsible projects, they already trust you, because they see that you can do it. At some moments, I felt that the boys were given the way forward, but when you show yourself well, you begin to be perceived as men.

- In those two places where you worked beforeInnopolis, both projects were Russian-foreign. Accordingly, the thinking on these industries was somehow introduced with the help of foreigners who look at what is happening in a different way, or does everything depend more on Russians on Russian production?

- I worked in a modern enterprise withEuropean level, it does not matter there, you are Russian or foreigners, all business processes are clearly defined there and they must all comply. At the Russian enterprise, maybe this is, but I can’t say for sure.

- Just at the Russian enterprise you were offered to collect the boxes.

- Do not build, but to construct (laughs).

- Is it possible to say that for you, as a female engineer, there was a choice and an opportunity to go to a highly paid job?

- Yes, due to my education and due to the fact that at the university I was engaged in interesting tasks at the expense of my own skills.

- Perhaps girls who are under pressure from their parentsor society, you should just not be afraid to go to the university, study well, and you will definitely find one of many enterprises where they will be taken, and they will be more or less equal to a man in terms of experience.

- Of course they will! Everything will be, even if it does not work out, then they will definitely find their husband there. There are a lot of smart guys there (laughs).

"On maternity leave I didn’t just sit like that"

- Look, you didn’t have such that, taking into account your rather long maternity leave, for 5 years, then it was difficult to look for a job?

- No, I was invited. My skills and abilities fit the project, so this was not. In the decree, I also did not sit just like that. I had an online store, and I was engaged in a small business.

- In fact, a woman engineer with the necessary skills in technical specialties and the necessary work experience can not be afraid to go on maternity leave and expect that then you can get a job?

- I think yes. I was on maternity leave at the previous place of work. They waited for me there, and invited me to a new project. However, I received an offer from Innopolis, and I agreed, because my husband was already working here, I agreed to move to Innopolis and quit Samara.

- You probably were glad that it happened, and you did not have to go to work in Samara, but you can go to your husband.

- I thought I would take care of the baby's deviceKindergarten, and then start looking for work in Innopolis. There was an option to go to business intelligence and go to the near IT sphere. I know that some of my colleagues went to IT after production. But I received an offer even before the child was taken to kindergarten, and I had to leave him in Samara to go to work.

- I understand that children generally do not interfere with their careers, if this is a job as an engineer?

- It depends on where, of course. I don’t know how I could organize my day in Samara, but taking into account work and kindergartens without assistants is difficult. I would have to contact parents. Work requires involvement in the workplace. If you work at an enterprise and production gets up, you definitely need to be there, otherwise it will be easy. Working at the university, especially in Innopolis, there are no such problems. Life here is very well organized and everything is so convenient that it is quite comfortable for me to work. Before the kindergarten to reach or reach is 10-15 minutes. I can perform some tasks remotely if there is a need, for example, to sit with children. In this regard, everything is very comfortable and cool.