The rapid growth of the robotics market means it is difficult to keep track of all the developments, suppliers and solutions. HowToRobot is mapping this fluid market in a growing number of countries, and provides a platform to get quotes internationally on robot related questions. Rocking Robots talked to CEO Søren Peters about his vision on the maturity and challenges of the current robotics-market.
HowToRobot was founded by executives from Danish consultancy firm Gain & Co. “We found that robots are where the IT-industry was back in the 90’s”, says founder and CEO Søren Peters. “There’s a lot of innovation, there’s a lot of fantastic things going on. But there’s also a certain level of confusion. Everybody knows they have to invest. But just like with AI or IoT, people are still struggling with it. One of the things that didn’t go very well in the 90s with IT was that there was only two parties- buyers and sellers. And the buyer didn’t really know what he was buying. And the seller, on the other hand, thought he had an idea of what maybe the buyer thought he was buying.”
He continues: “HowToRobot was actually started out of two problems. The first is the differences between suppliers in different countries. If we were helping a big company finding robotic solutions for their factories in several countries most of the factories are mostly alike. But the supplier you can find in the Netherlands is not the same supplier as the one in the US, because so very few worldwide suppliers exist. A manufacturer like Universal Robots is an exception. Overall it was very hard to find someone who could serve both China, Denmark, and United States for example. But the biggest problem was that we couldn’t find the suppliers either. So we found out that to get an overview of the market we needed to find out how the market looked. So today I think we mapped down close to 16.000 suppliers all over the world.“
“The second analogy with the IT in the 90’s is the location of the supplier. If a company needed to buy a solution like CRM the called a local seller, who maybe wasn’t even an expert, but sold it anyway. That was also a recipe for disaster. The same goes for robots now. If you’re looking for a specific aluminum welding robot chances are the local seller wouldn’t have done it before, but he’ll of course take the project. But maybe you would be better off talking to a company 200 kilometers away who has done this this four times already with good references.”
SME’s don’t want consultants for information like this, because a lot of times that’s too expensive for them. If you buy a robot for 100,000 euro, you don’t want to pay a consultant 10,000 or 20,000 euro to help you get to that, although it might be a good idea. So to help the SME’s we digitalized the process. So how to robot has until a month ago helped a lot of companies facilitate the journey on buying a robot.”
“But what we suddenly started realizing was that it is not just the initial investment. And with a non mature market no one really knows the total cost of ownership for the entire lifespan of a robot. Of course we can always get the supplier to give us an indication, but we still rely on them for that. But supplier and service doesn’t necessarily have to be done by the same entity. Therefore we started to get quotes. If you have a robot and can’t get it to work, need repair, need service, or need new functionality, you can go to HowToRobot. And you don’t have to pay right away, but the money goes through an escrow. In other words, you have to show the funds, but don’t release the payment before the supplier actually delivers. In other words, we’re trying to build the AirBNB for robots.”