The past year OnRobot unlocked several new markets with its collaborative robot solutions. The pandemic led to new industries discovering robotics, food with disrupted supply chains to pharmaceuticals with increased production combined with enhanced safety. Rocking Robots talked to Vikram Kumar, General Manager DACH & Benelux at OnRobot about the strategy of his company.
The robotics-market is a very dynamic one. Vikram Kumar, General Manager DACH & Benelux at OnRobot, recognizes different challenges in different regions. Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland are trailblazers in terms of automation, and robotics has a lot of acceptance there. “People are very eager to invest in robotics in this part of the world, compared to the rest of Europe. In this part of the world they are all striving for a flexible automation concept. That is where OnRobot comes into play, because with one robot and different kinds of tools you can handle this.”
Asia Pacific for example has very high volume manufacturing facilities. The UK and Ireland are developing positively, but have a shortage of labor. “So we saw UK performing and surpassing last year’s figure in just six months time. We are struggling in Poland and Czech a little bit which is strange, because that is a big market. It could be the mindset; it could be that cost is a factor.”
“In some of the small countries like the Baltic countries, Romania and Hungary and Serbia we are seeing a lot of movement. They are quite eager because there are new factories coming in these areas. They are very easy to change because when you set up something new you can go for new systems. But in Poland and Czech there has been automation for a little bit longer. So if you want to change the existing setup it is more expensive than doing it in the beginning.”
“That’s why the Baltic countries and countries like Romania, Hungary and Serbia are much more flexible and faster.” The market has been good for OnRobot in France, Spain, Turkey, Italy and Israel. “It has been fantastic with lot of projects, a lot of movements in automotive, warehousing, food and beverage, and metal works. We are especially seeing a lot of movement in robotics in repetitive and dirty jobs.”
“We expect the second half of this year to be even stronger than the first half.” This business is done through the partner channel: “Our partners are generally distributors and integrators. So we don’t invoice directly to the end user, we help them with the proof of concept and if they need it some technical help, but invoicing is done through our partners, the collaborative robot distributors and integrators.
A lot of requests have to do with reducing the carbon footprint, in combination with increasing productivity and efficiency, at the same time maintaining social distancing. ”If you want to be sustainable and continue what you are doing in the same way, this will be a challenge. Many companies will die if they don’t change. And the world will never go back to what it was, we will have to live with this new situation with social distancing and remote working.”
“All companies are looking for a solution for these challenges. That solution is not having more people employed, they want a sustainable solution which ensures that the supply chain is not disrupted. A lot of people are afraid that automation will take away jobs, but automation is not about taking the jobs, it is about humans and robots working together. That’s the definition of ‘collaborative’, so humans can focus on the jobs which demand more creativity and more intelligence, instead of doing repetitive, dull, dangerous and delicate jobs which are not meant for humans.”
There is a lot of potential in this market. “Still only 9% of jobs in the world is done by robots, according to research by Boston Consulting Group. They expect that to be 25% in five years. But in Europe automation is only 2% because 9% is for the whole world and 65% of new robots for the last 10 years have been sold in Asia Pacific. And most of the robotics or automation companies have traditionally only been focusing on automotive, electronics and metal work.”
With the COVID pandemic came new opportunities, and new segments or industries needed automation. “We saw that in industries which were having demand but their supply chain was disrupted. They were looking for automation immediately. For example in food and beverage, pharmaceuticals, healthcare segments, biotech, and medical OEM.”
“We have sold a lot of robots and grippers to labs for COVID testing, where you had to file and people don’t want to touch. This segment has shown tremendous growth, which in the past was not a traditional hub for automation. So, we see a lot of movement in automation in new industries and in new applications, with a lot of small and medium sized companies as well.”
OnRobot is also venturing into software. According to analysts the market will be 30 billion euros by the end of 2030, of which 15 billion euros will be collaborative robots and 15 billion euros will be software plus tooling. “That is where our company wants to focus, we are the only one-stop-shop solution provider which takes care of all your hardware requirements and software requirement in collaborative robots.”
“Everything we offer is electric. Traditionally end of arm tooling always has been pneumatic, which needed an external air supply, an external compressor. This is always very expensive to maintain. And secondly, a compressor makes noise. We will only have electric solution with a smaller carbon footprint. That is a big change for this industry.”
“If you want to have data and more control with sensors you can only do it electric, because this way you control your parameters much more precise than with air, where you have only the option of increasing or decreasing. This is also important in food and beverage and in pharmaceuticals because they don’t want external air supply because of contamination.”
“We just did a a proof of concept at a pharmaceutical company in Denmark which does not want the grease from the electric gripper to contaminate. So the grease in our gripper is FDA approved, so even if it fails or breaks the grease will not contaminate the line. That’s a very deep level of risk management. And for the humans the noise level is lower if you want to go to electric. In short, we want to be ‘the Tesla of the industry’.”