Jürgen von Hollen, president, Universal Robots gave his thoughts on the future of robotics, and his vision for the company he now helms, Universal Robots.
In October 2016, Jürgen von Hollen joined Universal Robots as the company’s new President. We asked Mr Hollen to share some insights with us on his personal impressions, his vision for the company and his strategy going forward.
Since joining Universal Robots, Mr Hollen has been on a mission to find out more about the company and the market. When questioned on his leadership style Mr Hollen responded: “My leadership style is very open. I believe in the company and the competencies of it professionals. I want to have a dynamic, very flat organisation. I believe in speed as a competitive advantage.”
Q: There is a lot of hype around what increased automation will mean for the future workforce. Do you believe this issue has been overhyped?
JvH: I think to a large extent it has been over hyped. If you look at the facts. If you look at our experience to date. That is one of the things I have been doing, is looking and understanding what has been going on in the industry.
Having spoken with many end users, I have heard very few of them say that was the target, to take people out of production. That is not their intent. Instead, their intent has been either to scale their business, lack of resources or they cannot find the people to grow the business. We are also addressing a target market that is relatively regional. Having the resources to grow is important and automation helps in that regard.
Another issue has been ergonomics. As I have been travelling around, I have seen many cases where automation has taken the place of a human operator. Not to replace them but to make better use of a company’s resources and make better use of human abilities whilst assigning an automated solution to a repetitive task that could be detrimental to the operator. As an example, there was a lady on the production line, who had been sanding for 17 years in the same way. Her whole arm was full of tendinitis. The production manager said to me that he cannot go home at night knowing that he had done that. We provided a solution for that company. Now, instead of sanding, she is doing the final inspection, using her strengths, rather than manual labour.
Q: You are investing a lot into collaborative robots, is that an initiative designed to essentially aid humans, rather than replace them?
JvH: One of the things that I did when I joined the company was to try and better understand what the real goal and target and vision of the company was. If you look at the definition of our vision, we talk about empowering people. At the core of our idea is that if you take a human resource and a robot, for instance, and you put them together you get a result that is optimum. Essentially, you take advantage of the strengths of both.
What we see today, unfortunately, is a lot of time the labourer or operators are not in control of what is going on. What we are trying to do with Universal Robots technology is to make robotics a tool again for the operator, so that they can take and manoeuvre it and apply it, where they see it as necessary.
Q: Other than collaborative robots, what other global trends are you seeing in the robotics sector?
JvH: Some of the trends we notice are, of course, industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things (IoT). Those trends are everywhere. From my perspective, what people are looking for is an investment in an industry. That has never been seen before. We see a huge amount of investment.
In many respects, our strategy is to apply our technology as a platform for others to develop upon. We are in a great position to leverage the growth of what is going to come and leverage the investment in innovation that is happening, not just in Denmark or in Singapore, but globally.
It is about us creating, not just one product or robot/cobot but rather creating an ecosystem of developers and partners that we can utilise, so we are not limiting it to just us. We are adding value to all the partners that are in the ecosystem.
Q: Asia appears to be the fastest growing market globally, could you tell me more about your strategy?
JvH: The market data is scarce. We see a lot of different numbers. They can vary by billions. That is one of the things that I am trying to understand better in my first months at Universal Robots. One view, which is pretty common, is we see Asia over the next five years being the driver of this market.
That is exactly why for us it is so important to take the kind of market share we have today and maintain it. As this ramps up, we want to really participate in the same way as we have been to date.
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