Since its founding in 2015, OnRobot has been on a mission to simplify the barrier to entry for firms seeking improved efficiency through automation; an important trait for Southeast Asia as traditional firms remain skeptical or persistent challenges remain such as a lack of skilled labour.
This is particularly important in today’s context as regional firms look to remain competitive with the influx of companies from more mature markets, such as Japan, US, and Europe.
OnRobot delivers a full range of plug-and-produce end-of-arm tooling (EoAT) for collaborative applications, enabling manufacturers to conveniently leverage a pool of automation and robotic resources.
Through a growing range of grippers, sensors, and tool changers, the firm is seeking to lower the barrier of entry and increase the versatility of robotic assets that work alongside human workers in a safe and reliable way, maximising return on investment for the organisation.
The collaborative robot or cobot has grown significantly in recent years with technological advancements and increased social acceptance.
The collaborative robot sector across the Asia Pacific (APAC) region is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 45.46 percent from 2020-2026 with an addressable cumulative market value of US$13.17 billion according to Research and Markets, making APAC the largest cobot market in the forecast period.
“We have seen healthy growth for collaborative robots and we expect that growth to continue,” said James Taylor, general manager – APAC, OnRobot, when speaking to Industrial Automation Asia at iREX International Robot Exhibition Tokyo 2019 in Tokyo, Japan.
“Collaborative robotics simplify the automation process, lowering the level of difficulty often associated with automation,” added Taylor. “For Asia, that has particular value because there is a lack of qualified engineers needed to support the rapid growth many organisations are experiencing.”
“I am very confident in the value proposition that collaborative applications offer our Asian customers and partners,” said Taylor.
Land of opportunity
As a young company, OnRobot’s growth story has been one of technological development as well as mergers and acquisitions, such as its merger with OptoForce and Perception Robotics in 2018, and acquisitions such as Purple Robotics.
As of 2019, the firm has 180 employees and counting across 11 offices, globally, and expects to have 40 products in its portfolio by the end of 2020, with 30 new products expected in 2020 alone.
Furthermore, as a 100 percent channel company, the organisation has grown its partner network from 146 partners in 2018 to about 400 partners by December 2019.
Selling through the channel has proven to be a successful model in Asia, a market dominated by SMEs who value local expertise on products.
Furthermore, market trends in Southeast Asia such as the redistribution of production and supply chains are benefiting companies such as OnRobot who view traditional organisations looking to modernise their manufacturing operations as an opportunity.
“We see a lot of opportunities in Southeast Asia,” said Taylor. However, as Taylor admits, to capitalise on these opportunities the firm needs to grow and leverage its regional partner network.
“We make sure we stay local and close to our customers,” added Taylor. “We have partners in Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore and so on.”
“Our plan is to continue to support, develop and train our partners,” he said, realising that the market dynamics in Southeast Asia will continue to change and evolve.
For OnRobot, the challenge and opportunity are one and the same, according to Taylor, who sees continued growth in inward investment across the region, with large multinationals moving production to the region and an increase in the number of new SMEs who require automation to stay competitive.
“The challenge is that automation is quite intimidating for a lot of people,” said Taylor. “If you do not have that experience starting out with a traditional industrial robot that requires heavy programming and heavy customisation, the application is quite challenging and daunting, but at the same time these organisations are going to be required to be efficient and competitive.”
“Without automation, it is going to be very tough to compete.”
“So our challenge,” said Taylor, “is also our opportunity.” Taylor sees the opportunity in providing these companies with the tools and training to be competitive in the market and supply to their new and developing customer base.”
“Our goal is to help our partners and customers to be competitive on a global scale, which is very much in the interest of a lot of Southeast Asian countries and customers.”
The road ahead
“We would not have done things a lot different, but perhaps we would have moved faster,” said Enrico Krog Iversen, CEO, OnRobot, reflecting on his company’s performance in 2019.
Iversen sees processes that were optimised in 2019 leading to faster growth for the company in 2020, and with 30 new products on the horizon, it would be hard to argue otherwise.
The addition of 30 new products to the market would enable the company to have “the complete product portfolio required to support all kinds of collaborative applications,” said Iversen
According to Iversen these products have been in the works for a while, and are the result of customer interactions and surveying not just customers but suppliers and partners, too.
Furthermore, at least 60 percent of these products are expected to be entirely new categories, according to Iversen, facilitating increased versatility and new application classes.
Over the next 10 years, the global gripper market is expected to see substantial growth according to a study by Future Market Insights fueled by the rise in applications as well as the growth of end-user industries.
The market, valued at US$1 billion in 2018, is projected to increase at a CAGR of 10 percent between 2019 and 2029, according to the study, especially in industries such as automotive, electronics and the semiconductor sector.
A signal of things to come, OnRobot’s most recent product offering – the VGC10 compact electric gripper – addresses customers’ demands for a small, powerful, versatile gripper applicable to a broad range of applications.
The new product takes advantage of the firm’s new unified mechanical and electrical interface dubbed ‘one-system solution’ – released September 2019 – that aims to simplify automation with a single platform to quickly deploy and redeploy its end-of-arm tooling on a broad range of collaborative and light industrial robot arms.
“Manufacturers are demanding more from their robotic applications, and end-of-arm tooling has become the key to optimising their investments,” said Iversen at the time of its launch. “This integration of our Quick Changer across our current product lineup makes it easier than ever to switch between tools and robot types, allowing flexibility and reducing downtime for more efficient production and faster automation ROI.”
“This brings us another step closer to a unified OnRobot one-system solution that makes it easy, fast and cost-effective for manufacturers to build collaborative applications, no matter which robots they choose,” he added.
“The benefits of robotics across the industrial operating environment is routinely hindered because of systems’ limited versatility,” said Remy Glaisner, research director for intelligent operational systems and robotics at IDC.
“Actuation capabilities are therefore critical to the applicability of solutions across a variety of manufacturing use-cases,” Glaisner added. “An adaptable end-effector solution translates into accrued technology adoption, enabling a new level of nimble operational effectiveness.”
For Iversen and his team, OnRobot’s unique value proposition is the ability to greatly simplify the process of adopting and deploying automation across an organisation, “its saves time,” Iversen said. “Everything has been designed to work together seamlessly.”
Industrial Automation Asia attended iREX International Robot Exhibition Tokyo 2019 in Tokyo, Japan as a guest of OnRobot.
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