15 May 2018

5 Trailblazers in Automation & Robotics.

By Michael Frankland

‘Automation is coming for my job’.

‘Robotics are going to steal my job’.

Working in the automation industry as an Executive Recruiter, I’m seeing a lot of this on my LinkedIn feed. That, and the backflipping/door opening dog that keeps cropping up.

I speak with Executives every day working at companies changing the face of robotics and automation – putting me in a position where I often feel like I can see into the future.

Anyway, I’m not here to tell you that your job is safe or not, or if you’ll be getting a ride home from Johnny Cab from Total Recall.

Instead I’d like to highlight five companies in the industrial and discrete automation market that are manufacturing some revolutionary technology.

These types of articles always spark some sort of conversation, so when you’ve finished reading my thoughts, feel free to get in touch and give some feedback.

1.     ABB Robotics & Motion.

A global leader in the automation market, ABB Robotics & Motion are a trend setter when it comes to collaborative robotics. Collaborative robots are essentially robotic co-workers who can work safely alongside humans. They work especially well in areas where there is a need for repetitive movements.

Their flagship robot, seen doing all manner of crazy things is YuMi, a dual arm collaborative robot which can solve a rubix cube or make you pancakes – if that’s what you’re into.

The benefits to those that work alongside YuMi are clear – set the robot up to do the repetitive or even dangerous tasks, leading to a hike in productivity and output - as well as a steep rise in pancakes.


2.      Dematic

Dematic are a multinational business operating in the logistics automation space. These are the guys responsible for the videos you may have seen featuring warehouses operating virtually autonomously, without human involvement.

They produce full automation systems involved in the sorting, storage and transportation of material around warehouses, optimising logistics processes. In a nutshell, they’re changing the supply chain game. Companies like Amazon are significantly increasing the amount of automation they’re integrating into their warehouses – cutting the need for human workers.


3.      Cisco

A $48bn company, they don’t come much bigger than Cisco. Having recently announced partnerships with industry heavyweights ABB and Rockwell Automation, they’re industry leaders in connectivity, so IIot, IoT and Industry 4.0 are where they come in.

Cisco play an integral part in connecting components and systems within factories, providing up to date information and analytics – allowing us to get the most out of our systems through the interpretation of the big data they produce. Their systems also lead to a boost in productivity, as well as enabling predictive maintenance - fixing things before they break - and remote management of complex systems or even whole factories.

Cisco are essentially the super smart glue that sticks the rest of these companies together.

4.      Festo

Festo are a family owned business with around 18,000 employees globally. Recognised as a real innovator in the robotics space, they’ve created a line of quite unnerving robots inspired by the animal world. They’ve got robotic elephant trunks, octopus tentacles, butterflies and ants among others.

Whether we’ll be buying robot octopuses to help us do the dishes is another matter, but innovative businesses are looking to the animal kingdom for inspiration with increasing frequency – meaning that Festo could just be onto something.

Festo have also committed to investing 8% of their revenue back into R&D, which I think sets them up to keep influencing the cutting edge of the industry for many years to come.

5.      Universal Robots

Like ABB, Universal Robots are involved in collaborative robotics, only with a difference. Founded in 2005, they are a $170m business, who grew their revenues by over 70% in the last year alone. So, what are they doing right?

They’ve identified a gap in the market, manufacturing low-cost, easy to install robots, installing them in over 21,000 production lines globally.

I recently spoke to a Technical Engineer from UR who told me that he can program a UR5 – a best-selling robot – in under ten minutes. That’s extremely impressive, considering it can take days to programme some robots.

As the industry becomes more commoditised, it will be interested to see if other companies follow UR’s lead and manufacture simpler solutions with an easy to use interface. If so, they might just become a big, big part of our future.

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By Michael Frankland

Michael Frankland leads a team specialising in automation. Michael has experience working globally, building teams on behalf of many major clients. Having published articles about innovative technologies and the impact of Brexit on the industry; Michael’s passion and dedication to the global automation space is there for all to see.


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