Impressive technology from Kawasaki
Founded in 1968, Kawasaki Robotics GmbH organises the European distribution of industrial robots it manufactures in Japan
The company has developed and supplied more than 75,000 robots worldwide, including 9000 in Europe, and currently produces 8000 robots a year for various industrial purposes.
“Our strengths are high quality, reliability, good service and application technology based on our ample experience and expertise in many application areas,” believes managing director Tom Suto.
“We have doubled our production in five years which is an excellent growth rate, much faster than the industrial average, and our European sales turnover last year was 40 per cent more than the previous fiscal year in 2005,” comments Tom.
Kawasaki’s major customers are in the automobile industry, semiconductor industry and in general industry, encompassing electronics, chemicals, logistics, manufacturing and food. Over 2000 machines operate in various industries and applications throughout the UK.
Continuing, Tom explains how Kawasaki led the way in robotics: “We started producing the first industrial robots back in 1968 and it was much earlier than any other major robot manufacturer existing today. Since then we have developed various types of industrial robot.”
He adds: “Our line of products is comprehensive in terms of payload capacity; we have from 3kg to 500kg. In terms of applications we have spot welding, arc welding, handling, assembling, palletising, deburring and polishing – you name it, we have it. In short, our customers can do one-stop shopping at Kawasaki.”
The company is a subsidiary of the worldrenowned Kawasaki Heavy Industries Limited in Japan which, since it was founded in 1878, has carved out an enviable position as a leading global manufacturer of transportation equipment, engineering systems and industrial products.
Its wealth of experience and its reputation for producing high quality products follow on to Kawasaki Robotics, which strives to uphold these high standards. Tom explains: “Kawasaki has accumulated excellent production technology with its 110-year history as a comprehensive manufacture. In industrial robots it has 40 years expertise but we have production technology for other products for longer, therefore we are sure that our production is efficient and we can offer a product of high quality.”
These 40 years of experience in robotics have armed Kawasaki with considerable expertise in application technologies such as palletising, deburring, loading & unloading, machine tending, press tending, painting, sealing, foundry and clean-room applications.
Kawasaki began exporting in 1972 and counts Toyota, Ford, Jaguar and Mazda as major customers. Its distributors are located throughout Europe and each provides not only sales and service, but system integration and systems solutions as well. Kawasaki Robotics offices in Germany, the UK and the Czech Republic organise distribution to customers in Europe. The Kawasaki line of industrial robots include the FS, FA, ZX, ZD, MD, MX and K-series robots, all of which provide reliability and versatility to meet specific requirements. In some cases, Kawasaki works closely with its customers to design the robots.
“Our recent trend is a kind of two way processes,” explains Tom. “Some customers need their exact specifications so they ask for special development. For such customers we do a joint development and supply custom built products but other customers prefer off the shelf products because they think industrial robots are a commodity rather than a specially designed sophisticated machine.”
He continues: “Whichever the case, we believe that it is important that we are capable of offering a solution to the customer.”
Research and development remains integral to the company’s ongoing success.
Tom explains: “R&D is always important in high technology businesses such as robotics. The market changes quickly so we have to keep up with the competition. Our robot division has its own engineering department for R&D in Japan. In addition, Kawasaki also has a corporate development department where fundamental R&D is done. Kawasaki manufactures products from motorcycles to trains and aircraft and certain technology can be used across the division, and this is one of the strengths that we have in comparison with our competitors.”
Kawasaki recently launched the compact palletising robot FD50N, which palletises at very high speeds and performs with the longest reach of its class at 2104mm. Another development is FSJ, Friction Stir Joining, which enables the joining of aluminium parts with less than five per cent of the conventional energy used. The company’s newest technology is the Kawasaki vision system, born of 20 years experience in vision systems for robotics and featuring sophisticated 3D vision technology.
Kawasaki is keen to move into new markets and growth is important to the company. Tom comments: “Nowadays, industrial robots can be used in many areas as a commodity and they are being used in small to medium sized companies in most industrial sectors when it used to be, a decade ago, that only big companies could. Now companies with ten or five employees are ready to use the robot, which means general industry is becoming more important.”
He continues: “We are finding good opportunities for growth in the food industry and in logistics. Geologically speaking, Central and Eastern Europe as well as Russia, are the markets of interest to us. We have no production facilities in Europe yet, only in Japan, but we do have many people to support our customers worldwide.”
Moving into the European market may prove to be one of Kawasaki’s toughest challenges. Tom explains: “In the European sector we must increase sales by acquiring new customers. Kawasaki Robotics has only been a part of Germany’s history for ten years so it is a newcomer to Europe. There are many manufacturers in Europe and some customers prefer European made products so this is our biggest challenge – to compete with these local manufacturers and increase our sales in Europe.”
He continues: “I believe Kawasaki has an excellent product and is a good brand with a long history of experience and studies in robotics. We are confident that we will achieve a good sales increase in Europe.”
Tom adds: “There is a growing demand in the market for automation using robots of a high quality with lower production costs and I think this will be a long-term increase. The world market for industrial robots grew 83 per cent in the last ten years and now that the BRICs are installing many robots the market will grow considerably, so we have a very bright future.”
Products: Industrial robots
Sites: Germany, UK and Czech Republic.