Motoman is top in robotics
Motoman, with its European headquarters in Kalmar, Sweden and Allershausen, Germany, is the robotic division of the international Yaskawa Electric Corporation.
Established in 1915, Yaskawa is based in Japan where it develops and manufactures industrial robots for a wide range of applications and industries. In Japan, Motoman’s own robots are used in the production, demonstrating the capabilities of its products.
Since introducing its first robot onto the commercial market over 30 years ago, Yaskawa has grown consistently, and delivered its 150,000th robot in October 2006, making it the largest industrial robot manufacturer in the world. The company is capable of producing up to 24,000 robots per year providing a wide inventive robotic range with payloads ranging from three to 600 kg for a range of industrial applications including welding, assembly, clean room, painting, palletising and material handling.
European marketing director Kajsa Pettersson explains: “We currently employ about 650 people throughout Europe, we have customers in a range of industries and are the biggest player in arc welding in Europe. Our company has been around in Europe for over 30 years developing and supplying robotic solutions so we have a comprehensive know-how in various applications, from arc welding to handling of cheese, for different customer needs. We can supply fully customised robotic solutions, since we have in-house design, engineering and project management which enable us to tailor make solutions.”
The Swedish production unit is located in Torsås, just south of Kalmar, and the German production unit is located in Allershausen. At both locations a range of standard and customised positioners, tracks and gantries are also being produced, which are all fully integrated in the robot’s control system. These often form a part of Motoman’s robotic solutions; positioners when work pieces needs to be held and rotated, and track and gantry solutions are used to extend the robot’s working range. Motoman was, about ten years ago, the first robotics company in the world to introduce simultaneous control of two robots and was also the first to offer synchronised control of up to four robots or 36 axes in total.
Setting Motoman apart from its competitors is its ongoing commitment to customer satisfaction. “We are unique in that we take care of our customers for the lifetime of the solutions that they buy from us,” Kajsa explains. “We also have comprehensive in-house capabilities that provide sustained aftercare, service, spare parts and training to serve our customers in the best way. Importantly, we have a local presence in most countries in Europe either with our own offices or via distributors.”
As with all technology driven businesses, research and development is crucial and Kajsa believes Motoman has the edge over competitors: “R&D is key and the fact that much of it is carried out in Japan gives us an advantage because Japan is ahead of Europe in robotics from the technical point of view.”
Two new arrivals to the Motoman range are the IA20 and DA20, which are the first of their kind to be introduced onto the European market. The IA20 received the Industrie Paris ‘Excellence in Productivity’ award in 2006 and features a unique 7-axis design that enables human-like flexibility to manoeuvre in very tight areas that were previously inaccessible to robots.
Kajsa explains: “The IA20 is nicknamed ‘The Snake’ as it can sneak into tight spots and also bend round corners. It has the motors and transmissions built into each robot axis meaning there are no cables hanging on the outside and it has a very small footprint.”
Continuing, she adds: “The DA20 is a 13-axis dual arm robot with a human-like torso making it easier to fit into existing production lines, and it also has the motors and transmissions built into the arms, enabling it to move freely. It has the obvious advantage of two arms that can move independently if needed. With these two new robot models we hope to meet the increased demand for robotised machine tending, assembly and material handling operations.”
Future growth will see a shift towards supplying general industrial areas believes Kajsa: “One part of our strategy is to focus more on the general industry which encompasses industries, such as the food and beverage market, the plastics area, wood, pharmaceutical and so forth. We develop products and solutions for these types of customers and strive to become their preferred robotics partner.”
Continuing, she adds: “I think that in Europe the market is quite stable. If you look at the total market, there has only been limited growth recently, due to the automotive industry slowing down, but the investment in robots is growing in other industries so in these areas I am optimistic.”
Despite this challenge, the company reported a record year in Europe for 2005, with robot volumes growing by 20 per cent and 25 per cent new customers from various industries choosing Motoman robots. The company also entered new markets including Russia, Romania and Turkey leading Kajsa to assert that the company will continue to grow and expand in future: “I would like to see the company progress by gaining more satisfied customers and a larger market share in Europe, and by keeping our leading position in the arc welding business as well as increasing our efforts in the general industry, we can achieve this. Our skilled employees understand our customers’ needs and can adapt the level of technology to suit each individual situation. All customers matter to us – how ever big or small.”