Manuel Sordo
General Manager LATAM
Universal Robots
View from the Top

Versatile, Programmable and Universal Solutions for Manufacturing

Fri, 12/01/2017 - 10:49

Q: What strategies have led Universal Robots to stand out in the competitive robotics market?

A: Innovation has allowed Universal Robots to gather approximately 80 percent of the global market share in collaborative robots. Our goal has been to define the different aspects that make up a collaborative robot and so far, the largest names in robotics have not been able to compete with us in our specialty. The gap has narrowed over the years but we are planning a new product launch for the end of 2017 that will once again put us well ahead of the competition.

Q: What advantages can collaborative robots offer over traditional automation units?

A: If we compare traditional industrial robots from 40 years ago with the machines of today, we find few physical differences. Programming and versatility have evolved but the technology has remained practically unchanged. Advanced programming also requires a high technical aptitude, resulting in complex equipment that cannot be used by everyone. Additionally, these robots require large investments in installation of protective cages to isolate them from the rest of the production line. Robotic manufacturing cells are highly inflexible, so companies cannot easily relocate them to other production areas.

Although collaborative robots do not have the same load capacity as their industrial counterparts, their advantages are numerous. These units do not require cages or other types of protection equipment. They occupy a small area and the user can relocate them throughout the plant to complete different tasks. The robots have several sensors that detect human operators and slow the unit down if a person comes in close contact. This does not collapse the entire production line, however, as operators need only press a couple of buttons for the robot to resume its task.

Q: How did Universal Robots consider the clients’ view of collaborative robots and operator safety issues during development?

A: We knew operator safety concerns would be one of our main obstacles to enter the market. Every safety standard in place was related to traditional robotic applications, so there was no precedent set for our offering. New standards had to be created and even now there are still grey areas.

When we acquire new clients, we always recommend they perform a safety analysis of their operations to determine if collaborative applications are the best way to go. We have not encountered any obstacles to companies adapting to our solutions and many have helped us promote our equipment’s advantages.

Q: How can Universal Robots compete on total cost of ownership of the equipment?

A: Our robots are designed to be maintenance-free. The equipment can run continuously for 35,000 hours and in case of any repairs, the system is based on modular architecture that allows corrections to be made in a matter of minutes. Our robots are versatile so users can relocate them to any new area they desire. Being truly universal means countless companies in the market that manufacture accessories could use them for diverse production applications. The company’s goal is to imitate a human arm’s abilities and offer our clients a high level of customization with its flexibility.

Q: What opportunities exist for Universal Robots to target growing numbers of Mexican suppliers?

A: The only way for companies to participate in advanced manufacturing is by investing in automation. Our challenge is to promote our solutions among Mexican SMEs. Unfortunately, a US$100,000 investment can be daunting, but this would buy a small traditional robot with a working space of 0.5m and the necessary infrastructure from some competitors. A Universal Robots solution with similar capabilities represents an investment of only US$25,000. This is much more accessible and companies usually see returns in just three months.