What does a successful industry look like?
Here is checklist of ingredients most know to be necessary; I’ve tweaked the expected outcomes – just a bit- to match the reality of the robotics industry.
According to the International Federation of Robotics, or IFR, 2015 will be recorded in the annals of history as another record year. Robot installations are at record levels everywhere – not simply in Asia where China continues to boast that it is the world’s largest robot market – but in the United States and Europe. If the experts are correct, robot shipments will increase by a minimum of 15% year-over-year through 2018.
How has Robotics managed to be so successful? I don’t know all the secrets, but I do think there is a working formula, a recipe, if you will. Most recipes list how the chef should add ingredients; usually in the order of priority. Sometimes these ingredients are placed in a particular order to ensure that the meal, or sweet, tastes better. In the case of robotics, I believe there are four main ingredients contributing to its growth, or at least ABB Robotics’ growth. The order of their use isn’t always as crucial as the preparation time required to cook – or, in our world, to introduce – the meal (robot/robot system).
Timing: One of the most important ingredients a robot manufacture like ABB must remember is that timing is everything. No matter how exciting and innovative a product is, if it is not introduced to the market at the right moment, the results can be disastrous. Market niche, or customer need, dictates how much attention people give the product.
This year, ABB Robotics introduced YuMi®, the world’s first truly collaborative robot at Germany’s Hannover Fair. (My team and I ate, slept and breathed this robot solution for more than a year – so trust me I know all about timing.) The payoff has been nothing short of phenomenal, and the timing of the market introduction has allowed us to show off YuMi’s capabilities in some pretty unlikely places including Expo Milano. My colleague Eliana Baruffi discussed this in her own blog post back in November. Read Eliana’s blog here.
Demand and experience: Just like products in your local supermarket, different customers need robots for different things. Because ABB Robotics has the experience and knows its customers’, we can add just the right amount of seasoning to their manufacturing recipe. As a result, ABB Robotics is able to stock its shelves with the robots our customers demand.
In 2015, the demand for our products and solutions were mixed into some pretty unexpected “dishes.” One robot is building bridges in Amsterdam, while YuMi invited visitors at COP21 in Paris, France to change their behavior and daily activities to protect the planet.
Still another robot competed on the hit American TV show America’s Got Talent, and most recently, YuMi appeared in a Media Markt advertisement throughout Sweden.
Teamwork: This ingredient is sometimes forgotten, and I wanted to mention it because I think I have one of the greatest teams in the world. These individuals do not give up and are committed and dedicated to what they do. (Ok, that is a bit cliché, but I do feel that way!) We started the year with an acquisition which perfectly complements our expertise and portfolio; we brought 10 new products to market — with YuMi we introduced perhaps the most important product ever for ABB Robotics; we were part of World Expo in Milan; we opened a factory in United States; we hosted three incredible Value Provider Conferences in three regions; and we participated in world-class fairs such as GIFA (Germany), CIIF (China) and iREX in Tokyo, Japan most recently.
Being able to listen to the advice and experience everyone on a great global team has to offer – cross countries, cross languages, cross functions, cross hierarchies and living a culture – is paramount and based on honesty, trust, cooperation and support. Without this particular ingredient, which I believe is an essential part of ABB’s DNA, I don’t think we would have been successful this year or will be in the future.
More than forty years after the first electrically powered robot hit the market, the growth of the Robotics industry remains nothing short of explosive. When I joined ABB 10 years ago my first thoughts were: Why aren’t there more robots everywhere? Why are they only in the large manufacturing companies? What about at the bakery around the corner; everywhere? I couldn’t understand why robots were not used everywhere to perform the dirty, dangerous, dull and delicate jobs to really help elevate the nature of work in an automotive plant as well as a small shop. Everyone needs a helping hand.
Today, a new generation is emerging, one characterized by collaborative and easy-to-use robots. It seems my dream is really coming true. I am proud to work for a company able to make this a reality, and to make this world a better place simply by knowing which ingredients to use.