Automation is proving more relevant than ever. This has become clear in the past year: the Corona virus forced companies to close their doors and employees had to stay at home. Nevertheless, many suppliers managed to keep their production running, thanks to their robots. "We’ve had lockdowns in various countries, and even today we’re still not completely rid of them," says Helmut De Roovere, CEO of RoboJob. "That also brings the production of manufacturing companies to a halt, and sooner or later we’ll all have to deal with it. If you order a bicycle or a car today, you’ll have to wait longer than ever before. Parts have to come in from Asia and a production chain can grind to a halt for lack of a handful of crucial components."
For a year now, there has been increasing talk of ‘reshoring’ - bringing production back from low-wage countries - and this goes hand in hand with automation. For example, the Centre for Economic Policy Research, a network of more than 1,300 international researchers, argues that automation and reshoring can significantly reduce the risks companies face in the event of a pandemic or other shock. “Of course it sounds nice to bring production back here, but that’s only possible if it proves profitable. And that requires a focus on automation and digitisation. The Germans have long understood this, which is why they created Industrie 4.0. You can also see such initiatives in other countries, such as Smart Manufacturing in the Netherlands or the Factories of the Future in Belgium."
This doesn’t appear to be doing RoboJob any harm, as the company has never before been able to book so many orders in the first quarter. “Businesses of course recognise that the step to automation has become a necessity for survival,” says De Roovere. "We all thought and hoped that after that first lockdown in March and April last year, we would be rid of it, but a year later, we’re still stuck with it. Virus or not, a company needs certainty. Robots are there 24/7. We offer that certainty."
It is not only the Turn and Mill-Assist Series that sell briskly at RoboJob. The Tower is also selling well. "That makes sense," says De Roovere. “The Tower simply offers you the most autonomy. Using the Tower, you can produce autonomously for 72 hours. To illustrate, that’s from Friday afternoon through to Monday afternoon. Not to mention the other days and nights of the week. Companies involved in high mix, low volume production in particular benefit enormously from a Tower. This is also demonstrated by the fact that many customers who buy their first Tower soon decide to order a second or third Tower," concludes De Roovere.