With more than 1,100 installations under its belt, RoboJob has extensive experience in automating CNC turning and milling machines. Nevertheless, the past two years were exceptional, says CEO Helmut De Roovere: "A year and a half ago, when it became clear that this pandemic would not blow over any time soon, we noticed a sharp increase in the number of requests received through our website and by our salespeople. These requests have translated into a solid growth in the number of orders. It started as early as the autumn of 2020 and has actually only accelerated since then."
"Our customers recognise that robots give them more security in times when people fall ill. The shortage of CNC operators has obviously not improved with the pandemic," says De Roovere. "But now we are also seeing a second trend: a lot of work is returning to Western Europe and the demand for machine capacity is very high. So much so that if you order a CNC machine today, you won't get it until next year. Customers are therefore looking for solutions."
Solutions are not only found in new CNC machines, but also in increasing the capacity of existing machinery. "After all, existing machinery still has so much extra capacity that is not always exploited today. Think about it: if you only work with a day shift, the spindle usually only turns for 4 or 5 hours a day. But if you automate that machine, you can also produce after hours, which increases capacity significantly."
RoboJob offers numerous solutions for increasing the capacity of existing machinery. The Tower stands out because it guarantees the highest level of autonomy, with up to 72 hours of unattended production. "However, the Tower is not the only solution," De Roovere declares. "We can also create a lot of additional production hours with our other solutions. That includes Turn-Assist, Pallet-Load and Mill-Assist, and all of these solutions also allow unmanned production for several hours, or even for an entire night."
The demand for CNC automation is now on the rise, but that does mean that there are long waiting times. RoboJob owes this to good relations with its suppliers and a long-term strategy. "As soon as we noticed the steady increase in requests and orders, we started thinking about how we could handle a peak in orders and installations. At that time, we also held several discussions with our suppliers and partners and made clear agreements. For example, Fanuc has 200 robots ready for us in Luxembourg that can be delivered within 24 hours. Our customers are now reaping the benefits. Obviously, we too cannot always escape the shortage of electronic components, but with our Turn-Assist, Mill-Assist and Pallet-Load products we have managed to bring this almost entirely under control."
In addition to the further expected growth in orders, RoboJob also expects the Tower system to become increasingly important in the future. De Roovere explains: "We have found that in the short term Turn-Assist, Mill-Assist and Pallet-Load solutions help our customers very well. Immediate Return on Investment, with a direct effect on the increase of capacity in the factory. We have also noticed that customers with a strategic vision tend to opt for a Tower that is not only capable of loading workpieces, but also clamping devices. These customers prefer the multi-batch approach and often order a new machine that is prepared for that. The longer delivery times for these machines put a brake on the actual demand, but the market is still growing. We therefore expect to sell another 50 Towers this year, which we will most likely have to deliver next year."