Universal Robots, a leading provider of collaborative robots, announced 2017 revenue of $170 million. That represents 72 percent growth for the Odense, Denmark-based company.
Jürgen von Hollen, president of Universal Robots, told The Robot Report the company had its best quarter ever in Q4 2017. The returns of $54 million were a 61 percent improvement from the same period in 2016. Universal Robots had an operating profit of 19 percent, more than double the 9 percent in 2016. It expects at least 50 percent growth in 2018.
“The cobot market is expected to continue to be one of the key growth drivers in the automation market the coming years,” said von Hollen. “My expectation is that we at Universal Robots will continue to leverage our position as the cobot market leader and grow at the same or above the collaborative robot market growth rate for 2018. This, however, can only be done by focusing on our goals of staying ahead technologically, expanding our Universal Robots+ platform and further globalizing our regional sales and service footprint and reach.”
Universal Robots’ Push in Asia
Europe has always been and still is the strongest market for Universal Robots. That’s were it was founded, after all. But an end-of-the-year push in Asia was a surprise, von Hollen said, and is a sign things to come.
“If you look at market research, Asia is typically cited as the fastest growing market. That’s never been the case for us, until the third and fourth quarter of ,” said von Hollen. “And it’s not just China, the entire region picked up for us.”
von Hollen couldn’t delve into specifics for competitive reasons. But he credits the growth in Asia to coordinated efforts to focus on automation. “The aggressiveness of policy and implementation of automation programs in production facilities is very strong in Asia. It’s a very coordinated effort.”
von Hollen said China is a great example. Automation is a major focus of the “Made in China 2025” strategy, which is a blueprint for upgrading the country’s manufacturing sector. “There is no miscommunication about what they want to do. They realize they have to move to make sure economic interests are kept and they have competitive advantage long term.”
von Hollen said he doesn’t see the same “aggressiveness or policy-making in the Western world.”
How Will Universal Robots Maintain Growth?
von Hollen expects the collaborative robotics market to grow 50-70 percent over the next five years. He said that projection is conservative because new competitors are always entering the market. This helps drive market awareness.
“If we maintain marketshare, we’ll by far exceed our growth goals,” said von Hollen. “We’re all underestimating the potential of the market.”
Universal Robots is opening satellite offices around the world to find global resources. The company currently has about 470 employees, and it hopes to hire another 200-plus by the end of 2018. The first step in this global expansion was a facility in Boston’s Seaport district that recently opened.
“Scaling the organization, especially within Research & Development and the commercial sales and service organization, will be key for Universal Robots in 2018,” said von Hollen. “With two commercial and Research & Development sites we will be able to scale faster and get more velocity when looking for and attracting the best talent and skills to Universal Robots. We are also opening sales offices in Italy and Turkey and will be establishing an office in Mexico and a third office in China.”
Potential Applications are Endless
While the 3C market (Computers, Consumer Electronics & Communications) is a big driver in Asia, von Hollen said the applications for cobots is broad. “When you remove complexity and make the system easy to use, people grab it and use it for different applications that we never thought about,” he said. “And that’s the most exciting piece.”
Von Hollen referenced a hotel in Singapore that uses Universal Robots to make eggs. “You can question if that makes a lot of sense, but it just gives me a sense that we’re just at the beginning of something that’s going to accelerate.”
“I’m really proud of the 72 percent [growth], but the part I scratch my head about is what happened to the other 28 percent,” von Hollen admitted. Ninety percent of the market doesn’t know about the potential of what collaborative robots can do for their business.”