Danish collaborative robot maker Universal Robots has announced four new partnerships with Australian robotics distributors during Auspack 2017, bringing its number of local partnerships to seven.


UR’s new local distributors include engineered automation solutions provider Foodmach, industrial electrical and automation solutions company Mobile Automation, Products for Industry, a provider of high-end machine automation products, systems and solutions, and Visy Automation, which offers engineering and integration of robotic handling and packaging equipment solutions.


Foodmach, Visy Automation and Scott Automation were among the companies exhibiting packaging applications with UR robots at Auspack this week.


Shermine Gotfredsen, general manager, Universal Robots, Southeast Asia & Oceania, said these new partnership signings reflect rising demand among Australian and New Zealand manufacturers for automated solutions in the face of increasingly competitive global markets.


ANZ manufacturers are challenged with high local labour costs, so increasingly they are looking for innovative ways to drive efficiencies and keep expenditures down. Automating processes is now viewed as vital in order to compete on a regional and international scale,” Gotfredsen said.


At the same time, Australia has just recorded its 25th consecutive year of continuous economic growth, as the country goes through an export boom. The Australian Bureau of Statistics recently revealed that Australia had a $3.51 billion trade surplus in December, which was well above the forecast $2.2 billion. It is the largest trade surplus for Australia since the data began to be recorded in July 1971. Both these events have contributed to increased business confidence, which I think is reflected in the greater interest we are seeing in our robotic solutions.”


Foodmach’s product manager, Dr Rym Kachouri agreed that fierce competition is driving investment in cobots.

“In order to remain competitive, Australian manufacturers need to increase their investment in automation. Collaborative robots allow many repetitive factory tasks to be automated; safely and flexibly,” she said.


Derek Ford, sales director at Visy Automation said companies both big and small are growing increasingly interested in cobots.


As a system integrator we are seeing that both big and small business are interested in what cobots can do for them. It is also opening new opportunities where we just didn't consider automation previously.”


According to Products for Industry’s robotic projects manager, Mike Walker, interest in collaborative robots is being driven by safety considerations in the face of changing factory environments where employees often work side-by-side with machines.


Gotfredsen said, however, that the adoption of automation in the ANZ market has not yet reached the scale of Asian counterparts.


“A lack of information and awareness of available automation options still provide a significant hindrance to Australian and New Zealand manufacturers achieving greater levels of innovation,” Gotfredsen said.


Mobile Automation’s robotics and automation sales manager Shane Bebe also agreed that industry ignorance continues to be a hindrance to further uptake.


“The greatest roadblock to a higher uptake of this exciting technology is ignorance in the marketplace - many people aren’t aware these things exist, but that’s changing very quickly,” Bebe said.


Worldwide, Universal Robots also more than doubled its global presence in 2016. It now has local offices in 11 countries, up from 5 offices in 2015, and the company made $US94 million in revenue and $US13 million in profits globally before tax in 2016.