A family-owned business, Robotas Technologies has been a leader in the field of optimizing the PCB assembly process for customers all over the world for the past 35 years. The company develops lean production systems wherever people are building product, driving quality, and delivering greater productivity. Robotas’ products help streamline electronics assembly, using unique features and technology to support leading OEM and EMS manufactures achieve high quality and flexible Through Hole assembly. Customers are often in the aerospace, defense and high voltage sectors who manufacture PCBs with a high percentage of odd-form components. Their latest product development reinvents clinched PCB assembly. We recently spoke with Managing Director Nick Walters to find out more about Robotas Technologies and how their technology adds value to THT assembly in PCBA.
Nick, we understand that you have an unusual background for the Managing Director of a technology company. What is your background and experience that has gotten you to where you are today?
I’ve always been a “people person.” Communicating with people and getting the best out of them has always been a huge interest to me. Therefore, it was no surprise that I majored in Human Resource Management and the Psychology of Communication in my Business Studies degree at University. After graduating, I worked in various HR roles for more than 10 years, after which I moved into Project Management roles, once again tapping into my people skills.
In 2009, my father was looking to reduce his involvement in the commercial side of Robotas to focus more on technology innovations within the business. He is an engineer at heart and loves nothing more than solving problems. So, in 2010, I joined Robotas as the Commercial Manager with the initial goal of expanding our global network of Agents and Reps who understand our customer base and have the technical ability to offer local support to customers wherever they are in the world; a business model we still use to this day.
By 2013, we had increased our network by 400% and had recruited two highly capable Applications Engineers to support our international sales partners. This allowed me to move into the role of Managing Director, enabling my father to begin his ‘wind down to retirement’ after giving over 25 years of his heart and soul to Robotas. He is still involved in the business to this day; however, now he has more free time to fulfil his passions outside of work, building and flying light aircraft.
We understand that your father founded the company more than three decades ago. In your opinion, what is the single greatest benefit to being part of a family business? What advantages does this provide?
It has been a huge privilege for me to pick up the mantle and carry on the incredibly innovative work that my father started in the mid-1980s. With him still being within the business, our team is able to involve him on product design or strategic decisions when needed, enabling us to tap into his vast experience. The “family business” culture is strong at Robotas, and it runs through the business in all aspects of what we do. It has been fundamental in building an incredibly tight-knit team of amazingly talented people who can always be depended on. As a result, the creativity and dedication of our team is inspirational and something that I’m truly proud of.
For readers who may be unfamiliar with Robotas Technologies, can you please tell us about the company? What need was there in the industry that caused the company to originally be founded? How has it grown and evolved over the years?
Prior to starting Robotas, my father worked in high-level Production Management roles for a number of large electronics manufacturing companies within the aerospace sector. In the 1970s and 1980s there was obviously a lot of through-hole PCB assembly, so my father had sourced various machines for his operators to use to assist with populating their PCBs. My father was always frustrated and let down by these machines, so as a young hardworking, inventive engineer he decided to design a better machine himself! As a result, the first version of our Mascot machine was born.
In 1987, he decided to throw caution to the wind and quit his job to start Robotas Technologies. Thirty-five years later, Robotas is still thriving and is now a pioneer for supplying state-of-the-art production equipment and solutions to the electronics industry for all aspects of the manual assembly process right from kitting to supplying automated ergonomic manual assembly flowlines that ensure that operators build product right-first-time using poke-yolk techniques, boosting overall productivity.
Robotas Technologies is known for valuing its people, performance and technology. How does this focus help the company’s success? How do you think this helps your position in the market? How does this mindset play into your growth strategy?
Our products have developed from the initial frustrations of my father to give better solutions to production problems, always suppling equipment that is reliable and built to last. As a company, we have a ‘Kaizen’ approach to product development. Over the years, our products have been continuously improved using cutting-edge technology to deliver outstanding results to our customers, with the focus on working for people deeply rooted in our designs.
Our tightly integrated team live and breathe agile development, joining forces to achieve the best outcome for our customers. Most of our team have between 10 and 25 years’ service with Robotas, so we understand how to collaborate effectively, resulting in innovative, accurate solutions to our customers’ needs. All members of the team drive for the same growth goals, pulling in the same direction.
What strengths does Robotas Technologies provide to customers that make the company stand out from competition? How does the company help improve the overall experience of people working in production environments?
Robotas employs engineers to talk to and work with other engineers. Our understanding of your production environment is a given. We’re an open and agile team that can support our customers at many levels, from a simple telephone query to complete flow line design. Pulling on the 35 years of technical experience within our field, our tight knit team has a broad range of knowledge and experience to be able to add value to customers’ projects. Working with international clientele allows us to observe the best practices of great companies that, in turn, influences how we design our products. Nevertheless, we always remain a people company, working with and designing for people.
In today’s “smart” world, it seems that integration and traceability are key drivers. How does Robotas Technologies meet these needs for customers? Additionally, how does the company deliver smart production technology to manual assembly?
In my time with Robotas, I’ve seen an ever-increasing level of integration and traceability needs, driven by the likes of Industry4.0 and IPC CFX standards and system players like SAP and AEGIS. We’ve always considered “SMART features” a core part of our development roadmap and we will be demonstrating our new Mascot automated Flowline Clinch system with CFX integration at the upcoming APEX 2023 show in San Diego. This is an industry first for a production area that is often thought of as a legacy process. When you build product using full automation you have a very constrained environment to work with. However, when you integrate people into that build process, it brings a whole set of new challenges – challenges that Robotas have the solutions for.
What would you like our readers in the electronics manufacturing industry to know most about Robotas Technologies?
In our company’s history we’ve probably either worked with your organization, your competitors, or your customers to overcome the problems and challenges that you may well be encountering today in your own PCBA production. If you use operators to assemble your products, we can almost certainly improve your manual production process by speeding up your production, improving your production yield and reducing training time for new operators.
We’re a people-focused company that take pride in giving excellent service and getting the right result for our customers. We put people first. Operators invariably enjoy working on our equipment and are proud of the quality and speed improvements they achieve. We know that a happy worker performs better and is more efficient. The payback on the investment of our systems is usually less than two years. If you need to optimize your manual assembly processes, please give us a call.