December 29, 2016      

In Denmark, robotics is contributing to the reshoring trend, in which production is returning from China back to Europe, according to Kent Damsgaard, vice president of the Confederation of Danish Industry.

Ken Damsgaard talked about Danish reshoring.

Kent Damsgaard, vice president of the Confederation of Danish Industry, says that robotics is encouraging reshoring.

“We can see the same trend in Europe that robots and automation are the driving forces of moving the production home, as it keeps the payroll down,” he said. “Wages have increased in China, where there is another culture and different working conditions.”

“The business case is better by having the production near the end users with customized solutions,” Damsgaard added. “In addition, it is advantageous for companies to have production and development close to each other.”

“Companies can also achieve other strategic advantages with the new technology, moving the production to the U.S. or Europe, for instance, and being able to switch the production rapidly,” he told Robotics Business Review. “To base production in Denmark is often chosen when the production does not have large, long series, but short series with a twist, that require flexibility. It may be worthwhile for the companies to gather their activities here.”

Business Takeaways:

  • Danish companies are examples of how reshoring can help efficiency by moving production closer to the end user.
  • Flower and herb grower Rosborg Denmark has used autonomous systems from Egatec Packaging to increase productivity and save money.
  • Robotics is viewed as a way to help multiple industries return from Asia to the U.S. and Europe.

Reshoring to shorten the supply chain

“I see a pattern in the fact that in the 2000s, we were outsourcing to Eastern Europe and China,” said Mads Nychel, CEO at Egatec Packaging International ApS in Odense, Denmark. “Today, automation is high on the agenda, and both robots and automation equipment are much cheaper than 10 years ago. We have better financial tools such as leasing, where the savings start from Day 1.”

“It isn’t as easy to move a production as people might think. There are unforeseen challenges,” he noted. “Today, we have several customers who, with an automation solution, keep the production local, where the end users live.”

Nychel cited the example of herb producer Rosborg Denmark A/S, which has taken delivery of a semi-automatic packing system from Egatec. Today, Rosborg’s packaging is done manually, while boxes are assembled and closed with Egatec’s fully automatic palletizing robots.

Overall, the agriculture industry is growing on the Danish island of Funen, which provides a model for the global market. Horticultural production is typically located near end users to avoid spoilage, energy waste, and the environmental impact of transporting the goods by plane.

“With the Danish examples of automation solutions and packaging solutions for fruit and vegetables, we commit ourselves to export markets, such as the western U.S., as we also have the equipment for blueberry production,” Nychel said.

“My experience is that many of our customers are surprised that the solutions are not as expensive as they thought they would be,” he said. “For smaller companies with smaller series, there is an unexploited potential. It is not only the automotive industry which can make savings in this area. Our automation solutions have no ‘days lost through sickness,’ [whereas] production with employees on a night shift is expensive in labor costs.”

Egatec serves the food industry with robots for handling fruit, vegetables, meat, and bread. The company can also deliver customized solutions for other industries.

One advantage of such automation is that it enables human employees to avoid heavy lifting and unilateral movements. An improved working environment helps Egatec’s customers be more productive and competitive.

Reshoring with Danish design

In addition, Egatec offers a robot with reduced capabilities but with a greater mobility. It is cheaper, the maintenance costs are lower, and the robot has a smaller restricted area.

“We fine-tune the robot and often use a smaller robot with only three axes X-Y-Z,” said Nychel. “A one free arm robot normally has six axes and is widely used in the automotive industry. Our simple robot is often sufficient to solve the customer’s needs.”

Nychel said he’s proud of Egatec’s homegrown technology.

“We have a Danish product; it is made in Denmark. That means our solution is designed, machined, and tested in Denmark,” he said. “We see that there is a confidence in Western European solutions, which are highly flexible.”

Egatec Packaging delivers standardized products for packing, palletizing, internal transport, and A-1 case packers. It can also customize end-of-line systems.

“We customize solutions and have a large customer adaptedness in each product,” added Nychel. “We do not produce to stock.”

“Our customer Arla was happy that Egatec never disappeared before the job was done. We did not leave until the solution was running,” he explained. “We have experienced that other companies have tried to do the job before we were invited to make a solution. We never give up until the project is finished.”

Along with Mobile Industrial Robots ApS, Egatec is part of the robotics ecosystem growing around Odense to meet local and global demand for production automation.

More on Reshoring and Danish Robotics:

End-of-line products

Egatec A/S was established in 2003 and developed systems for different industries. This year, the company standardized and gathered its activities, including its EGApacker products and the A-one Packaging line, under Egatec Packaging International ApS.

Development and sale of special solutions continue in parent company Egatec A/S.

Egatec Packaging has 14 dealers worldwide, including in Argentina, Australia, Canada, Croatia, Finland, France, Israel, New Zealand, Spain, South Africa, Switzerland, the U.K., and the U.S.

Customers in the food industry include Arla Foods, Daloon, Rynkeby, and Jakobsens. Egatec also supplies medical companies such as Promens and Fertin Pharma, as well as metals companies Micro Matic, SanistAl, Dinex, and Budweg Caliper.

In addition, Egatec is the exclusive distributor for growing Italian robotics maker Comau SpA in Denmark, Norway, and Iceland.

Egatec is also growing and has hired nine new employees this year.