April 26, 2017      

ODENSE, Denmark — The MiR200 from Mobile Industrial Robots ApS is not just part of global growth in supply chain automation, it’s also an example of how a product can serve specific end-user needs.

The past year has been good for the Danish robot maker, whose sales grew 500%. Also in 2016, MiR sold more than 200 robots plus accessories. The company’s staff has increased from 13 to 30, and its headquarters here has tripled in size.

MiR has also been pursuing the global market for mobile robots by opening regional offices in New York and Shanghai. This past month, the company launched the MiR200 at the Automate/ProMat trade shows in Chicago, and it is aiming for a tripling of overall sales in 2017.

The MiR100 and new MiR200 are designed for indoor transportation in logistics, e-commerce order fulfilment, and other industries. The autonomous mobile robots can perceive walls and avoid obstacles. They can also follow maps and are easy to program, according to MiR.

MiR’s collaborative robots will stop running if a person is standing on their way as a safety precaution.

Business Takeaways:

  • Mobile Industrial Robots has experienced massive growth in the past year, thanks to products that focus on end-user needs.
  • The company’s new MiR200 is one of several mobile robots serving the supply chain industry, but its rapid return on investment (ROI) and ease of use make it more appealing to small and midsize enterprises, as well as large multinationals.
  • As the example of Magna-Power Electronics demonstrates, mobile robots can collaborate with human workers for greater efficiency.

Employees are already saving time by letting MiR’s robots transport materials. Use cases include carrying chemotherapy supplies from the pharmacy in a hospital’s basement to different wards. The robots are excellent for internal transportation and run three different ways:

  • Taxa — from one position to another
  • Busses — predefined route with stops
  • Postal service — go to up to three people

“We carefully listen to the wishes and responses from the market, and then we develop exactly these products that make it even easier for the customers to optimize their production,” said MiR CEO Thomas Visti. “Being able to adjust the production is a fast-growing need within the service industry and the public sector. This is the reason why we focus especially on flexibility and user-friendliness so our users can easily cooperate with our technology in a busy workday.”

Before he became CEO of MiR in 2014, Visti was a sales director and CCO at Universal Robots A/S, which has also experienced rapid growth from commercial success.

The global logistics robotics market will experience a compound annual growth rate of 32.26% and reach $11.18 billion in 2022, according to A2A Market Research.

Many of MiR’s newest customers are global manufacturers, such as Airbus, Boeing, Ericsson, Honeywell, and Unilever. Other multinational buyers include Continental, Danon, Flex, and Hugo Boss.

Magna-Power uses MiR robots for competitiveness

Flemington, N.J.-based Magna-Power Electronics is a prime example of a midsize end user that is driving MiR’s growth and benefiting from robotics applications.

Every Magna-Power product is made to order, and the company has developed one of the shortest lead times in the industry to stay competitive in global markets. Because every minute counts, Magna-Power looked for a way to help its employees on the manufacturing floor become more efficient. The MiR100 allows employees to focus on more important, high-level activities.

MiR robots at Magna-Power

Magna-Power’s Scotty and Chekov.

Initially, Magna-Power implemented just one MiR100 to manage the transportation of parts and assemblies throughout its manufacturing facility. Within weeks of the installation, the company saw so much value that it decided to add a second robot.

The two robots — nicknamed “Scotty” and “Chekov” after the Star Trek characters — are programmed to run “bus routes” throughout the facility, from the stockroom to each manufacturing operation.

Stockroom employees load bins on the robots’ top-module shelving. The two robots then move to each of their programmed checkpoints, where employees can pause them to unload kits and load finished assemblies to go back to inventory.

Once a MiR100 or MiR200 returns to the stockroom, it automatically connects to its charging station while being reloaded so it can stay on the job all day long.

More on European Robotics and Logistics Automation:

MiR200 delivers ROI within one year

Before MiR’s mobile robots, not only were employees spending hours moving materials from one department to another, but there were other inefficiencies as well, said Grant Pitel, vice president of engineering at Magna-Power.

There was often a backlog at the stockroom window as multiple employees tried to deliver or access parts. And while stockroom employees did their best to gather the materials for a particular job, sometimes parts were missing or weren’t ready. This required an employee to later hand-deliver one or two parts at a time.

It was often challenging to manage how many people were in the stockroom building kits of parts for each sub-assembly versus being out making deliveries. It was also difficult to know how long those deliveries would take. Now, employees simply load up the robot and move on to the next project.

MiR's robots come with intuitive controls.

The MiR100 and MiR200 have a user-friendly interface.

“MiR’s user-friendly, Web-based interface and its drag-and-drop programming allowed us to get the robots up and running — literally within minutes,” said Pitel. “We expect the robots to pay for themselves within a year, freeing the equivalent of three employees from low-value work, so it was an easy business decision to make.”

MiR said its MiR100 and MiR200 are more flexible, efficient, and cost-effective than traditional automated guided vehicles (AGVs). Instead of having to build tracks on the floor for an AGV to get from Point A to Point B, the highly adaptable MiR100 can navigate safely around obstacles in a dynamic environment. On average, MiR100s drive 4.6 miles per day and can carry up to 220 pounds.

In another example, MiR’s robots saved employees at medical technology provider Elos Medtech Pinol from walking 1,000 miles annually. They’re also in use at a nursing home in Denmark.

“As many North American manufacturers work to stay ahead of low-cost overseas competitors, they’re looking for new ways to be innovative on the manufacturing floor,” said Ed Mullen, vice president of sales for North America. “Our robots help organizations from smaller, regional manufacturers such as Magna-Power through large international manufacturers save time by streamlining resources and increasing efficiency.”