World’s Leading Robot Supplier to Make Engineers
According to the 2013 Forbes ‘100 most innovative companies’ list, global automation and robotics supplier FANUC is ranked 26th. This is a major achievement for any firm, but even more so for a business which is primarily known in the manufacturing sector.
FANUC shares its role of honour with computer, pharmaceutical, digital, internet retail, medical equipment, cosmetic and food & drink processing giants and is ranked higher than many high profile brands including; Procter & Gamble, Apple, Google US, L’Oreal, Unilever and Pepsi Co.
Forbes’ ranking methodology relies on investors’ ability to identify firms that not only innovate now, but have plans in place to ensure they continue to do so in the future – fitting for a company that specialises in process innovation. A company’s innovation premium is key to its ranking (identified using projected income and anticipated growth from existing business and the net present value of cash flows), alongside research and development spending.
FANUC’s success story began in 1956 when founded as a subsidiary of FUJITSU Ltd to develop numerical controls. Its first industrial robot was developed and installed in FANUC’s Japanese factory in 1974 and since then, the firm has gone from strength to strength, expanding its global workforce and automated solutions. In 1982 FANUC opened its 3,000m2 UK headquarters in Coventry and today employs 45 service engineers, 12 technical sales engineers and 75 team members.
Its technologies support any sector requiring complete products or components for packaging and processing and include; CNC controls, drives, servo motors and CO2 laser systems (used by the world’s leading tool manufacturers) easily-integrated robots with application-specific options and Robomachines such as the Robocut Wire EDM and Roboshot full electric injection moulding model. System options include; integrated vision, visual line tracking, force and axis positioning sensors, controllers with more than 250 software functions and simulation and development applications.
By 2013, over 290,000 robots were installed worldwide and now globally every month FANUC produces; 5,000 industrial robots (widely used for welding, painting, handling, assembly, packaging and inspection operations), 30,000 CNC Controllers (the ‘brains’ behind the machines), 250,000 Servo and spindle motors, (motion controllers and moving tools), 5,000 Robomachines (a combination of controllers and hardware) and 250 CO2 lasers (cutting parts – think ‘James Bond’ and laser beams).
Following a revamp of its training centre this year, UK staff, aided by their product-support colleagues in Luxembourg, are abreast of the latest developments on what is considered an unrivalled product range. More importantly, customers can access fully interactive state-of-the art training facilities in order to familiarise themselves with their equipment prior to installation.
FANUC’s view is there should be no barriers to automation, particularly in areas such as palletising and pick and place where systems accelerate workflow, improve productivity and so make customers more efficient. Such is the desire to develop systems to meet customers’ needs, two palletising and pick and place systems are IP69K certified full wash-down models, making them ideal for the food industry.
As the Forbes listing indicates, FANUC is keen to continuously innovate and improve its products whilst maintain its credentials for reliability. A recent re-development programme resulted in a 20% reduction in parts on its latest palletising and pick and place models. Fewer moving parts leads to lower costs and less stock or ‘wear parts’ for customers to carry. “This inevitably will help customers’ stock control and cash flow, meaning they’re likely to see an even greater return on their investment” says FANUC UK Technical Manager, Darren Whittall.
Although fewer parts mean fewer breakdowns, FANUC UK is quick to remind of its reputation as a ‘safe pair of hands’. “Our systems are safe, robust and reliable and we will always endeavour to alleviate any concerns customers may have and provide ongoing support,” continues Darren.
FANUC’s desire to innovate and evolve doesn’t just apply to its product range; it follows the same principles with its workforce via an apprentice and degree student ‘sandwich year’ programme. Darren explains: “The apprenticeship programme started in 1997 – apprentices spend up to four years learning all aspects of the business and are encouraged to progress academically.”
Since 2009, FANUC has taken on six apprentices and this year welcomed four young people. The first apprentice, Michelle Bottrill, is FANUC’s Parts, Training and Service Sales Manager, Craig Taylor, who joined in 2002 now works for the Company in Luxembourg and Tom Sulllivan, a year four apprentice, is studying engineering at university.
In recognition of FANUC’s sustained commitment and loyalty to the apprenticeship programme, it recently received an award from Midland Group Training Services (a training business supported by the Skills Funding Agency and a partner of the Department for Business Innovation and Skills).
Students from local universities also receive high levels of support. FANUC usually takes one student a year, but in 2013, employed two. They typically work in product design or 3D simulation, but if interested in specific areas, such as marketing or software, FANUC endeavours to accommodate. Darren concludes “They often request to join us after their degree and we’re happy to oblige where we can – in fact we’re employing one student very soon.”
Such commitment to young people and students helps tackle the skills shortage, as recently reported by City & Guilds. Research findings in October revealed 60% of all employers are struggling to find employees with the right skills and in the engineering and manufacturing sectors it’s 72%.
FANUC also supports the local and wider community. The firm regularly hosts visits from schools, colleges and universities, plus loans equipment. The most recent was a loan of a robotic arm to Coventry’s King Henry VIII School in June and October, supporting the Design Technology Department’s Open Morning and Open Day.
In June 2013, the LRMate200iC robot performed for over 400 visitors (from reception year to sixth formers) showing how it could pick up a £1 coin, place it in a piggy bank, turn a cog to enable the coin to fall out of the piggy bank, travel through a rail system, land on a tray and then count the coins saved. This demonstrated how robots can be ‘aware’ of their environment, work in industry and save money in the production process.
A similar model – the 200iD – was static on display in October 2013, together with information on careers in engineering and robotics. Deputy Head, David Morton comments: “It was fantastic to have a real operational robot at our Open Morning. Lots of visitors mentioned about the excitement it brought to the day and the links between school and industry were clear for all to see. We are very grateful to FANUC for the robot loan and for organising the logistics behind its safe delivery.”
FANUC also support UNISON’s Scarborough Engineering Week, which showcases local and regional business’ who rely on engineering to be successful. The event was keen to promote the careers available to young people in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths and show some of the latest technology being used in business today. FANUC exhibited interactive robots which students could programme via the controller and also compete against each other to perform tasks. In addition, Loughborough University students visited FANUC UK’s site in December 2013, where they were able to observe its operations and interact with its products.
With reports that the robotics and manufacturing sector is witnessing a boom, FANUC could well improve on what already is an enviable Forbes ranking in years to come. In February this year, the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) published research stating more than two million jobs will be created in the next eight years because of robotics in industry. IFR General Secretary Gudrun Litzenberger commented: “Productivity and competitiveness are indispensable for a manufacturing enterprise to be successful in the global market … and whilst certain jobs may be reduced by robotics and automation… more are created.”
Whilst FANUC’s automation solutions, workforce and community endeavours to continue to support whole generations, the firm is keen to instil greater confidence in robotics. Latest figures may help just do that, but FANUC will not rest on its laurels. The firm will continue to evolve and innovate for customers, which in turn may push up those Forbes rankings even further.
In recognition of FANUC’s sustained commitment and loyalty to the apprenticeship programme, it recently received an award from Midland Group Training Services.
FANUC regularly host visits from schools to encourage young people to interact with robots and raise awareness of their many uses in the production process.
FANUC supporting Coventry’s King Henry VIII School Open Morning with the loan of a robot to the Design Technology Department.
FANUC Robotics Contact:
Angela Ridley, Sales & Marketing Administrator
T +44 (0)2476 518415 E firstname.lastname@example.org