Innovating the Future with Automation Excellence
In this exclusive interview, we have the privilege of conversing with Christophe Coulongeat, Executive President of Stäubli Robotics, as we delve into the multifaceted world of the Stäubli Group and its dynamic, fastgrowing Robotics Division. The Stäubli Group, with a legacy dating back to 1892, has embarked on a remarkable journey of technological and geographical expansion.
What began as a pioneering and trusted partner in the weaving industry has evolved into a global powerhouse that is revolutionizing various industries with a strong presence in Europe, the Americas, Japan, China, and Korea. Throughout its history, the Stäubli Group’s expertise has grown from connection solutions, including quick couplings for pneumatics and hydraulics, to encompass electrical power and data.
What is worth mentioning is that in 1982 the acquisition of Unimation, a renowned leader in industrial robotics, propelled Stäubli to the forefront of one of the most advanced and innovative industrial sectors. Our conversation covers the remaining aspects in more detail.
BUSINESS CONNECT: COULD YOU PLEASE WALK US THROUGH AN OVERVIEW OF THE STÄUBLI GROUP’S PORTFOLIO?
Christophe Coulongeat: Essentially, we make work easy and safe. Our industrial and mechatronic solutions deliver unparalleled performance and generate value for our customers, organizations, society and the environment. We stand as a frontrunner in the realm of mechatronics, with a distinct focus on four primary domains: Electrical Connectors, Fluid Connectors, Robotics, and Textile.
With an unwavering commitment to excellence, the Stäubli Group excels in the design, production, sale, and support of a wide array of products and systems. These offerings cater to global markets where the imperatives of high productivity, reliability, and precision take center stage. Our comprehensive portfolio corresponds with the evolving needs of industries, ensuring that our customers receive cutting-edge solutions that drive success and innovation.
Our four divisions cater to a diverse array of industrial sectors and align their efforts with customers who seek enhanced productivity. With a remarkable international presence, Stäubli currently operates across 28 countries and boasts an extensive network of agents spanning 50 countries on four continents.
The collective strength of our global workforce, totaling 6,000 people, underscores our commitment to forming enduring partnerships with clients across a wide spectrum of industries. From our humble beginnings as a small workshop in Horgen, Zurich, Switzerland in 1892, Stäubli has evolved into an international powerhouse, headquartered in Pfäffikon, Switzerland, serving as a beacon of innovative solutions and steadfast support for our global clientele.
Stäubli’s expertise in the field of robotics is underpinned by a profound understanding of the significance of speed, precision, and reliability in a wide range of industries. Regardless of the industry, Stäubli is dedicated to engineering tailored robotics solutions that can meet even the most stringent requirements. From the harshest and most challenging environments to the most rigorously controlled cleanrooms, our robots consistently excel. Throughout their design and development, the singular focus is on one paramount objective: maximizing performance.
BUSINESS CONNECT: YOUR GROUP IS MAKING SIGNIFICANT WAVES IN THE FIELD OF MEDICAL ROBOTICS. WHAT CAN THE MEDICAL INDUSTRY ANTICIPATE FROM YOUR ENDEAVORS?
Christophe Coulongeat: We are all set to make a revolution with our robotics expertise. Particularly in the context of patient treatment and surgical procedures, robotic technology has its inherent limitations. While robotic assistance has proven effective in surgical applications, widespread adoption remains somewhat distant.
With over three decades of experience, Stäubli Robotics collaborates closely with specialized medical technology manufacturers to develop groundbreaking solutions. Our robots play a pivotal role in invasive and non-invasive procedures and rehabilitation, working alongside healthcare professionals. We continually evolve our products to ensure compliance with current ISO 13485 standards and, together with our partners, incorporate the latest advances in motion sensors, imaging, and other technologies which are driving the medical robotics market. Our portfolio includes a range of six-axis robots that meet the market’s need for optimum precision, rigidity, patient safety, and cleanability.
At MEDICA 2023, one of the world’s largest trade fairs in the medical field, Stäubli Robotics will showcase Epione®, which is an innovative robotic platform developed with the French company Quantum Surgical. Epione is Quantum Surgical’s flagship product. It allows doctors to perform minimally invasive procedures for inoperable tumors in the liver, kidney, pancreas, and lungs using percutaneous ablation. This groundbreaking technique enables the treatment of hard-to-reach tumors.
Instead of traditional surgery, Epione employs a Stäubli robotic arm, a navigation system, and a camera for precision. It received CE marking for abdomen and lung indications in Europe and FDA clearance for abdominal tumor ablation in the United States in 2022. Over 250 patients have already benefited from this technology in France and the U.S. In October, Quantum Surgical gained market authorization for Epione in China, and the product received the 2023 JFR Innovation Prize in the Interventional Imaging category.
BUSINESS CONNECT: WHAT IS YOUR MISSION FOR CRAFTING TOP-TIER SOLUTIONS IN THE REALM OF AUTOMATED GUIDED VEHICLES (AGVS)?
Christophe Coulongeat: Stäubli’s AGV platform series has consistently offered agile mobility on factory floors, serving as a cornerstone for global manufacturing automation. Our overarching mission is to establish ourselves as the premier AGV partner, with a particular focus on high-payload applications.
What sets us apart is our exclusive portfolio of compact AGV platforms, which boast exceptional performance characteristics. These include omnidirectional maneuverability, pinpoint positioning precision of 5 mm, and unparalleled durability for transporting payloads ranging from 1.5 tons up to a remarkable 450 tons. Further, the Stäubli AGV fleet operates in a remarkably efficient manner, thanks to our cuttingedge software, which not only enhances performance but also provides valuable insights for data-driven decision making.
The PF3 is a unique 3-ton AGV platform that paves the way for a host of new industrial applications. Characterized by its ultra-compact design, it is capable of transporting and lifting payloads of up to 3 tons with remarkable precision, offering an impressive positioning accuracy of +/-5 mm. The PF3 combines safety and a low-profile design, providing a forward-looking approach to production and facilitating intelligent workflow strategies.
BUSINESS CONNECT: CAN YOU GIVE US SOME EXAMPLES OF HOW STÄUBLI ROBOTICS MEETS THE SPECIFIC AUTOMATION NEEDS OF DIFFERENT INDUSTRIES?
Christophe Coulongeat: Our products are known for their versatility and flexibility. With our fast and precise TX2 industrial robots, for example, Stäubli represents an optimal blend of speed, rigidity, compact size, and precision. These robots are characterized by unique features that make them versatile and suitable for deployment across a wide spectrum of industries, including sensitive environments. One standout feature is the optional SIL3- PLe safety functionalities, which not only enhance safety but also lead to higher productivity. These safety functions enable the creation of more compact yet highly efficient workstations or cells.
One notable offering is our Stericlean+ range. Stäubli’s vision extends to the creation of a comprehensive aseptic solution. This solution encompasses the integration of a new robotic arm, an aseptic tool changer, and telemanipulation capabilities. It also includes a mobile solution designed to facilitate the automation and modernization of pharmaceutical manufacturing lines in pharmaceutical-grade environments, ushering in a new era of efficiency and progress within the pharmaceutical sector.
The automotive industry is another key sector, as it is navigating a dynamic global landscape marked by rapid transformation, with trends like e-mobility and connectivity at the forefront. With our deep-rooted commitment to excellence, Stäubli has positioned itself as a trusted partner in the automotive revolution. Our expertise spans a wide spectrum of applications, even in scenarios where technical requirements are exceedingly demanding. Whether it’s the integration of robotics, automation, or other cutting-edge technologies, Stäubli remains a pivotal player in helping the automotive sector adapt to and thrive within this era of rapid change.
STÄUBLI ROBOTICS LEADERSHIP AT A GLANCE
Under the stewardship of Christophe Coulongeat, the company’s growth plan encompasses three core areas of focus. First, it seeks to solidify its leadership in four distinct industries: pharmaceuticals, food, medical robotics, and photovoltaics. This strategic vision emphasizes sustainable dominance in these sectors, leveraging continuously evolving technologies to meet the needs of a diverse clientele.
Secondly, Mr. Coulongeat emphasized the goal of achieving sustained superiority by strengthening the positioning on the general industry market by developing application expertise such as high-speed assembly and high-dynamic accuracy for the automotive and laser cutting industries.
The third core area is developing automation solutions using its AGV and mobile robot product lineup to bring more value to system integrators and end users. Stäubli’s distinctive approach to product development involves collaborative partnerships with industry leaders to address specific production challenges, which is evident in the versatility of its robots in handling delicate products, sensitive materials, and intricate components.
THE FUTURISTIC ROADMAP
Looking ahead to 2024, the Stäubli Group’s visionary objectives extend beyond immediate challenges. In tandem with these endeavors, there is a strong emphasis on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) considerations. This includes a steady focus on reducing the carbon footprint at its primary industrial facilities, innovating new products with a paramount commitment to the principles of product life cycle and environmental compatibility (PLC/ECO), ensuring unparalleled product durability through its global services network, and maintaining a ready supply of over 15,000 parts for its valued clientele.
The Group is also committed to nurturing long-term relationships with clients and partners by developing robust capabilities. This includes strategic investment in attracting and nurturing talent in sales, technical support, and R&D to further enhance its growth trajectory.
To ensure its preparedness for future expansion, the Group is proactively enhancing supply chain resilience and diligently working to reduce operational costs, and positioning itself to seize new opportunities and navigate the evolving business landscape with agility and success.
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