“As a robot integrator, we are closely involved with our clients’ innovation processes. As a result, innovation is part of our DNA,” says marketing manager Sophie Le Noble of the Almelo-based company ESPS. “In terms of our market approach, we are also constantly on the lookout for new opportunities. We took a closer look at one such new opportunity together with Novel-T’s innovation expert Marike Boertien.”
What does a robot integrator do? “ESPS develops and builds solutions that are used to automate processes,” managing director Edwin Jongedijk explains. “We use robots and cobots for that.” The latter are a special type of robot that can safely work alongside humans.
Faster, more efficient and more effective
Most of ESPS’ projects are engineer-to-order projects. “We use proven techniques to develop and build a solution for our client’s problem. These projects are all about developing a faster, more efficient, more effective and higher-quality solution. It can consist of just a single robot or a complete production line with robots and cobots,” Edwin continues. For example, for a beer producer for whom they automatically place cardboard flyers in crates, they developed a robot solution that tops the crates with a cardboard lid.
Experiencing robotization in the Robotic Experience Center
Many of ESPS’s projects are classified. “Our client does not want to throw their competitors a bone. We understand that all too well,” Sophie says. “To demonstrate the possibilities of automation, we therefore opened the Robotic Experience Center in 2016. Clients can visit the Center to see the different types of robots and cobots in action. We do not use the demo environment solely for our own research, mind you. It is also frequently used by producers, machine builders and knowledge institutions.”
ESPS tests concepts in the Center. “You have to be innovative yourself in order to integrate innovation elsewhere,” Edwin explains. “We are constantly learning and testing how we can utilize new equipment and we are pushing the boundaries of what is possible. We recently managed to implement an innovative 3D camera system in a way that allows a robot to pick up highly reflective products. That application even surprised the camera’s manufacturer. We were the first to pull it off successfully.”
What trends can Sophie and Edwin discern?
“Robots are becoming increasingly flexible,” Edwin says. “You can easily reprogram them. That means one and the same robot can be used to sort products one day and stack boxes the next. Since labor is so scarce, more and more businesses are beginning to explore the possibilities of automation. That, in turn, creates new opportunities for businesses who are reluctant to invest heavily in automation. It also gives us the opportunity to service a new market.”
Business-model-canvas offers clarity
A new market calls for a new proposition. What does the business case look like? “We reached out to Novel-T to help us refine our proposition and assess its feasibility. That is how we first came into contact with Marike Boertien,” Edwin says. “She proposed to fill out the business-model-canvas over the course of a few sessions.” Marike Boertien: “A canvas session is an excellent way to clear things up. Who are your potential clients? What problems do these clients face? How can you solve those problems? How will you test your proposition? You can structure your information with the Lean canvas. At the same time, asking critical questions helps you clarify your business model.” Sophie: “At its core, ours is a company full of technicians. Those sessions added depth to our discussions and were a huge help in marketing our solution.” Edwin has already begun presenting the company’s new proposition to clients: “Besides our engineer-to-order projects, we can now also offer clients a configure-to-order solution. That means we combine standard solutions together, which makes automation affordable and available to more and more clients.”