The Market Gamble of Cooperative Robots

Interview with ELITE Sales Director Wu Fei

        “If you don’t accumulate your footsteps, you can’t go thousands of miles; if you don’t accumulate small streams, you can’t become a sea.” This sentence is a true portrayal of the career path of Mr. Wu Fei, who is currently the sales director of Suzhou ELITE Robot Co., Ltd. Intelligent Robot Business interviewed Mr. Wu Fei to share with you his take on the market gamble of collaborative robots.

Overcome the Thorns and Conquer the World

        Wu Fei is one of the first people in the sales market of collaborative robots in China. In 2016, he once served as the sales manager for the leading robotics brand Universal Robots in East and Northern China. According to Wu Fei, at the time, collaborative robotics had just entered the Chinese market. Whether it was market environment or the consumer’s consumption habits, collaborative robotics companies were facing huge obstacles when exploring the Chinese market.

        Relying on the work philosophy of “nothing is impossible with a true heart and modest mind”, Wu Fei began to explore the application and user groups of collaborative robots in the Chinese market from scratch. At that time, collaborative robots had developed in the European and North American markets for several years and accumulated some successful experiences. However, the industrial characteristics and user needs of the Chinese market are very different from those in Western countries. Therefore, it was essential to find the suitable application scenarios of collaborative robots based on the pain points of domestic users. It is through all the obstacles along the way and growing with domestic users that Wu Fei has strengthened his confidence that the Chinese market contains huge potential for flexible production, and the future of human-machine collaboration is unlimited and unprecedented. Since then, Wu Fei has won the honors of Global Outstanding Sales Individual Award and the Best Team Award for two consecutive years, and led the team to successfully introduce the typical process segment application of collaborative robots for leading companies in the automotive and 3C electronics industries to promote the application and development of collaborative robots in China.

Bravery to Take on Challenges

        In 2017, the entire robot industry entered into an explosion stage. Almost overnight, robot companies including collaborative robots sprung up, and they have all set their sights on the Chinese market. At that time, Wu Fei began to think, “How will the market for future collaborative robots change? What kind of collaborative robots are most suitable for the Chinese market?” When most companies targeted users at the top of the industry pyramid, Wu Fei and some others realized that the automation demand we were seeing was just the tip of the iceberg. Hidden under the sea are countless small and medium-sized enterprises. Affected by the overall economic development, these enterprises were facing the same problem: high staff costs, difficulty in recruiting workers, increasing periodic fluctuations in production orders, increasing customer customization, and the manufacturing trends of flexible production of small batches and multiple varieties. It was very difficult for these enterprises to upgrade their production models and raise the threshold of automation. Opportunities and challenges come hand in hand. Whoever can clear this layer of mist can take the lead in entering a blue ocean.

        For the majority of small and medium-sized enterprises, the size of the enterprise has not limited their desire for innovation and change. On the contrary, many companies are eager to learn from the experience and case studies of successful industry benchmarks and lead users. Therefore, they need someone who can turn the avant-garde ideas into tangible solutions. After stepping out of the foreign-funded company and joining the domestic robot industry circle, by integrating many years of management and practical concepts, Wu Fei was determined to meet the challenge at the time.

        At the same time, a domestic robot company is also preparing for battle. As a leading business in intelligent innovation, ELITE has continuously accumulated experience in the field of motion control for sixteen years, and quickly completed the deployment of product lines including a full range of collaborative robot products in just a few years, providing complete automation solutions for enterprises of different sizes .In particular, the lightweight collaborative robot stood out as one of the company’s representative products, as its flexible production can meet the production requirements of small batches, multiple varieties, and periodic fluctuations, thereby enhancing the competitiveness of user enterprises. “To make the easiest-to-use collaborative robot, and to make tomorrow a little simpler than today”- this is ELITE’s vision of helping users lower the threshold of automation, which also ties into Wu Fei ’s long-cherished aspiration: the rise of domestic industry. 

        According to Wu Fei, after joining ELITE, he analyzed the market of domestic collaborative robots: First, there was no absolute monopoly enterprise in the industry at the time, and the competition in the collaborative robot market was becoming increasingly fierce and would soon face a new round of reshuffle. Therefore, this was an important opportunity for every collaborative robot company. Second, the barrier of entry for collaborative robots was high. Because collaborative robots have a compact structure, the overall manufacturing cost and difficulty are much higher than industrial robots. Thus, the probability of players who are opportunistic or disruptive to the market is relatively low. ELITE has a highly educated team with more than 16 years of R & D experience in the robotics and automation industry. Moreover, the company has excellent genes and deep accumulation. Thirdly, the self-research rate of core components is high, and the pacing of coordinated robots does not need to be particularly fast but requires high accuracy. As the technology advances rapidly and the industry’s upstream and downstream developments are both healthy and complete, the quality of domestic robot brands are well-protected. In addition, high-quality components such as harmonic reducers, motors, and encoders that can be customized at present have also become a further boost to ELITE’s brand quality.

A Promising Future

        ELITE’s goal is to become a world-class robotics leader of “industrial + collaborative integration”, not only focusing on the domestic market, but also internationally. ELITE is an innovative ELITE company initiated by the PhDs from Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Tsinghua University, and Columbia University. There are around 50 R & D personnel, among which more than 90% hold a master’s degree or above, all from major universities at home and abroad. In just a few years, ELITE independently developed three, four small six-axis robots, handling robots, stamping robots, welding six-axis robots, SCARA robots, collaborative robots, etc. The company has absolute advantages in robot motion control and algorithms, as ELITE’s exceptional team is its greatest core competitiveness.

        Wu Fei believes that right now, there are certain issues when it comes to marketing for domestic robot companies. First, the process is not streamlined, and there is no good teamwork. Second, there is a lack of focus on sales strategy and sales direction. Wu Fei said in the interview that ELITE completed the layout in Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen in a short period of time. In the future, the entire sales team will be divided into three regions: North, East, and South. At present, the focus is on developing East China and South China regions, and they are targeting industries such as auto parts, 3C industry, Internet of Things, vehicle networking, metal processing and other industries, in labor-intensive areas such as Foshan and Guangzhou in South China. In the future, ELITE will also develop its own field in the realms of textiles and major household appliances.

        Adhering to the vision of helping all types of enterprises to lower the threshold of automation and improve the level of automation, Wu Fei clearly saw the opportunities and challenges of ELITE, and together with ELITE, they are set on creating a world of intelligent automation for users.

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