When you hear the word robotics, you instantly think of robots and artificial intelligence. Robotics deals with making use of machines by designing and constructing them to function with similar abilities of a human being.
Robotics is extensively being used over many different industries today. These may vary from automobile manufacturing to consumer goods manufacturing industries. Robotics is used to aid in the work humans do, be it muscle power or where work that needs to be done may be harmful to humans.
A robot is designed in such a way that it can analyse, move, work, react, and respond in a way not dissimilar to humans. Robotics has made it easier for people to perform and get tasks
done in a simpler, efficient, and effective way.
Particularly in times like these with the coronavirus pandemic entering the world into a state of crisis, robotics has proven to be quite useful and of great importance. Be it a faster way to deliver essential medical supplies or more efficiently done recycling, companies are now going above and beyond to make robotics more innovative than before.
While intensively taking on the topic for our edition titled, World’s 10 Most Innovative Robotics Companies, 2021, we did an exclusive with ForwardX Robotics, a leading developer of flexible automation headquartered in Beijing, China.
In the following interview, Nicolas Chee, Founder and CEO of the company, shares with us in detail about the company’s journey in the Automation and Robotics Industry and his opinions about the market that the company caters to along with his insights about the growth of the industry.
Below are the highlights of the interview:
Brief us about the overall operations of your company.
ForwardX Robotics is a leading developer of flexible automation designed to empower industrial facilities through replacing cost-heavy material handling systems. Through its autonomous mobile robots and fleet management software, ForwardX helps production and logistics operations automate tedious physical tasks, such as order fulfillment and lineside delivery.
ForwardX separates itself from other robotics providers through its use of Artificial Intelligence (AI), specifically machine learning, as its robots are equipped with perception and processing capabilities to match a human worker. Using computer vision algorithms to segment, detect, recognize, and track objects within its environment, a ForwardX mobile robot can map and localize itself with pinpoint accuracy before making high level navigation decisions.
Based out of Beijing, ForwardX Robotics has a global presence with operations in APAC and North America. Founded in 2016, ForwardX has grown from a dozen dedicated scientists working on a prototype, to a team of over 300, and half a dozen offices scattered across the globe.
How did your company come into existence? What was the idea behind its genesis?
Founded in 2016, ForwardX Robotics was started by Nicolas Chee, a former VP at Oracle China and previous champion at ABU’s Robocon. It was created with a vision of changing the way people live and work.
Nicolas saw the world as it is now; millions of blue-collar workers spending their valuable time completing tedious and sometimes dangerously physical tasks, people spending time every day on chores instead of enjoying time with family. He wanted to change the world by
removing those tasks and what better way to remove them than by applying the latest and greatest technologies to automating them.
Kindly elaborate on your company’s unique products or services.
ForwardX develops a flexible automation platform, consisting of autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) and intelligent fleet management software, for industrial supply chain facilities.
As the next generation of material handling, ForwardX’s platform can be used to automate labor-intensive workflows in the supply chain which helps companies reduce costs and increase efficiency.
Unlike other automation solutions on the market, ForwardX products require very little set-up and infrastructure in order to get to work and that’s what makes ForwardX the flexible alternative. Using the latest perception technology, ForwardX robotics adapt instantly to changes in the environment and provide the guarantees of safety that make them suitable for collaborative work.
What makes your company stand out from the rest of its competition?
ForwardX stands out as a company dedicated to technical excellence and providing value for its current and future customers.
As the only mobile robotics developer with a vision-first approach, ForwardX provides the most reliable and accurate performance in the industry. Using computer vision algorithms to enhance mapping, positioning, and localization,
ForwardX robots provide best-in-class uptime availability, which contributes to a higher degree of autonomy.
Furthermore, ForwardX provides the largest range of autonomous mobile robots in the industry. With over 20 models to fit a wide range of applications and industries, ForwardX’s Flex, Max, and Apex ranges of AMRs provide a comprehensive collection of solutions in multiple styles to fit the fragmented and varied nature of manufacturing and logistics.
What kind of challenges has your company faced in its initial days of establishment and what are the struggles it is going through now?
As a provider of next generation technology, the most significant struggle we have faced is wide acceptance and adoption from the industry. Like many other high-tech products, ForwardX operates in an industry where it is transforming how things are being done. However, with this huge mission comes the task of winning over the hearts and minds of supply chain leaders.
In this industry, the early adopters have helped to prove the efficacy of flexible automation solutions. Now, we are at an inflection point where the mainstreams are beginning to expand
their use of technology to more of their operations globally.
What advice would you like to give the young entrepreneurs and startups that are willing to enter in the robotics industry?
Our advice to young entrepreneurs and start-ups would be:
Think big: The robotics industry isn’t a small one. There are a plethora of companies offering all kinds of solutions in every style or configuration you can think of, for both short-term and long-term problems.
When identifying your market and designing your solution, it helps to think big, that is, to think of the future you want to see and the future you believe the world is heading towards. With that as your compass, connect your vision to what you can do today to make it a reality.
Build an ecosystem: As a provider of transformative technology, robotics companies should avoid commoditizing their products. What tends to happen is robotics companies think too small and provide only a tiny piece of the puzzle, forcing buyers (companies) to get involved themselves and develop the expertise and systems that a robotic company should be providing.
However, by dedicating yourself to the bigger picture, you can build both a product ecosystem and a business ecosystem that provide buyers with an invaluable experience that they couldn’t hope to replicate.
What does the future hold for your company in terms of growth?
ForwardX has seen astounding growth over the last 2 years. Going from the official commercial launch of our first AMR product, to a massive range of solutions. Furthermore, we’ve continually raised more and more venture capital to help us expand our technology and our market.
We believe that the next 2 years will hold expansion across all continents, with expansion in APAC being our current priority and expansion in Europe our next.