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ABB, Milacron robot units merged.

The use of robots in Japan and Europe far outstrips the number of jobs they have taken over in the United States. But that is going to change if ABB Robotics Inc, a unit of ASEA Brown-Bavari In of Sweden, has its way. It recently purchased the entire robotics operation of Cincinnati Milacron, expanding its reach into the US market to 7500 installations-5000 Milacron and 2500 ASEA or ABB.

The move includes ABB picking up Milacron's patents, technology, spareparts inventory, and backlog as well as many of its sales and service personnel, R&D and applications engineers, and training people who will be relocating to the New Berlin, WI, and Rochester Hills, MI, facilities.

Stanley L Pearson, who was VP and general manager of the Cincinnati Robot Div and is moving over to ABB to head up the robot operation, emphasizes he'll have "all the resources to assure the former Milacron customers that the same highly qualified personnel will continue to be available to provide reliable sales and service support in the future."

The product mix of the two operations seems very compatible. Whereas Milacron was big in spot welding (55% of its business), ABB led with smaller systems and spray painting. "The combination of these two robotic suppliers creates an ideal complement of products and experience, not only in the automotive market, but in appliance, aerospace, and other areas," Mr Pearson contends.

The combine's spotwelding expertise is expected to be further enhanced, according to Robert G Brown, president of ABB Robotics. He indicates that an Automotive Welding Center is to be established at the Rochester Hills facility. The center will be headed up by Ake Lindqvist, who previously had worldwide responsibility for ABB's spot-welding operations.

The R&D group is being established to support the existing Milacron robot base, develop the future merged product line, and tailor products for the North American market.

Mr Brown indicates that in some respects market demands for technology in the US are further ahead of that in Europe, and that Milacron has been meeting those demands. "Our worldwide business area will be using that technology-and the people who developed it-as a resource for our worldwide R&D," he claims. "Customers are very demanding. They want to do things their own way, and now we have the tools to accommodate them. One thing ABB is good at is technology exchange worldwide-transferring what's happening in one country to our automotive research centers in the rest of the world. We don't reinvent the wheel every time," Mr Brown adds.

Another thing the combination will have going for it is economy of scale. Mr Brown claims it's ten times what Cincinnati's was. "Think what that does from a cost-competitive point of view. That allows us to compete with the Japanese, something Cincinnati did not have the opportunity to do," Mr Brown says, adding: "The technology in our industry continues to grow. You have to have the size and resources to be able to reinvest and stay with the marketplace. If you are not dealing with Japan, the US, and Europe in the robotics industry, you simply cannot survive. You will never get enough volume to be profitable."

Stelio Demark, ABB Robotics chairman, agrees. ASEA Brown-Bavari is expected to have chalked-up sales totaling $25 billion. "Because of this strong parent, we can afford a lot of R&D," he says. He sees the robotics operation in 1990 hitting $350 million in sales with about 1 0% reinvested in R&D. He says his robotics unit also takes advantage of ABB's corporate R&D activities. ABB has production facilities in Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, and Spain.

Mr Demark says that robots are getting "easier and easier to justify. I recall in 1982, the typical robot cost $100,000. You can buy that same robot today for $60,000, and it will be twice as fast. Instead of buying two, the user today need buy only one, and the total cost is 60% of what it used to be. That is called price performance."

Perhaps the most important mission the new company faces is education. Mr Brown feels the marketplace isn't looking for more robotics technology as much as it is looking for ways to apply the existing technology.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:ABB Robotics Inc., Cincinnati Milacron Inc.
Publication:Tooling & Production
Date:Feb 1, 1991
Words:708
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