Ask Universal Robots CEO Enrico Krog Iversen about some of the more important lessons learned during his decades in manufacturing, and he will respond first by saying, “Take risk.” A breath later, he’ll follow by cautioning, “but take calculated risk.”
The calculated risks for Enrico included the initial jump into Universal Robots, a Danish company established more than a decade ago at Syddansk Universitet in Odense, back when its workshop was still 400 square feet of academic office space, and then planning for growth so aggressive that sales would double every year. To do that, even when the number of employees could be counted on two hands, he figured he needed a strong data analytics system. He looked to his brother, Heine, seven years his junior and the CEO of Danish data warehousing automation company TimeXtender.
“As we grew, we needed better IT tools to manage our growth and to ensure that we had the right information available to make all our business-related decisions,” Enrico said. “That was why I turned to Heine. The ultimate goal, I guess, was and is the same as any company: Making sure we have all the necessary information we need to make fast decisions and correct decisions.”
Their personal history dates back decades, of course. So does their business history. When they were boys, they watched and learned as their parents started a stove and fireplace company named for the family and built it into the largest European manufacturer of steel stoves. “It’s sometimes hard to be a child when your parents are building a business,” Heine said. “You learn it takes a lot of sacrifice to make it happen. My dad might take off half a day a year, on his birthday in July.” The elder Krog Iversens sold the company, now called Scan, a decade ago, and their sons have followed in their manufacturing (and data) footsteps.
Enrico’s and Heine’s robotics and data automation professional relationship has worked nicely: The Massachusetts automatic test equipment company Teradyne purchased Universal last June for $285 million, banking that its rapid growth would swell its 2014 revenue of close to 30 million euros. Heine, meanwhile, has ambitions to replicate Enrico’s success and grow TimeXtender into a $100 million company.
The lessons they can now pass along? Other than taking those calculated risks, of course, just “knowing what you’ll need in a year,” Heine said, “that you don’t know now that you’ll need.” Following their lead on partnering big data and robotics is pretty sound, too.
“This whole new technology you have around collaborative robots is really where the entire robot industry will be moving in the coming years,” Enrico said. “Now having robots you can actually use without having them caged in, basically using them as tools, that’s very important, and combining that with the easy programming, that just opens a big market. All the SMEs will be able to get great benefits from robots.”