We sat down with Director of Marketing and Growth, Patty Katsaros, from Waypoint Robotics in December and reviewed 2019. Waypoint had two significant news stories in 2019, both related to the growth in their business.
1. Waypoint announces a new, larger mobile robot
The first major announcement for Waypoint in 2019 was the launch of a new, larger autonomous mobile robot (AMR) platform: the MAV3K. The MAV3K AMR is capable of moving 3,000 lbs (1,361 kg). It also has a larger deck which enables it to move large payloads including pallets and unit loads. Waypoint launched MAV3K at the ProMAT trade show in April 2019 and it will be commercially available by MODEX in spring 2020.
2. Waypoint moves into a larger corporate headquarters
The move into a new corporate headquarters in 2019 is one more positive signal from Waypoint that the mobile robot market is heating up. Multiple robot manufacturers upgraded their corporate facilities in 2019. For Waypoint, the larger space enables them to create a customer demo center for their new, larger, MAV3K robot. The larger space also gives them room to manufacture and test the larger robots. Waypoint is a member of the thriving robotics community in the Massachusetts and New Hampshire region.
Omnidirectional motion for manufacturing applications
Waypoint is unique in the AMR market as they are one of the few mobile robot solutions with omnidirectional motion. Omnidirectional motion means that the AMR can maneuver in any direction. This capability is due to their use of mecanum style wheels.
Waypoint is focused primarily on material handling for manufacturing applications. There are many applications for material movement within any manufacturing facility. Waypoint robots are uniquely designed for applications where precise and nimble AMR motion is required.
Most existing manufacturing factories are well established with the production line layout. Often, there are narrow aisles with tight constraints on motion paths that would prove difficult for any automated material handling device. With omnidirectional motion, Waypoint robots can easily approach the production line, machines and conveyance equipment to help handle work in process (WIP) or deliver bulk inventory into a manufacturing line.
Katsaros said: “Many of our customers see Waypoint AMRs as a great option to automate tasks that are not useful for employees. With the robots, employees can do more valuable work than just pushing carts.”
It’s in these types of applications where Waypoint is finding success. Katsaros: “Customers don’t come to us saying that they need omni direction, rather as manufacturers, they often are optimizing existing conditions. They have tight spaces or odd pathways. They are trying to add AMRs to their operation, they may want it to marry up to a conveyor or a machine. Omnidirectional motion means the robot can quickly and precisely hit waypoints in any direction and in any orientation.”
Katsaros provided three tips to being successful with an AMR deployment
- Initially, start small, to solve a specific problem. Get the equipment in and working as soon as possible.
Don’t worry about ROI. Start with one robot. Katsaros said, “Make sure it’s going to work, then learn from it. Because mobile robots enable so much flexibility you can do so much with them, the best way to do it is to get it in there and working and see what it will do well for you, and how it might not work, what it will do well and what you’re not ready for”. Get it being productive.
- Include the workforce right away in the deployment of any automation. They are the ones who will know how best to put the robot to work.
- Choose great equipment that is easy to setup and use, and that you don’t need experts to setup and use.
The year ahead for Waypoint
As for the future of Waypoint in the next 12 months, Katsaros discussed the following areas of investment:
- Expanded payload opportunities in 2020. Waypoint will continue to listen to customers about the need for other payload requirements and react as the market demands.
- Design and commercialize integrated payloads. Up to this point, Waypoint provides only a mobile platform. They are exploring the opportunity to design new fully integrated payloads for their AMRs.
- Expansion into other form factors. On the roadmap for Waypoint may also be expansion into other form factors for their product line. Again, according to Katsaros, this will come directly from the needs of their existing customer base and the opportunity to expand their footprint for material handling within the manufacturing market.
Check out Waypoint here: https://waypointrobotics.com/