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Automate 2024: Comau CEO highlights entrance to new industries with solutions and visions for automation company

Pietro Gorlier discusses Comau’s new robot families, targeted sectors and AI-based solutions

Pietro Gorlier, CEO of Comau, and Tim Culverhouse, Editorial Director of Robotics 24/7, spoke about recent innovations from the company at Automate 2024 in Chicago.


Comau CEO Pietro Gorlier announced the new S-Family of robots and more at Automate 2024 in Chicago.
Pietro Gorlier, CEO of Comau, discussed the newest product releases and integration developments for the company at Automate 2024 in Chicago.

CHICAGO – Global technology company Comau made a big splash during Automate 2024 in Chicago. The company’s theme during the show was “The Power of Automation” and its presence at McCormick Place during North America’s largest automation conference carried that weight.

Comau released a new family of robots, including a specific nod to its red robot heritage during the show.

Tim Culverhouse, Editorial Director of Robotics 24/7, had a chance to discuss these recent innovations with Comau CEO Pietro Gorlier at Automate. Follow their discussion with the audio transcription below and get a tour of the Comau booth during Automate 2024 in the video above.

Comau’s 51 years of experience pushes the company forward

Tim Culverhouse: Hello everybody and welcome to McCormick Place in Chicago. We're here at Automate 2024. Tim Culverhouse Editorial Director of Robotics 24/7, and I'm joined today by CEO of Comau, Pietro Gorlier. Pietro, thank you so much for taking some time. It's nice to meet you. It's nice to be at the Comau booth, and it's a pleasure to sit down and chat with you today.

Pietro Gorlier: Nice to be here. Nice to be here.

Culverhouse: What do we have going on at the Comau booth here at Automate 2024?

Gorlier: Automate is very important for us - being a company, that has been working in automation for 51 years. We celebrated 50 years in 2023. Our main new products here are the S-robot family. It's a new family of robots that are water and dust resistant mainly for handling but also for welding.

And, it’s a bunch of history. We're going back to the red color that has been always the iconic color of Comau robotics.

One particular solution we are very proud of is our Mi.RA/OnePicker. We are talking about a system for picking that through a visual system can recognize objects of different dimensions and decide what actions to do. That is also part of our strategy. We are a company with a long heritage in the automotive business. But we are now moving in other sectors. And this is why here you see a lot of solutions that are not for automotive, but obviously for fulfillment and for other segments of businesses.

We also have our exoskeletons here. That is a popular line that is growing in our portfolio. We have both the higher part of the body exoskeleton and the lumbar one. They both support heavy operations of work.

Another project that we are very proud of is our e.DO robot. It's a small part of our business, but I will say very exciting. It started as an educational remote for schools, colleges, to give the possibility to young people to approach robotics, but then moved to be also a supporter for companies that are entering into the automation business. And so we are obviously presenting here the last version of the robot. It's very exciting.

Culverhouse: Now, going back a little bit, you had mentioned some of the different sectors that you were looking at entering and expanding on here for Comau and also alluding to your 50 plus years in the automation industry. What new sectors - and being here at Automate, you get to see robotic integration from all around the world - what new sectors are you guys excited about?

Gorlier: Well, obviously, the first transition for us has been from automotive to what we call e-mobility. Everything around the electrification of the automotive business, and we actually have been able in the last few years already to grow up to about 30-35% of our business in everything that is connected to batteries, electric motors. Another development in the next few years will be the recycling of batteries. 

And then as I said there is instead an expansion outside completely the mobility sector. The main areas we have started touching are, fulfillment and logistics, that's obviously in demand. If you go around the show, you see a lot of pickers and palletizers.

We have an interesting project in shipbuilding. And that's an interesting angle because, why shipbuilding? You don't expect automation. Well, the main reason is that there are some jobs in that industry for which the availability of labor is very, very scarce.

Think about welding. You don't find welders now and to build a ship you need miles of welding. We are actually building solutions where we put our robot into an AGV with a welding system and the robot can go along the ship welding. We have other projects in aerospace, for instance, for helicopter blades, both the building, assembling and also testing. So, these are some of the new sectors that we are approaching

Culverhouse: That's a bit expansive outside of the automotive industry and what you guys are looking to do here.

Gorlier: I think the automotive business is the most automatized business. If I remember, right, the last time I checked, automotive is using 10 times more automation than the second largest. And obviously, you know why. I mean, you have these plants where a thousand cars are built every day and you need to be absolutely precise. And we have the precision of the investments in the cars.

The new sectors that are lasting and coming to automotive now, they don't really know exactly what they want. So, it becomes very interesting to invent a solution. It's kind of going back many years in a new environment. And so we can, building on our heritage, I think we can serve these new sectors.

Culverhouse: In terms of new sectors, you've seen new technologies going on. And here at Automate, everybody has AI involved in some way shape or form. What's Comau doing on the AI front?

Gorlier: I mentioned for instance, our Mi.RA picker. When you talk about picking items with different shapes a different way, obviously, artificial intelligence, algorithms over artificial intelligence are very helpful to make the solution agnostic to what they have to do.

We have an important project with Intrinsic that is here at Automate as well, where we are developing picking solutions using algorithms of artificial intelligence. It's always important the association between artificial intelligence with the visual system.

At this point, I will say that vision and obviously AI are the two key elements for the future. Also because, as I mentioned before, these new sectors, they don't have the characteristics of automotive where you do the same thing thousands of times every day for many years. They need to be flexible. And to be flexible, it means that you need to develop solutions, where the system is able to evolve, according to the mission that you have to fulfill.

An example: if you work on packaging inside the fulfillment center or warehouses center of a superstore - the Walmart's, the Target's, the Costco's - well every day you have a new order. One day you need to put together three toothpastes. The next day it's toothpaste with the toothbrush. You can imagine every time to redevelop completely the software because the mission is different. So artificial intelligence helps to build a flexible solution in this sector.

Culverhouse: I see at your booth “The Power of Automation,” but I know one of the other messages Comau is putting out at Automate and throughout its range of products is accessibility. What is Comau doing to make robots more accessible for a wider audience?

Gorlier: Back to what we were discussing, AI is one of these drivers because it allows you to build solutions that are flexible. The investments in the long term becomes lower.

Secondly, all around the cobots and collaborative robots where you can deploy solutions that don't need all the fences and can be installed in into the customer side at a lower cost.

And last but not least, obviously standardization. The more you can standardize your solutions, and the more you can be efficient and effective also from a cost standpoint.

Culverhouse: And I know some recent news from you guys, you mentioned before the return of your historic red robotic family, the S-Robot family as well, what else is new on the horizon for Comau here moving forward in 2024?

Gorlier: Well, I think a big effort - two big efforts.

One is in e-mobility, supporting the electrification of transportation. As I said it's already more than 35% of our business, but we expect that to become 50% at least. That's the result simply of what's happening in the automotive sector. Now, we see some slowdown, but I will say still it's very consistent growth. And we are already in some Gigafactories and we plan to expand our solutions in that field.

And, then a big push into the into the fulfillment and logistic side of the business where the demand is high. We expect in the next few years, the demand of automation growing more than 14% every year. I think that if you look at how crowded the show is here, you understand the interest. Fulfillment is definitely, fulfillment, warehousing, packaging, I mean, everything around the logistics sector is probably the era where we will see bigger growth.

Culverhouse: You mentioned along with some of the other industries that you're doing, but the educational side of things and the Comau Academy. Can you elaborate a little bit on what Comau is doing on the educational front?

Gorlier: Something that I think is really interesting and something also different from what you can see here at Automate, we started an education business as an academy.

Starting from something that we do for our customers when you deploy a solution, then you need to do training for the customer. From there, we said, “Okay, maybe that training can be used to support the education of talents, in a new younger generation that may want to approach the automation business.”

I think that is relevant that because you know how difficult it is to find the new talent, specifically, in some of the industrial sector. That is the original e.DO.

But then we found out something very interesting in the last few years.

Expanding outside automotive, these new sectors that are approaching for the first time, automation - the need of automation - they don't have a heritage. I mean, when we work with automotive, automotive has a hundered years of automation. Clearly, they have built their own training systems.

And so now we are offering with our academy, training to whoever wants to approach automation, and in some cases, even doesn't know exactly what they want. And that's one interesting development. We have an academy team and one of the pluses of Comau, we are evenly covering North America, South America, Europe and also Asia-Pacific. We can provide training everywhere with local teams. It's a very interesting side of the business,

Culverhouse: You get the benefit of starting from scratch as compared to those years of history and repetition. Outside of the robotics, and the cobots and the arms that you have here, I also noticed your MATE exoskeletons. Could you talk a little bit about what we have with the MATE program?

Gorlier: The MATE program simply started from the understanding that in many sectors, you have operations that require a lot of effort from the workers. We actually started looking at the automotive lines where you still have a lot of work done underneath a car. If you've done painting or something like that, you understand how difficult it is to stay and stand and do something over your head.

We developed the higher-body exoskeleton that actually is not motorized. It's just using a system or levers and it removes the weight from your hand. Essentially, you can stay with the hands up, and you don't feel any weight.

Then we moved to the lumbar exoskeleton. That is helpful when you need to lift something. Full disclosure, we are not trying to transform workers into robots. Normally, that's the first reaction, “I don't want to become robot as a person.”

We are simply trying to remove the effort and make the operation lighter and create less fatigue. We have seen applications now and it's a sector that is growing. If you go around you can see a number of exoskeletons in the market. It's still a sector that is growing.

But, definitely it's making some operations easier and it's supporting the well-being of the employees and the workers on particularly heavy operation. We have launched the lumbar just a few months ago, so we are now ready to attack the market.

In fairness, it requires some vision from the leadership of the company because it's one of those positive effects that you don't immediately transform into a return on an investment. But there is no doubt that it makes people more comfortable in some heavy operations and helping the well-being of the employees.

Culverhouse: Thank you for taking some time at Automate here in Chicago to chat and I look forward to hearing more about Comau and all the different and exciting products that you guys have coming out today, throughout the year and in the future.

Gorlier: Thank you for stopping by.

Pietro Gorlier, CEO of Comau, and Tim Culverhouse, Editorial Director of Robotics 24/7, spoke about recent innovations from the company at Automate 2024 in Chicago.

About the Author

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Tim Culverhouse
Tim is the Editorial Director of His mission is to provide valuable information and insights to robotics professionals and decision-makers, and to help them solve business challenges. He is a creative, deadline-driven, and detail-oriented storyteller. In addition, he is a sports broadcaster and public address announcer.
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Comau CEO Pietro Gorlier announced the new S-Family of robots and more at Automate 2024 in Chicago.

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