After explosive growth in the robotics industry in recent years, safety is fast becoming a top priority.
Industrial robots are now commonplace in factories across the globe.
And in industries like fulfillment and warehouse logistics, there has been a rapid rise in the number of collaborative and autonomous mobile robots operating alongside humans.
One company leading the way when it comes to workplace safety is Axelent – a specialist in machine guarding. Axelent offers a complete safety concept for machinery, construction and storage.
Established in Sweden in 1990 the company has seen a spectacular global expansion, with representatives in nearly 60 countries.
Its biggest markets include Germany, France, US, Japan and South Korea.
Initially, Axelent’s main focus was in Europe, which became considerably easier when Sweden joined the EU in 1995. But in 2001 it crossed the Atlantic to the US and not long after set its sights on Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
Its co-founder and Export and Marketing Manager, Stefan Axelsson, visited Australia last week to officially open a major new facility in Adelaide – a milestone for the company Down Under.
The new premises at Melrose Park boasts 1400sqm of offices and meeting rooms as well as warehouse space.
“It will enable us to serve our customers in Australia and New Zealand with a quicker, much-improved service,” Mr Axelsson told Inside Robotics.
“Shipping product to Australia can take up to 12 weeks. But now with the bigger premises we can have large stocks on hand to service our customers more efficiently.
“At the same time, it gives our company a great opportunity for future growth in the region.”
World leader in machine guarding
All product development, production, storage and packaging takes place at Axelent’s head office at Hillerstorp, Sweden. As well as Adelaide, it also has major logistics centres in Chicago and Tokyo.
“The company produces 100,000 machine guarding panels a month and is now the world leader in machine guarding,” Mr Axelsson says proudly.
The company also supplies safety “add-ons” including safety doors, pedestrian and barriers, bollards and cable management systems.
Production is fully automated using a fleet of gantry robots and automated welding technology.
“Our product is quite unique,” he says. “We have own engineering company as part of the group with a team of 50 people. They build all of our machines in-house, which gives us a big advantage.”
Easy assembly is another big plus. Axelent’s machine guarding system has been boltless since 2008. It just clicks together, cutting assembly time by half.
Customers simply send through a sketch of their workplace needs online and the team at Axelent comes up with a solution.
If needed, Axelent will send a representative onsite to measure the area. The guarding is then purpose-built and delivered with a speedy turnaround time.
It is this strong focus on efficiency and customer service which has driven the company’s growth worldwide, says Mr Axelsson.
And the company has certainly come a long way since its humble beginnings.
Originally, Mr Axelsson’s father and uncle founded a company called Troax, making similar workplace safety products at small premises not far from the current facility in Sweden.
Troax was eventually sold and more than a decade later, Mr Axelssson and his cousin Johan founded Axelent with two other cousins.
In 2000, the two cousins bought out their cousins and current CEO Mats Hilding became a third partner in the business.
Ambitious growth plans
The company then began spreading its wings across the globe. It now has ambitious plans to expand further into Southeast Asian markets.
Later this year, it will open a state-of-the-art logistics hub in Bangkok, Thailand, to service the SE Asia region as well as Korea and India.
Mr Axelsson says increased automation of the manufacturing industry in recent years has brought with it a greater focus on machine safety.
This will create continued high growth for Axelent's products around the world, he says.
“There is now a greater need to protect workers and this will increase demand for safety products,” he says.
Mr Axelsson admits some companies are still reluctant to install protective fencing for their staff and visitors.
But should an accident happen, those companies face serious consequences – including heavy penalties and lost production.
His advice for companies seeking workplace safety solutions?
“Companies should seek advice from safety experts to make sure it conforms with current safety rules and regulations.
“In the end, you are responsible for the safety of your workers.
“So, it pays to do some due diligence to determine what safety products are on the market and which of those products is best suited for your business.”