It’s never easy to be a pioneer inunchartered territory, but Altus Mostert, founder and MD of RoboticInnovations, is proving himself more than up to the challenge. Just four yearsago he started the company from home with a borrowed laptop. Today he employs 14people and does an annual turnover of R15 million.
The business supplies turnkey solutions tomanufacturing companies and has managed to carve a niche for itself, as Mostertexplains. “In this sector you get companies that supply robotic equipment and companiesthat supply automated equipment. Where we’re different is that we assess abusiness’s needs and develop a turnkey solution to meet those needs, usingrobotic and automated equipment. So while these elements form part of thesystem solution we provide, the value we add extends far beyond the simpledeployment of equipment.” He adds that robotics and automation haveimmense potential to help fill a critical skills shortage gap. “In particular,there is a desperate need for welders, but very few qualified people in thisfield,” he says. Some 90% of the company’s business comes from businessesrequiring welding applications while the remaining 10% is made of up companiesthat require handling solutions. But in spite of growing demand forautomated and robotic solutions, Mostert says the local market still remainssceptical and uninformed about the field in which he operates. “Without doubt,our biggest challenge has been educating the market about what robotics andautomation entail and what their role in the production line will be once thesolutions are deployed, as well as convincing them of the value that theseproducts and systems can add to their business.” Mostert compares the local market withEurope, where he worked for a robotics company in Germany as part of a studentexchange programme while at Pretoria Technikon. “Robotics and automation arefar more widely used in Europe so there is less need to convince people oftheir value.”
To overcome the challenge, he’s investedheavily in disseminating relevant and accessible information to clients andprospective markets. “It’s an ongoing education campaign and it takes time, butover the past four years we definitely noticed an increase in demand andfamiliarity with our solutions. Of course it’s always difficult when a companybuys their first robot, but once they’ve realised the value and are looking atbuying a second one, the road is far smoother and there are fewer obstacles,”he says. Along with ongoing customer education, thebusiness’s success has been boosted by strategic partnerships that Mostertformed early on with other key players in his sector. “We have agreements withFanuk, which supplies robotics, and Link & Electrical, which supplieswelding equipment, to only use their equipment in the deployment of oursolutions, and we get a lot of leads sent through to us by them, which hashelped the business enormously,” he explains. Although there are a few competitors in themarket, Robotic Innovations has gained significant market share and developed areputation for service delivery, excellence and innovation. It was recentlynominated as a finalist in the Business Partners Entrepreneur of the YearAwards, thanks in part to its steep growth curve and business potential. What all this means is that Mostert hasplenty of business to keep him busy. He’s increased his staff complement to 14people and although he says he’s always on the look-out for qualified andexperienced technicians, he has no big expansion plans at the moment. “Our success stories have started togenerate work and this has meant less need to focus on marketing. I thinkultimately we’ve gained market share and developed a reputation throughfocusing on doing things right, and I believe that growth will flow naturally aspart of an organic process if we continue doing that. That’s our focus for thefuture,” he concludes. Contact: +27 12 345 4373; bwww.roboticinnovations.co.za