Roborigger founder, Derick Markwell, recently sat with Invest and Trade WA and Export Council Australia (ECA) to talk about how Roborigger has gone from strength to strength since winning the unprecedented three Platinum awards at the WA Innovator of the Year in 2019, and thrived despite the challenges of COVID-19.
In 2020, COVID-19 pandemic restrictions began just as Roborigger was on the cusp of global growth – staff were unable to meet clients in person, or organise demonstrations on project sites.
Even when Roborigger units were hired, the restrictions on interstate and overseas travel limited the company’s capacity to train and certify crane operators on site, and slowed down their business development progress.
“We had commitments for our units, and we have fulfilled those orders. But then we found out we couldn’t go over there to support them, so we had to find another way,” Mr Markwell said.
The Roborigger team organised online training for their operators and combined it with their network of service agents and their units’ availability in different cities. This meant they could continue to implement their trials and training, even without their team being able to travel interstate or overseas.
“In a way it was good. It forced us to look for and find a solution that could work, implement it, and make an advance in this area,” Mr Markwell said. “We wouldn’t have done it so quickly without the COVID imperative. Having it available now is a big advantage to the business.”
Roborigger is currently represented by service agents in Australia, located in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, as well as in Singapore, Japan, Denmark and Germany, with discussions ongoing for representatives in the United Kingdom and Norway.
Roborigger has recently delivered units to Germany and Japan, and a Roborigger unit has been operating in Dubai for Alec in the United Arab Emirates.
“The $5 million investment by Blackbird Ventures has really made a huge difference to us. We decided to shift our focus to the software side, as there is no impediment to getting software written, as opposed to moving hardware,” Mr Markwell said.
“It’s a completely new business line, we’ve now hired 3 people whose only job is developing the software that uses the lift data and images collected by the Roborigger devices. We believe software will be a very significant part of the business for many years.”
“We now have geofencing implemented as a core feature of the product. Our software is now able to track all of our clients’ planned lifts for the day on the one side of the screen and show the actual lifts that have been recorded on the other side of the screen. As you go through the day you can see whether you are ahead of, or behind schedule.”
Mr Markwell attributes the continued success and growth to the company’s staff. The continued interest in Roborigger signals the confidence of industry in the potential of Roborigger technology to revolutionise crane lifting and logistics practices globally.
“We have always known that we needed to be on the world stage. And we have made a commitment that we were going full steam ahead, regardless of COVID-19, so we have worked hard to build new units and expand overseas,” Mr Markwell said.
“For a start-up, having companies like Multiplex and Woodside as our early adopters has been key to developing a commercial ready technology. These are the companies that have strong and genuine focus on safety and innovation and are prepared to invest in a technology that may take a long time to be operational.
“We’ve got enough genuine successes to give me total confidence in the product and the fact that it’s a product for the future,” he said.