10.2. 2017 Kuukauden kasvo

Robot specialist

Ari Laukkanen has been fascinated with robots for nearly 30 years. He got a new spark from founding his own company which turned out to be exactly the right move.

Ari Laukkanen has worked with robots since the 1980s and has held e.g. more than a thousand training sessions on the subject. Thus switching from a salaried job to a robotics service entrepreneur in 2010 went smoothly. He founded Avertas Robotics Oy together with his friend since youth Rami Saari who manages the company’s financial administration.

Before founding the company, the two entrepreneurs went to Potkuri to get advice for new entrepreneurs and got help in founding the company and applying for a start-up grant and later for extending it. Ari Laukkanen also participated in entrepreneur training, but it didn’t benefit him much, as he had already been in working life for twenty years. The company started out well, because most of the customers were familiar to him and it was easy for them to rely on his solid expertise.

Training is important

Expertise does not depend on Mr Laukkanen alone, but it’s constantly growing in the company. There are a total of eight employees, and new robotics automation and electrical engineers have been hired from the Turku University of Applied Sciences. Upon arrival in the company they are provided with comprehensive training on the products.

”That’s my way to do things. The personnel go to training regularly, because it’s better not to send the employees to meet a customer until they know the equipment. In addition, we try to learn from all situations that we come across. It’s an ongoing process.”

In seven years the company has expanded both its representation and services. The company represents the biggest brands in the industry: premium brand Kuka (system partner), ABB and Fanuc (integrator) as well as services for Motoman machines. Full service is available for all brands, which in addition to the machines means maintenance, consultation and spare parts. The company also designs and manufactures complete robot lines.

New robots contain a lot of information technology and cameras. They are used, for example, in packaging, welding and handling of objects. There are hundreds of different versions ranging from the smallest special robots to large robots with a lifting capacity of hundreds of kilos.

Target at growth

Mr Laukkanen thinks that the best way to succeed in the robotics business is a good service approach. The company develops new ideas based on the customers’ wishes, and one example of a focal area is the development of machine vision. Today, nearly half of the robots are equipped with various camera systems. The company has managed to attract maintenance customers e.g. due to their short response time, which means that a repairman can usually be sent out on the same day a malfunction occurs.

”We have a definite goal to grow, although the competition is tight and we have to fight for each deal. Even though we are a small company, we have recently been among the final two in the process for choosing the provider.”

In the financial year that ended in February 2016, the company’s turnover increased from half a million to one million euros. The budget for the next financial year is 1.5 million euros. Around two thirds of the turnover comes from the sales of new machines.

”We have also been able to hire new employees. One joined us just before the turn of the year, and another one will probably be hired this year. We also have plans to buy a piece of real estate, because we need more space, and in the long term it is cheaper than renting. Maybe at that point we need to contact the Town of Raisio, so far we have had no contacts with them.”

Both of Ari Laukkanen’s children have studied robotics and also work in the company. Pyry Laukkanen is an engineer and Matilda Laukkanen graduated as an automation assembler two years ago and works in maintenance.

The outlook for growth in the business is positive, and in recent months the demand has picked up again. In Finland the degree of robotisation is still low compared to, for example, Sweden, although robots can generate competitive advantage, as they improve productivity considerably. Furthermore, the typical lifecycle of robots is at least 20 years, and the payback period is around two years. The benefits of robot work also include uniform quality and even 24-hour operating. The amount of investment varies from small grabber robots of 30,000–40,000 euros to welding lines of half a million euros.

Endless enthusiasm

Ari Laukkanen is so enthusiastic about his company that he can’t even bear to take holidays.

“This is a really fascinating field, although it means hard work and my job description is broad. Sometimes I work in overalls, at other times I take customers for a tour in a suit. You have to be able to do everything, but I’ve also taught myself not to try to do everything by myself.”

Mr Laukkanen tries to work normal hours and take weekends off. He doesn’t have any particular leisure activities, unless you count repairs of an old wooden detached house which are necessary from time to time.

”We spend ordinary home life, which means resting. In my youth I practised competitive rowing, but left it when the robot work started and I often travelled abroad on business. That’s why I’m no longer interested in travelling at all. Instead, I’m an avid reader of scientific literature and interested in history. Every day I read something, and the BBC’s science programmes are the best entertainment for me.

Ari Laukkanen is also interested in music and has some electric guitars and one acoustic guitar in his basement. He rocks out or picks a slow blues depending on the mood, but has not played in any bands.

On outdoor walks he is often accompanied by the family’s two small dogs; miniature poodle Hani, and “the world’s best” terrier Muru brought over from Spain. The dogs are also portrayed in a wall calendar.

Text and photos: Anne Kortela

Ari Laukkanen

  • Managing Director and co-founder, Avertas Robotics Oy, Raisio
  • Born (1964) and lives in Turku
  • Education: precision mechanic, Turku vocational school of technology (1981–1983)
  • Career:
    • 2010– Entrepreneur, Avertas Robotics Oy
    • 1988–2010 Robot programmer and trainer, Motoman Robotics Finland Oy
    • 1986–1988 Automation specialist, Finlux Oy
    • 1983–1986 Technician, Auramarine Oy
    • Wife Mia and two adult children Pyry and Matilda who work in dad’s company
    • Leisure activities: playing the guitar, non-fiction literature, history, BBC science programmes, repairing of a detached house, competitive rowing in youth
    • Other: Two dogs (Hani and Muru)