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50 Best Companies to Watch 2023

Labor-saving solutions: Ken Robotech Corporation's collaborative robot, TOMOROBO, is improving productivity and reducing the burden on workers

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"As of today, Ken Robotech has assisted over 100 building sites in Japan using TOMOROBO."

Ken Robotech Corporation creates labor-saving technologies for building sites that increase production and minimize the stress on workers. They help to shape the construction industry's evolution and development. TOMOROBO, SOKUTETSU, and other brands are among the company's offerings. Ken Robotech's goal is to establish a delightful construction site where humans and robots can work.

Tatsuya Manabe, CEO of Ken Robotech Corporation, spoke exclusively to the Silicon Review about how his company is creating the world's most human-friendly worksite.

Interview Highlights

Q. What circumstances or events led to the creation of Ken Robotech Corporation? Please brief us about the history so far.

Ken Robotech has been at the forefront of offering innovative solutions that increase productivity and reduce the workload of workers at construction sites. The company`s strength lies in its ability to develop practical solutions that meet the conditions and needs of the construction site. For instance, its self-propelled collaborative robot, TOMOROBO, is designed to improve productivity and reduce the burden on workers.

In Japan, there are several companies like ours that are developing robots for construction sites. However, nobody has completed the technology and products that can be used at the actual working site for daily activities. That`s where we excel. Our rebar tying robot, TOMOROBO, is already commercially available for rental and sale in Japan, and it is also being made available to countries in the ASEAN region, besides making inroads in the USA as well.

Q. How does Ken Robotech solve the social problem of labor shortages? What are its key focus areas?

TOMOROBO emphasizes safety, operating reliability, and indestructibility under hard operating conditions.

Safety is ensured by two types of safety sensors located on the top and bottom of the main body. It stops when the sensor detects a person or an obstacle. As a result, workers can be safe even while working close to TOMOROBO.

Every part of TOMOROBO is originally designed and manufactured with enough technical allowance, which contributes to its workability in a hard operating environment. As the solution can be introduced immediately at the construction site, it becomes easy for customersto realize productivity improvement, safety, and worker burden reduction. In addition to providing the robot itself, Ken Robotech offers comprehensive support by providing tools, know-how, and human resources for a smooth introduction of smart construction using TOMOROBO.

Q. What can you tell us about the collaborative robot, the TOMOROBO Series? How do these robots improve the productivity of construction sites?

Ken Robotech develops collaborative robots (COBOTs) that can collaborate with people and significantly increase production rate per head. It is determined by four criteria: durability, operability, safety, and price. The company prioritizes durability and operability above expensive advanced sensing technologies, so workers remain at ease even with semi-automation. Ken Robotech accomplishes this by introducing items from the perspective and thinking of individual workers.

TOMOROBO can be used constantly for 11 hours on a single charge, compared to construction workers working for 8 hours. In this 11 hour work scenario, TOMOROBO is 110%–200% more productive than the Japanese construction worker. Furthermore, a construction worker can manage 6,500 rebar ties in an eight-hour shift, but the TOMOROBO can manage 10,000 rebar ties in an eight-hour shift.

Q. What sets TOMOROBO apart from its competitors?

As of today, Ken Robotech has assisted over 100 building sites in Japan using TOMOROBO. Similar inroads have lately been made in Singapore. For example, the company was able to increase the productivity of one of its clients in slab rebar construction by 25%. The company was able to complete the same amount of rebar construction with just 70% of the personnel, increasing the client's output rate per hour.

To put in simply, other similar goods or robotics are very expensive, did not make it to market, or have very limited utility after battery charging. Our products are placed among the top 5 construction companies in Japan with minimum operational queries and a high satisfaction rate.

Q. What are some of the initiatives taken to ensure continuous product improvement?

After the introduction of the TOMOROBO product, we made several changes, such as:

  • Released a Slider: This makes it easier to move the TOMOROBO from one rebar to another rebar using just a single person.
  • New Type for Rebar #6 to Rebar #9: In order to tie rebars with a larger diameter, a larger version of the product was released.
  • Rain Cover: Although TOMOROBO is operable during light rain showers, the special rain cover was introduced to make it able to perform in rain showers of up to 5mm per hour.

Q. Are there any features available to ensure TOMROBO does not topple during usage?

The following features generally prevent the toppling of TOMOROBO:

  • The TOMOROBO has a tolerance of plus or minus 40mm in the event of a variance in the rebar width.
  • TOMOROBO has a tolerance of up to five degrees if there is a general variance in slope or gradient.
  • TOMOROBO has up to three safety detection features. Specifically, two sensors at the top on either side to detect human touch and a sensor at the bottom to detect human touch will generally stop when met with an obstacle. Additionally, it has another sensor at the bottom that detects the end of the rebar, which makes it automatically stop at the end of a rebar.

Tell us what’s next for Ken Robotech Corporation.

We plan to release another 10 new products over the next 3 years in order to benefit and add value to the construction industry. For the time being, we have released the Transport Robot, which has a compact 25 Kg body and a carrying capacity of up to 500 kg at once. In addition, the Roof Seaming Robot, which can seam metal roof materials, has been released. It has three main characteristics: it is five times faster than a human, it is light and hence easy to operate with just one person, and it is safe. The existing TOMOROBO has also been fully automated, and it can now go to the next rebar on its own.

Q. Is there anything you would like to add before we wrap up?

Furthermore, Ken Robotech ensures that its labor-saving solutions considerably decrease health dangers associated by extended working hours and moving heavy goods in the same position in order to make them consistent with SDG goals. The company's labor-saving solutions are critical in increasing employment prospects for women on construction sites while decreasing tasks that require physical strength and power.

Globally, labor shortages and rising building material costs are clear; hence, by introducing TOMOROBO, construction personnel can focus on jobs that demand advanced craftsmanship while the collaborative robot, TOMOROBO, does the other repetitive duties.

Tatsuya Manabe | Founder & CEO

Tatsuya Manabe has been involved in R & D in construction sites since 2013. His passion has always been to design the most human-friendly construction sites in the world. He was one of 50 finalists chosen by the Editorial Board of Nikkei Architecture for the title '10 Great Architects 2021'. Mr. Manabe has always been quite engaged in process improvement and technology introduction in the construction sector, and many of his suggestions/methods relating to rebar units and spacer usage have been applied locally.

"Our products are placed among the top 5 construction companies in Japan with minimum operational queries and a high satisfaction rate."