Deagostini Japan and Mitsui Sumitomo bank are introducing a Robi branded VISA credit card in Japan next month. The introductory campaign includes Robi branded items including a mini Robi figure and Quo prepaid cards featuring an original Robi design.
Needless to say, the promotion is only open to Japan residents.
It’s an age-old, or at least decades-old, story. A startup company, based on exciting technology and full of enthusiasm, comes roaring out of the gate ready to set the world on fire. They garner tons of media attention, recruit some of the top people in the industry, attract healthy amounts of venture capital, and proceed full speed ahead. Then at some point, often three or four years into their evolution, they are forced by the realities of product and market development to “select and focus”. They realise that they can’t develop a viable, sustainable business trying to do too many things at once.
Rethink Robotics, one of the most exciting and innovative robotics companies to appear over the past six years, apparently reached that stage this week and has announced significant layoffs amounting to almost a quarter of their estimated headcount.
According to a report on Boston.com, Rethink Robotics CEO Scott Eckert said that -
"...the layoffs are the result of Rethink deciding to focus on the market segments that have been most receptive to Baxter since its launch, including plastics manufacturing, consumer goods, and warehousing and logistics. Rethink has also been selling Baxter to academic and corporate research labs in the U.S. and overseas."
A restructuring of this magnitude, while certainly a concern, isn’t that unusual for high tech startups during this phase of their development. In fact, if managed properly, it can be quite healthy and could put the company in a much stronger position in the long term.
At the same time there is a significant risk that some customers may have a degree of trepidation about committing to the Rethink Robotics design approach, especially for robot implementations that are mission critical for their companies. Robotics, unlike software applications or consumer electronics, are used in critical parts of their customers manufacturing and supply chains.
Rethink represents a dramatic shift in the way that companies think about and implement robotics, and can potentially yield significant benefits. But before companies adopt the Rethink approach they have to be extremely confident that Rethink as a company will be around to support them.
In many ways it’s a chicken/egg problem, and one that we hope and expect will play out well for Rethink. Restructuring and refocusing is absolutely the right move at this point. They have the right technology at the right time in the right market. The opportunity is their’s to win, or to lose.
Bloomberg reports that Apple plans to spend a record $10.5 billion on improving and optimizing their supply chain including assembly robots, factory automation, milling machines, and other technology.
The information, derived in large part from Apple’s fiscal 2014 capital expenditure forecast, clearly demonstrates that Apple takes full control and ownership of their supply chain, unlike many other companies that tend to throw designs over the fence and leave the details up to their suppliers.
This isn’t a new initiative for the Apple management leadership. Prior to taking over as CEO when Steve Jobs passed away, Tim Cook husbanded the creation/re-engineering of Apple’s existing supply chain. However, it does represent a major “power-up” move since the forecast 2014 capital expenditures represent a 61% increase from the previous fiscal year and a whooping 10X increase over the 2008 numbers.
Doing a bit more research after my previous post on the Apple Mac Pro I found an excellent writeup on the Atomic Delights blog that goes through the entire Mac Pro manufacturing/assembly process step by step.
The article is definitely worth taking a few minutes to read through if you’re interested in what state-of-the-art manufacturing can accomplish, especially if you have the technology and deep pockets of Apple.
Given all the video and photos I process, it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that my next computer purchase will be the new Mac Pro. Even though it’s a bit pricey, the speed and processing power it is expected to deliver will improve my output and efficiency considerably.
So, it’s good to know that the Mac Pro assembly is being done in the U.S. Although I fully understand that it won’t mean a lot of jobs being repatriated from off-shore to the States, every little bit helps. And, it’s judicious application of robotics and factory automation technology that makes it both cost effective and good business to do the assembly Stateside.
Here’s a look at the Mac Pro manufacturing and assembly process:
Makerbot and America Makes jointly announced “Makerbot Academy”, a new initiative to support and strengthen American schools and STEM education. A big part of the initiative centres around giving students access to technology to foster interest, curiosity, and enthusiasm in STEM.
The new Makerbot Academy, with support from donors, plans to place thousands of 3D printers in schools across the nation. Here’s the opening text of the announcement:
We’re proud to announce MakerBot Academy, an educational mission to put a MakerBot® Desktop 3D Printer in every school in the United States of America.
The first MakerBot Academy initiative includes 3D printing bundles for classrooms, an awesome Thingiverse Challenge, and generous support from individuals and organizations.
What You Can Do
1. Get the word out. Tell the teachers you know to register at DonorsChoose.org.
2. Support a school. Contribute to the effort by choosing a teacher; help get them set for the Next Industrial Revolution.
3. Participate in the Thingiverse Challenge. Develop models that teachers can use to improve Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education.
Responding to a Presidential Call to Action
At this year’s State Of The Union address, President Obama announced a new initiative to bring manufacturing jobs back to the US. He affirmed, “3D printing has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything. The next industrial revolution in manufacturing will happen in America.”
We’re inspired by the President’s commitment to keep America at the forefront of the Next Industrial Revolution and we’re eager to do our part to educate the next generation of innovative makers who will keep our economy strong.
Let’s Get MakerBot Desktop 3D Printers into American Schools
Together with America Makes, and by leveraging the crowdfunding power of DonorsChoose.org, we’re launching our first MakerBot Academy initiative: Get thousands of MakerBot® Replicator® 2 Desktop 3D Printers into K-12 public school classrooms across the country — by December 31, 2013!