- Kim Povlsen, the newly appointed president of Universal Robots, talks to Insider about his strategy to drive creativity.
- Universal Robots launched the world’s first commercially viable collaborative robot (or cobot) in 2008.
- Because of his work, Insider named former Universal Robots president, Jurgen Von Hollen to our annual list of the 10 leaders transforming manufacturing in Europe.
- Visit Insider’s Transforming Business homepage for more stories.
Universal Robots launched the world’s first commercially viable collaborative robot (or cobot) in 2008 and has since become the fastest-growing segment of the global robotics market. With the recent departure of Jurgen Von Hollen, the company’s new president Kim Povlsen, “the new enzyme to the UR innovation formula,” and former elite athlete talks to Insider about leadership, human ingenuity, and how COVID-19 has changed manufacturing.
Insider: How will you continue to drive innovation in your new role at Universal Robots?
Povlsen: UR is driven by ingenuity, creativity, and a genuine desire to improve workplaces and global productivity. It is my ambition to build on this heritage and bring the flexible cobots to new audiences.
I will draw on my background from The Maersk Mc Kinney Moller Institute at Syddansk Universitet. This unique environment hatched several figures from the Danish robotics community and the creativity found here is a key ingredient for future innovation. In this sense, I am the new enzyme to the UR innovation formula. I will support the boldest ideas and link them to commercial opportunities to push UR innovation forward.
Insider: What exciting new plans can we expect to see from UR?
Povlsen: The industrial world is at a crossroads. Decisions must be made for more agile and adaptable production paradigms to accommodate new consumer behaviors. This is relevant for large corporates as well as SMBs, and UR’s flexible cobots are positioned perfectly to play a pivotal role in this paradigm shift. UR’s open ecosystem and UR+ platform will play a key role in this transformation and continue to create new use cases for cobots.
Insider: How excited are you for what the next few years in robotics looks like and how does UR fit into this picture?
Povlsen: I am beyond excited to have entered the UR world at a time and place, when the manufacturing industry is reaching out for new approaches to increase productivity in a more flexible and customer-centric way. We have only just scratched the surface of potential within robotics. We see new applications, open innovation, and global developments driving flexible automation forward at an ever-increasing pace.
Insider: What’s your leadership ethos and what’s it like working with you?
Povlsen: I constantly drive myself and my colleagues mad with the “why” question. Why are we doing what we are doing and to what extent do our actions support this ethos? It is imperative to step back from time to time to reflect and to challenge. This can guide the organisation towards greater goals.
As a former elite athlete, I also believe in multifaceted talent development. You need to improve on several parameters to create sustainable growth and creative drive.
Insider: How has the pandemic impacted the industry (positive and negative) and how will the industry cope?
Povlsen: No doubt the pandemic has challenged the manufacturing industry. Restrictions disrupted supply chains and lockdowns have posed immense financial and practical urgencies on owners as well as staff and management. At the same time, we have witnessed new creativity and the adoption of new technologies – such as allowing more local and flexible production. In this light, I believe the manufacturing industry will come out on top, reinvent itself and be prepared for new global opportunities.
Insider: What lessons have you and your company learned?
Povlsen: We have witnessed, in the most challenging of circumstances, that human ingenuity and technological advancements present new and unexpected potentials. We have seen manufacturers realigning their production to Covid safety equipment assisted by flexible cobots. These examples will inspire and drive innovation forward.