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New president to take super-successful robotics company to new heights

In the past two years, Universal Robots’ sales have increased by more than 200%, and the company is on the verge of launching its next phase of growth. Jürgen von Hollen is the new president of Universal Robots and he wants to give the company a solid base to support this rapid growth.
Universal Robots headquarters in Odense produces between 20 and 30 robot arms a day. Photo: Nils Rosenvold

Publiceret: 15.12.2016
Af Laura Flader mail

Universal Robots in Odense produces between 20 and 30 robot arms a day. The robot arms take nine hours to produce, they have rung the bell at the Nasdaq stock exchange i New York and made Universal Robots worth billions. Most recently, the robot arms have helped recruit an international high-flyer for the Universal Robots headquarter in Odense.
Jürgen von Hollen, the company’s new president, is sitting in a bright red sofa surrounded by dark furniture while drizzle falls outside the window. Working in cold and damp Denmark or in the sunshine somewhere exotic is all the same to him.

“It was quite by chance that I ended up in Denmark. I really don’t mind where in the world I work. The unique technology being developed by Universal Robots is what attracted me. The technology speaks for itself. It’s cool and exciting,” says Jürgen von Hollen.

Jürgen von Hollen believed that the technology was so cool that he quit his job at Bilfinger, a German company, where he was managing 10,000 staff. He now commutes between Odense and his home in Frankfurt.

The building blocks supporting growth

Universal Robots was founded in 2005 by Esben Østergaard, Kasper Støy and Kristian Kassow who were all researchers at the University of Southern Denmark.

Ten years later – in 2015 – the company had a turnover of DKK 418 million and was sold to Teradyne, an American company, for almost DKK 2 billion.

Jürgen von Hollen joined as president at the beginning of October. His task is now to build up a solid base to support the rapid growth that the company is now undergoing.

“The company has grown enormously fast in classic entrepreneurial style and has concentrated on getting the product to market. The company is now bigger and entering a new phase of growth. Over the next few years, I will be putting a structure in place to support this next phase,” says Jürgen von Hollen.

The structure will be made up of technology, a sufficient number of skilled employees, innovation and sales.  

“The technology and the product are fantastic and really fill a gap in the market, but we need to continue innovating. We have already got many highly skilled employees, but the question is how to attract more and make them stay,” says Jürgen von Hollen.

Robotics with huge potential

The idea behind the robot arm is to facilitate the work done by others and create a robot that can be used in any context and operated by anyone.

“We don’t yet know what the potential of the robot is. We are only just scratching the surface, but as soon as we start investigating the potential, we generate innovation. Now our customers are using the robots for things that we could never have imagined. Humans and our robots work side by side and you’d be surprised at the wide range of applications for these arms when customers combine them with their own technology,” says Jürgen von Hollen.

Now Jürgen von Hollen wants to think out of the box to allow Universal Robots to develop its robot arm further and expand its market.

Company culture to attract employees

Universal Robots is not the only robotics company in Odense. In fact, things are going so well for the robotics companies located in Odense that they are short of labour.

The 80 companies have therefore got together in a ‘robotics cluster’ where they have set up a shared job bank. The shortage of qualified labour is something the new president recognises as both a global and a local problem. He wants the company to put a culture in place that is exciting enough to attract the staff they need.

“Everyone is looking for the right employees. We don’t just need to sell our product. We also need to sell our company to people out there. The technology, the product and the market are already attractive and we need people to choose our company,” says Jürgen von Hollen.

The company must become a disruptor

Technological innovation has almost killed GPS, MP3 players and typewriters. The culture at the company is important if Universal Robots is to avoid being overtaken by developments although Jürgen von Hollen is not really afraid of being disrupted.

“We just need to ensure that we are the disruptor. Of course, that’s always difficult, but it’s all about creating an environment where it’s difficult for competitors to enter the market. In the current situation, it’s not only the product that counts, but employees and surroundings. If you only focus on the product, it’s dangerous because things run so fast and something new appears every year,” he says.

Universal Robots currently has a 60% share of the global cobot market. Cobots are robots that work with people and other technology.

In future, the company wants to create an environment that will attract innovative employees and make it hard for competitors to enter the marketplace.

“The branding of the company and the culture it offers are critical and important in the company’s more mature phase. But over the next two to three years, we need to focus on what we already have because we still have much more to win than to lose,” he says.  

Universal Robots A/S

Founded in 2005
by the three researchers Esben Østergaard, Kasper Støy and Kristian Kassow
Head office and production in Odense
320 employees
globally, 250 in Odense
A turnover of DKK 418 million in 2015
Sold to the American company Teradyne for almost DKK 2 billion in 2015
Subsidiaries and regional offices in 12 countries and distribution in more than 50 countries
Jürgen von Hollen
President at Universal Robots A/S
50 years old
Born in South Africa
Lives outside Frankfurt with his wife and four children
Speaks German, English, Dutch and Afrikaans
Has a Bachelor degree in Business and Politics from Brock University in Canada and a Master’s degree in Business Administration from Henley Management College in the United Kingdom
Everyone is looking for the right employees. We don’t just need to sell our product. We also need to sell our company to people out there.
More info
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PUBLISHED: 12/15/2016 LAST MODIFIED: 12/16/2016