Thank you Manuela Bruhin for the great interview!
From „greenhorns“ to professionals
Three people from Thurgau are bringing forth a world first. And it’s in the cleaning industry. What has long been known in the household is also to become acceptable in industry: A robot that ensures cleanliness.
The industrial cleaning robot manages to do what many have already have already failed. The device does not have to be trained for a specific to a specific room. As the Kemaro founders Armin Koller, Thomas Oberholzer and Martin Gadient succeeded in doing this, why they nevertheless challenges and how they managed to get investors on board, and how they managed to get investors on board.
You founded Kemaro together about three years ago. Was it always a dream of yours to start your own business?
We founders have known each other for many years and previously worked for a large worked at a large engineering firm for product development. The projects were always exciting. But the dream of developing our own product product became more and more important. When we had the vision of the autonomous sweeper for industrial cleaning, we were so convinced that we could convinced that we had to give up our jobs as development engineers and and founded KEMARO.
A bold move. What happened after that?
Very exciting and instructive! We have spent a lot of time on product and company development. And in doing so, we gave up a lot of free time and luxury. The customer was always the focus of our of our considerations. We specified the requirements with market surveys market surveys: „What would the robot have to be able to do? What would be the needs of our product?“. We didn’t know the cleaning industry, which was a blessing and blessing at the same time.
Curse because we had to dig deep into the subject of cleaning. into the subject of cleaning. On the other hand, it was a blessing because, as greenhorns, we questioned many many classic cleaning products and solved challenges in a different way. challenges. Thanks to direct contact with potential customers, we learned a lot about the we learned a lot about the problems of conventional cleaning. After two years of development, we sold the first series of robots to customers such as Coop customers such as Coop, Landi and other „household names“, also in Germany and Austria. In the dialogue with customers, we have learned a great deal and have their wishes directly into the product 2.0. In autumn 2019 we brought our first investors on board and now have financial funds to make the KEMARO-800 fit for larger series.
There are many wet cleaning robots, but they have chosen different approaches. The robot can clean halls up to 10,000 square metres. Is the size also the biggest challenge?
The size of the halls and the specific requirements of industrial companies were very challenging during the development of the product. The knowledge of how to solve these problems is our capital today, and a market advantage that should not be underestimated. In addition to the cleaning process, we have also chosen different approaches in the navigation software. Our robot is the only industrial cleaning robot in the world that does not have to be taught for a specific room! Wet cleaning robots, for example, must first be taught to the respective room with a map or a teach-in procedure. Only then can they start cleaning.
With what consequences?
If the room changes too much, for example because pallets have been removed, these robots lose their orientation and can no longer continue cleaning. This is completely impractical for the user, especially in the warehouse area, and requires a lot of supervision by trained personnel. With our KEMARO-800 we have implemented the „plug and play“ approach. The robot starts at the push of a button or time programming and off it goes with the cleaning. There are no more programming hours for the technician, our KEMARO-800 learns autonomously. Once the area has been cleaned, the user receives a report of the cleaned areas – up to 10,000 square metres. As soon as the battery is empty, the robot automatically returns to the charging station.
The implementation of this size is therefore a challenge. Production halls in particular have many obstacles.
The KEMARO-800 continuously maps the space. Obstacles are detected with the latest 3D sensors and updated on the map. This gives the robot a precise picture of its surroundings. Since the KEMARO-800 was deliberately developed with a low height in mind, it also cleans in places where it is very difficult for humans to reach, for example underneath conveyor or production systems. By means of sensor information, the robot decides for itself whether it can master narrow passages and clean them.
How does it look in terms of costs?
Our market analysis showed that the conventional cleaning of one square metre of warehouse space costs about five francs per year. With our KEMARO-800, these costs can be at least halved. You can calculate for yourself what that means for large logistics halls. In the vast majority of cases, the purchase price of our robot is amortised in less than a year. One of our customers amortised the KEMARO-800 in a few weeks because since it was put into operation he no longer has to shut down his production line for cleaning.
You once said that there are expansion plans for the EU and USA.
We are in talks with distribution partners and are thus pushing ahead with geographical expansion. Due to the many enquiries and the great potential, we are focusing on the DACH region for the time being. We get enquiries from Germany every day, which makes us very confident – for expansion and the future.
So what are the further plans and goals that lie ahead?
From summer 2020, the next generation of robots will go into production and the expansion with the sales partners will begin. In addition, we are continuously expanding our team in order to develop even faster and more customer-focused. And finally, financing is omnipresent for us as a start-up. The industrialisation of production and the rapid expansion we are aiming for require further capital. Therefore, we are still looking for investors. Potential investors are welcome to drop by for a coffee.
Armin Koller, Thomas Oberholzer and Martin Gadient founded the start-up KEMARO in summer 2016 with the idea of developing a fully autonomous sweeper, the KEMARO-800. In summer 2018, they were drawn to a classic „start-up garage“ in an old industrial building in Eschlikon. A few months later, the first robot was delivered – a milestone in the company’s history. To date, demand for the autonomous cleaning robot has increased sharply, especially from Germany. By March 2020, the company will increase to seven employees and move into its first „real“ office.