A new venture-backed startup has come to Columbus ready to change the manufacturing world with robotics.

Ready Robotics is a company that manufactures, builds and leases robots to other companies to benefit their manufacturing processes. Founded in Baltimore in April 2016 — where it will retain a sales and marketing operation — the company opened its second office, now the headquarters, in Columbus earlier this year.

The TaskMate is one of Ready Robotics’ most popular products — a robotic arm that can be coded to perform specific, repetitive tasks. Credit: Courtesy of Ready Robotics

Originally, it consisted of just two employees: co-founders Benjamin Gibbs and Kelleher Guerin, but the company has expanded to 30 full-time and seven part-time employees, most of whom moved to Columbus with the February 2018 establishment of the new headquarters, Gibbs, also the CEO, said.

“Venture capitalists are specifically interested in high-growth, high-risk and therefore high-return investments and are always looking for companies that have the ability to disrupt established industries,” Gibbs said.

Gibbs said that disruption is a goal of Ready Robotics, which is why it made sense for the company to raise money that was largely backed by Drive Capital, a venture capital firm in Columbus.

“Silicon Valley is in the DNA of Drive Capital,” Gibbs said. “The people that started that company come from Silicon Valley, but their entire investment thesis is investing in companies outside of the valley that are located near their customer base because that’s a competitive advantage.”

Gibbs said there was some pressure to move to Silicon Valley because that is primarily where the investors are, however, the Midwest is where the factories and consumers are located.

“We found Columbus to be a very forward-thinking, innovative city that we fit into quite well,” he said.

Gibbs said the Midwest contains 60 percent of the U.S.’ factories, which makes it easier for the company to work not only with customers, but people who understand manufacturing and industrial automation.

“Manufacturing and industrial automation is a huge, globe-spanning, multibillion-dollar industry that has been around for decades, and there’s opportunities there that a nimble, forward-thinking company can exploit, but only if they have the resources to do so,” he said.

Ready Robotics focuses on robots providing a service and leasing robots to manufacturing companies, such as Stanley Black and Decker and Attwood Marine, the largest marine and boat component manufacturer in the United States, Gibbs said.

“They, like many manufacturers, have struggled with their margins getting squeezed by cheaper overseas competition, and the decision that they had to go through was: Is there a way for us to effectively automate here in the U.S. or do we need to begin to offshore some of that work?” Gibbs said.

He said in order for Attwood Marine to maintain its business, it would need to implement a strategy to capture the true value of automation, which is where Ready Robotics came in.

“We were able to help them because they have — they’re what’s called a low-volume, high-mix production environment, which means they make a lot of stuff but not in huge quantities. And by huge quantities, I mean millions of things,” Gibbs said.

In contrast, Attwood Marine produces at levels ranging from about 5,000 to 100,000, Gibbs said.

“You can actually make 50,000 of something with a human in front of a machine in like a week, which means that if they want to capture the value of automation, they need something that they can deploy quickly and easily,” Gibbs said. “And that’s ultimately what we’re all about is enabling and empowering those manufacturers to be able to do that.”

The company’s leading product is the TaskMate, a robotic arm that attaches to a base that can be wheeled around to perform different tasks. Manufacturers can set the tasks through easy-to-use coding software.

“The big thing that we are really focused on in the long term is the software, what we call the forge operating system,” Gibbs said. “And the TaskMate is one of the mechanisms by which we’re able to more effectively deploy that. But in the longer term, our focus will be increasingly on the software.”

Gibbs said this sort of system is appealing because of the ease of taking the software out of the box and putting it right on the production line. In addition to leasing, Ready Robotics’ products can be purchased.

The company has sent products to places ranging from Florida to Canada, with plans to expand worldwide. Gibbs said those plans should be executed over the next few years.

Ready Robotics is actively seeking student interns who are interested in working in robotics as programmers, testers and more, Gibbs said.