Lowpad teams up with NTS to scale-up production of their unique AMR solution

Lowpad looks like no other Autonomous robot on the market, and customers are taking note. The company is working with customers in a wide range of markets to streamline their logistics processes and reduce the need for manpower in their facilities. After the initial development and manufacturing of Lowpad for its launching customers, Lowpad selected NTS as their at-scale production partner. Lowpad’s Operations Director Lucas den Hartigh explains what the added value of the partnership with NTS is and what the future holds for their fast-growing company.

Photo above: From left to right: Ruben Jakobs (CCO at NTS), Peter de Kiewit (Sales Director at Lowpad), Lucas den Hartigh (Operations Director at Lowpad) and Tjarko Bouman (CEO at NTS)

Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMR) or Automated Guided Vehicles (AGV) are being used in an increasing number of markets to streamline the logistics process and reduce the need for manpower. Apart from the cost aspect, manpower is particularly important for many companies as it’s becoming more and more difficult to attract and retain a capable workforce. Contrary to most AMR solutions, which require an overhaul of existing logistical processes and/or equipment such as load carriers to facilitate implementation, Lowpad allows for a brown-field implementation.

Automate internal transport

Lowpad is uniquely able to automate internal transport while keeping the same logistics facility and load carriers, as explained by Peter de Kiewit, Sales Director at Lowpad:

“We have a unique solution that, as the name already gives it away, is very low. Our product range is therefore able to work with existing load carriers such as various trolleys, pick carts, roll cages, or racks. This allows us to automate marshalling and order picking of companies in almost every industry. But the most important part of our solution is not only the AMR, key is the combination of Lowpads and  software. We are able to centrally manage a large fleet of AMRs through our Supervisor software solution. Implementation of our solution does not require significant changes to the existing infrastructure.”

At scale production of Autonomous Mobile Robots

The first Lowpad type was initially developed for handling of trolleys. Customers were looking to reduce the load of their warehouse staff who walked up to 10km per day. They also faced increasing difficulties hiring enough people. This urged them to look for more innovative solutions. The Lowpad solution was first implemented at two launching customers in ecommerce and a large service provider.  It was an immediate hit. Starting with the Lowpad M for trolleys, Lowpad soon gave birth to new family members. The Lowpad-S was born which suits the need of many retailers. At the same time, several software layers to accommodate various processes were developed in house.

“After the successful implementation at our two launching customers, market demand grew and Lowpad required production at a larger scale to facilitate its rapid growth. So, we started looking for a partner. Lowpad, being a member of Eurogroup, benefits from an existing, long term relationship with NTS and shared with them a pragmatic, goal-oriented approach. We invited them to talk about helping us manufacture and assemble our Lowpads.”

Manufacturability

Jeroen Sprankenis is New Business Development Manager at NTS and was closely involved in this process:

“Because the 1st  generation Lowpads were produced in small numbers by Lowpad themselves, we combined their knowledge and our production experience, through our scalable New Product Introduction (NPI) process, in a pragmatic way to ensure a smooth production transfer.

Our first NPI step was to create assembly manuals by bringing together the mechanics which built this first generation of Lowpads and our people at Lowpad’s factory. This approach facilitated the first knowledge transfer and has proven instrumental to the success of our partnership. When we started up Lowpad production in Eindhoven, for example, we invited Lowpad engineers to assist and ensure a smooth process. It is a very natural approach for collaboration that requires both parties to be open for suggestions.”

Production optimization is an area where NTS’ expertise made a difference. Together we have made key changes that did not fundamentally change the product but made it more durable or easier to manufacture. Our decades of experience with such processes, like manufacturability, assembly and finishing, adds value right from the start.”

In this partnership, NTS is responsible for:

  • Frame manufacturing including powder coating
  • Premium wet coat finish of the housings
  • Assembly including testing of all three Lowpad models: S, M, and L

Looking to the future

When asked to look to the future, Lucas emphasizes the importance of their partnership with NTS:

“With the growth trajectory we have planned, predictability becomes increasingly important. We are moving from built-to-order to planned production, which means that we need open, two-way communication about forecasts and expectations to adequately meet market demand for our innovative solution. That’s where the long-term relationship with NTS really helps.”

Peter adds: “At the same time, Lowpad is working on expanding its software and model range to accommodate an even larger range of applications. Whether it is unlocking more functionality in existing models through software or by launching new models that allow us to work with an even wider range of load carriers: we can respond to market trends faster than other solution providers. NTS’ ability to scale up manufacturing of new or existing models is an essential component of our technical and commercial roadmap.”

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