The Olis Connect system allows a user to remotely monitor, diagnose, and control robots. It can move a robot out of its error position, release its grip on a part that’s causing a problem, or use the robot to remove a bad part from a machine, according to Olis Robotics. (Photo: Business Wire)

By allowing users to troubleshoot robots from remote locations, the system can improve overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), the developer said.

SEATTLE—A record 517,385 new industrial robots were installed worldwide in 2021, according to a release from Olis Robotics that cited the World Robotics Report 2022 from the International Federation of Robotics (IFR). Robust growth in installations is being driven by a host of factors, from labor shortages and reshoring initiatives to rising e-commerce demand, the release said.

But as robot installations have increased, so has demand for remote robot management, according to Olis Robotics.

The company, a spinoff from the University of Washington, has developed a system that is said to “significantly improve overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), effectively addressing costly robot downtime.” The system, Olis Connect, does so by safely enabling remote monitoring, control, and troubleshooting of industrial robots, the company said in the release.

The potential of the system enabled Olis Robotics to raise $4.1 million in a recent funding round to meet the surging demand for remote robot management. The round was led by PSL Ventures and included Tectonic Ventures, Ubiquity Ventures, and prominent strategic angel investors. One is the robotics pioneer Daniel Theobald, president and co-founder of MassRobotics and the founder and chairperson of Vecna Robotics.

“In the midst of a global manufacturing labor crisis, companies are adopting automation in record breaking numbers, resulting in calls from both manufacturers and integrators for robust, safe, and secure remote monitoring, diagnostics, and control solutions,” said T.A. McCann, partner at PSL Ventures, in the release. “Olis Robotics’ unique remote robot control technology answers that call; it can easily be deployed on both brand new and legacy automation, which means a dynamic and exciting market opportunity for investors.”

Olis Connect is controlled directly in a web browser and delivered on an edge-hosted PC that can be quickly connected to brand new and legacy industrial robot arms and robotic cells. The system works across robot brands. Olis Robotics said it currently provides full support for robots from Universal Robots and FANUC, addressing approximately 20 percent of the operational stock of more than 3.5 million industrial robots deployed worldwide.

“Robot downtime can cost a large plant over $1 million per hour,” said Fredrik Ryden, CEO of Olis Robotics, in the release. “When every minute counts, you need to leverage remote tools to react as quickly as possible no matter where you are. Our technology is ingeniously simple to use and intensely practical in terms of its impact.”

With its new funding, Olis is adding support for additional robot brands representing more than half of all industrial robots. The funding will also help expand partnerships with robot system integrators in North America and develop new software products.

“Being able to remotely operate industrial robots is a game changer for us and the industry as a whole,” said Brad Sparkman, president and CEO of Innovative Finishing Solutions (IFS), an Olis Robotics Partner and leading integrator of FANUC paint robots for the automotive industry, in the release. “We have deployed thousands of robots in the past two decades as a company. Given the current labor challenges, we expect a majority of those to be retrofitted with Olis technology within the next couple of years.”

According to Olis Robotics, once its plug-and-play device is installed and secure remote access has been configured, users can monitor and manage their automation remotely from anywhere via any browser-capable device. If a problem occurs with the robot, Olis Connect sends out an alert via a secure connection to the user’s device without connecting to the cloud. This is a key consideration given the threats surrounding today’s industrial cybersecurity landscape, the company said. Users can then use the system to remotely perform error recovery actions, such as releasing the robot’s grip on a part or moving the robot from its error position.

Olis Connect provides users with a unique remote error correction functionality, which means that they can get robots back up and running remotely, reducing downtime from hours to mere minutes. Three cameras provide low latency monitoring of the entire cell, enabling 24/7 measurement of Key Performance Indicators such as OEE and instant, on demand video replay to forensically diagnose the root cause of any error.

Olis Connect is designed to provide remote access without violating the robot’s existing safety permissions and restrictions. This means that velocity, acceleration, and joint limit settings on the robot are always obeyed when remote controlling the arm, the company said.

Silas Robertson, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Applied Automation and an Olis Robotics partner, emphasized how Olis Connect empowers companies to leverage their best robot programmers anywhere in the world.

“What really excites me about what Olis brings to the market is the ability to unlock company resources through remote robot access in real time, ultimately providing better support for customers and their robotic applications,” Robertson said in the release.