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Tactile Technologies debuts new robots portfolio in SA market


Johannesburg, 04 Jun 2024
Paving the way for robots in SA
Paving the way for robots in SA

Tactile Technologies has partnered with Beijing-based robotic developer and manufacturer AutoXing Robotics to bring a range of robots to the South African market.

Mauro Mercuri, founder and chairman at Tactile Technologies, says the agreement was formalised in May after lengthy research and assessments by Tactile Technologies.

The move expands Tactile Technologies’ advanced product portfolio and brings to market smart AI delivery robots, multifunctional delivery robots, hotel delivery robots and intelligent disinfection and scent robots.

Extensive research to pave the way for robots in SA

Mercuri says Tactile Technologies has been looking into robotics for two years. “As a distributor, one needs to continuously re-invent oneself, looking for ways to bring more value to the market, and offer ‘the next big thing’. We have invested time, energy and resources in robotics technology because we identify the value robots can bring to markets such as medical, hospitality, industrial and retail. More and more clever applications are being created, where robots add value immediately and ROI is obtained fast. A variety of technology can be implemented into any robot, opening doors for almost unlimited functionality,” he says.

Tactile Technologies carried out extensive market research before launching the robots in South Africa. Mercuri says: “We investigated, read up and read up, and created a shortlist of manufacturers and solution providers. We spoke to companies in China, Japan, UK, Germany and the US before shortlisting two manufacturers. We ordered a number of samples from them and created a 'robotics team' in South Africa to evaluate the technology and become knowledgeable on the matter. We exposed the robots to a select number of partners, did a few POCs and eventually started negotiating with both manufacturers.”

He says: “We ultimately selected AutoXing because they are an established player in the robotics industry, they have a wide portfolio of highly reliable robots covering a variety of applications and markets, and a large R&D department that is continuously innovating with a great pipeline of new features and products. The team at AutoXing takes a partner-focused approach that is very compatible with Tactile's mindset and culture, and the company offers great support both technically and commercially.”

Edward Zhou, Director of Global Sales at AutoXing, says: “We are thrilled to announce our partnership with Tactile Technologies for the South African market. Tactile Technologies is an acknowledged leading technology company in South Africa. It is our honour to build up a strategic business partnership with a company that has more than two decades of history in the market and well-developed business network in fields of hospitality, retail, medical and other public services. South Africa is a new market for the AI and robotics industry; both Tactile and AutoXing see great potential there. We are eager to bring our advanced technology to South Africa with the full support from Tactile Technologies and provide a better life and work experience to the customers in this unique market."

POCs and change management

Having identified strong use cases for the medical, hospitality, industrial and retail sectors, Tactile Technologies has started introducing customers to the opportunities robots offer.

Steven Baeyens, Director of Products and Projects, says: “Tactile Technologies is well established in all these markets, and we have both strong channel partnerships as well as great relationships with end-users. The road to market is clear for us; however, we know it will take time.”

He notes there is a misconception that a robot is just a ‘computer on wheels’. “It is far more complex than that,” he says. “The base alone incorporates a great deal of technology – including sensors and cameras – to ensure it can do its work. Many use a GPS-like system, so connectivity becomes a consideration. There are issues like stability, speed and angles to consider – it’s a complex environment and this is where Tactile Technologies comes in. There is a great deal of preparation, mapping, integration, networking and change management to do to ensure the robots function as intended in their environment.”

He adds: “We also know that there will be a perception that the implementation of robots could lead to reduced employment. We encountered the same perception 20 years ago, when we deployed touch screen kiosks into retail. We were able back then to turn the technology into a positive, where the employee is actually empowered by the technology. With the advent of robots, we believe that when employees co-operate with the robots, they will be able to add even more value to the created customer experience. So, we believe there is no threat for employment; on the contrary, we believe robotics will be an enrichment not only for the customer and business, but also for staff.”

Baeyens says: “We firmly believe this market will grow in the years to come and robots will become part of the consumer and the employee's work and private life. We now have an edge in the market, thanks to two years’ intensive working experience on robotics. We call on all solution developers, system integrators as well as those end-users continuously looking for innovation to contact us and embark with us on this journey.”

AutoXing Robotics echoes Tactile’s conviction that the market is poised for rapid growth, stating: “The service robot market has witnessed significant growth driven by technological advancements, increasing demand for automation and the need for solutions to address various societal challenges. In healthcare, service robots help to reduce the workload of healthcare professionals and enhance patient experience. In logistics and warehousing, robots automate warehouse operations by performing tasks such as delivery and lifting, thereby increasing efficiency and reducing the need for manpower. With the growing demand for automation and robotics across various industries, the service robotics market is expected to further evolve and diversify, providing solutions that meet evolving social and industrial needs while revolutionising the way tasks are accomplished in different fields.”

Tactile Technologies is an expert in touch screen, auto ID, payment, biometrics and robotics technology. Tactile’s end-user references include Shoprite, Pick n Pay, Spar, PEP, Mr Price, Sun International, Engen, Netcare, FNB, YUM, Famous Brands, McDonalds, Takealot, Italtile and many others. For more information on Tactile, go  to www.tactiletechnologies.com and/or https://www.itweb.co.za/office/tactiletechnologies/newsroom.

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