How Do We Bring Back Manufacturing Jobs? Hire More Robots.

For decades we’ve been told robots were to blame for the dearth of manufacturing jobs in the US, but that’s about to change.

Veo Robotics has a counter-intuitive vision for the future: If you improve the robots, manufacturers will be able to hire more people for better jobs. I am proud to share that Lux Capital is partnering with Patrick, Clara and Scott to help them achieve their mission to create more collaborative industrial robots. We, along with our partners at GV, are leading a $12 million Series A venture investment in Veo Robotics. As part of the investment, I will be joining the board of directors.

(From L to R): Veo Robotics founders Scott Denenberg, Clara Vu, Patrick Sobalvarro

Today, robots and humans are largely segregated in industrial environments. This is out of necessity. Such robots tend to be very large, powerful machines that are relatively dumb. They’re literally senseless: unable to see, hear, smell or feel when a human co-worker is nearby, and so they are often kept in cages, some distance away from the areas where people are working. Such an arrangement requires a separation of tasks and equipment, leading to slower production.

The time has come for the speed, strength and precision of industrial robots to be married with the senses, intellect and dexterity of human workers to create safer, more efficient, more profitable manufacturing processes.

Veo is giving industrial robots the gift of perception and intelligence so these helpful machines can still do the dangerous, heavy-lifting, yet safely work alongside humans.

There are over 2.5million industrial robots currently in use, and their numbers are growing at a compound annual growth rate of about 15%. These robots are industrial workhorses that can complete repetitive tasks that require precision, while carrying heavy loads, at a fast speed, sometimes for years without stopping. Yet when they are kept in cages, they take up unnecessary space, incur expensive infrastructure costs, and can cause significant delays.

At the same time, humans routinely find themselves doing manufacturing tasks that are repetitive, physically straining, dangerous, and underpaid. Humans have to sometimes choose between having an unsatisfactory job or losing it to a low-cost outsourced manufacturing location.

Veo envisions a different future. Veo’s technology promises to bring manufacturing jobs back, and to make humans be the boss of robots once again.

Veo’s technology platform allows humans and robots to work in close proximity with each other while they each do the tasks they are best suited for. Past efforts to create collaborative robots rendered them weak and slow. Even then, the market for collaborative robots has grown at a CAGR of ~67%.

Veo utilizes the latest in perception sensing, sensor fusion & 3D reconstruction using ultra fast GPU compute, object tracking and classification, and advanced robotic controls to ‘free’ the robots from their cages while making them extremely safe for humans at the same time.

The video below showcases one example of how Veo’s platform can enable collaborative industrial robots. I have heard Clara describe it simply as perception + representation + reasoning + action. Veo’s safety-rated advanced perception and intelligence systems make it possible for robots and humans to work together, improving efficiency of operations, optimizing floor space usage, increasing overall manufacturing throughput, and enabling data analytics to guide future manufacturing floor plans and workflows.

The future of robots is collaborative. Time has come for the speed, strength and precision of industrial robots to be married with sensing, intelligence and dexterity of human workers to create highly efficient next-gen industrial manufacturing operations. And Veo Robotics is bringing perception and intelligence to industrial robots so they can collaborate safely with humans.

It is often missed in discussion about manufacturing jobs in the US that effective use of robots is much needed to keep our manufacturing jobs here. There is no other way. In fact, industries that have ‘hired’ more robots have also been able to keep their human jobs here. Most of the industrial robots in the USA are installed in traditional manufacturing centers (such as the midwest), and are used heavily in automotive, electronics, chemicals and plastics manufacturing. In fact, robot density in some smaller towns is even higher than many major metropolitan centers.

It is Veo’s thesis that the future of manufacturing automation includes humans managing and working closely with robots in a balanced ecosystem. Veo is already working with global customers and partners to enable that future. To get there, the company is looking to hire talented technologists in computer vision, robotic automation, electrical engineering, software engineering and systems engineering. If you’re interested in building a future in which man and machine work better together, apply here.