We are in the middle of an intense period of growth at Probot Oy. Our company, founded in the Tikanmäki brothers’ garage, currently employs twenty people, and we are expanding our premises even further. As a KUKA System Partner, OMRON Certified Partner, and European distributor of Unitree’s robot dogs, our company’s vision is to be a pioneer in robotics in Finland.
The operation of our company, which implements customized robotics and automation solutions for various industries, started to grow strongly in recent years despite the coronavirus. We have solid experience with industrial robotic cells, as well as mobile and collaborative robot solutions. Our customers are mainly small and medium-sized production facilities from various industries. Our company has been operating for over 16 years now.
From university researchers to entrepreneurs
The story of Probot Oy began in June 2006, when a pair of brothers Antti and Matti Tikanmäki were both still working as researchers at the University of Oulu.
– Every time we participated in international robot competitions with the robotic devices we developed, others wanted to buy them. However, the university was not able to run an international business. After thinking about it, starting a company started to make sense. In addition, we had already done logic coding for an operator. There was demand for our expertise, Matti Tikanmäki, CEO of Probot Oy tells.
At first, the scale of the business was very small and the brothers ran their company from their garage. The first projects were related to logic programming, the modernisation of production lines and the building of production machines, i.e. largely the same things we still do today.
During their careers in research, the Tikanmäki brothers realised that there’s a need for operators that serve as a link between the world of research and industry in disseminating information. An aim was to use Probot Oy to provide the academic world with information about the needs of the industry while at the same time informing customers representing the industrial sector about solutions related to cutting-edge technology. Today, we continue to be involved in many development projects, including EU projects, and collaborate with various research institutes.
– Thanks to the EU projects, we’ve had access to a Europe-wide network and an opportunity to work with the industry-best professionals for over 10 years now. We get to make use of all this competence obtained in the EU-projects in the projects we carry out for our customers. At the same time, we get to provide our employees with an opportunity to further develop their competence, Tikanmäki smiles.
New premises, new opportunities
A major turn occurred in our history in the late spring of 2016 when we moved to our new business premises in the Metsokangas neighbourhood in Oulu. As a result, the company was able to take on more new projects and soon also hire more employees. We particularly began to focus on developing our own production, and our number of employees began to gradually grow.
With a bigger staff, we gained access to more opportunities for expanding our operations and found the courage to start contacting essential partners. We began representing promising, so-called next-wave technologies and also started closely collaborating with companies such as Beckhoff, KUKA and OMRON.
In the clutches of coronavirus
Just like everyone else, Probot Oy was faced with challenges in early spring 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic paralysed nearly all business. This was a huge shock to everyone, and we were no exception. The entrepreneurs and employees alike were struck by all kinds of fears.
But just after six months, the coronavirus crisis started to give way to a growth opportunity, largely thanks to BusinessFinland’s COVID-19 recovery aid.
– We received the aid at just the right time and were able to overcome the shock after just six months and could put our company back on its growth track. These difficulties also made us realise that we should invest more in our business strategy, branding, service design and marketing communications, Matti Tikanmäki says.
After the initial shock, the COVID-19 crisis led to a significant increase in automation competence in the domestic market, as the pandemic led to the closing of borders around the globe.
While a lot of industrial production used to be moved from Finland to places such as China and Eastern and Western European countries, a new trend has been to restore domestic production. Automation plays a major role in making this move back to Finland possible in the first place.
“Ultimately, the pandemic did not damage our company’s situation; quite the contrary. During the pandemic years, we proved that we’re a force to be reckoned with and have major growth potential. In just a couple of years, we grew our personnel from a handful of employees to a staff of two dozen. We’ve tapped into a brand-new way to examine our activities and future. We have more faith in our company now than ever before.”
With this renewed trust in the future, we’ve also gained the courage to increase our cooperation with major industry players. We became a KUKA Official System Partner in 2020 and signed an OMRON Certified Partner deal in 2021.
– Although the cooperation is only at the beginning, we have already implemented several robotic cells from the KUKA cooperation, and more projects are currently in progress, Tikanmäki says.
We’ve also further expanded our cooperation with VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and Oulu University of Applied Sciences, the University of Oulu and other educational institutions. cooperation with Cajo Technologies, a pioneer in laser marking technologies, began in autumn 2022.
Challenging work is rewarding
Automation engineer Toni Autio has been working in Team Probot since April 2021. According to him, the best thing about the job has been the versatile tasks and new challenges in almost every project.
– Challenges make the work meaningful. It’s highly rewarding that a long project ends with a working robotic cell or a production machine that the customer is also satisfied with, Autio praises.
– I am looking forward to the future because with the growth of Probot, the resources and knowledge are now enabling even bigger projects.
Jobs for humans and jobs for robots
We believe that technology can be used for almost any task. It can solve working-life challenges in many fields. In fact, our mission is to make robots a part of work communities. Tikanmäki reminds us that robots aren’t here to take people’s jobs, but rather creating new ones thanks to increasing the profitability of work.
“We believe that there are jobs for humans and other jobs for robots. Robots aren’t here to take people’s jobs. Instead, they will serve as tools and a source of help alongside humans. This way, it is possible to free people for more creative and humane tasks. While productivity improves, occupational safety and well-being increases.”
According to Tikanmäki, it is clear that robotics is the direction in which we’re inevitably heading. After all, the content of work has significantly changed within the past 20 years – and will continue to do so in the future. Today, robotics provides highly functional and reliable solutions that will pay for themselves in no time.
New assembly facility increases opportunities
This winter, a new assembly facility will be completed for us. The facility will be a major addition to our current premises.
– The new facility will provide us with 400 m² of more production space. This will enable us to take a new leap in growing the company, as we’ll be able to take on even bigger projects. Thanks to the facility, we’ll also have more space in our offices, which enables us to recruit new employees
Tikanmäki believes that in the next five years, personnel will increase from the current level, and in addition to domestic sales, foreign exports will begin to increase. For a long time, our vision has also been to publish our own mobile robotics products. The long-term development work has borne fruit, and now our products include our own mobile robot Dolly™.
Probot Oy – Specialist in Robotics.