Orlando, Fla. — Raul Scheller, the former chief operating officer at contract manufacturing firm Team Technologies in New Mexico, has been appointed managing director of Sepro Group operations in North America as the company creates a regional hub and sets a goal to sell 5,000 robots worldwide.
Raised in Venezuela by German parents, Scheller is a U.S. citizen, speaks four languages and has international business experience with mid- to large-size organizations, including 13 years as general manager of the Americas for Clariant's Performance Packaging business unit and seven years as president of a private equity owned, Los Angeles-based injection molding firm.
For Sepro, Scheller will oversee three subsidiary operations in the United States, Canada and Mexico that employ about 70 and accounted for 22 percent of Sepro's 2017 global sales of $149.4 million (126 million euros).
The company sold 3,200 robots and sprue pickers in 2017, a jump from about 2,750 in 2016.
With worldwide sales increasing 300 percent in the last decade, up 21 percent from 2016, Sepro is working toward selling 5,000 robots a year to become the market leader.
"We try hard. We aim high. We're very focused on Industry 4.0," Sepro Group CEO Jean-Michel Renaudeau said at NPE2018 in Orlando.
Currently the top destination for robots built by the LaRoche sur Yon, France-based company is Germany, which the CEO said surprised him.
"For a French company that develops robots to be able to say our first market is Germany is a special pride," Renaudeau said. "The next target is for the U.S. to recover this position."
When he starts in June, Scheller is expected to play a big role in preparing North American operations for the next 10 years with a regional hub capable of robot assembly, parts and service, and increasingly sophisticated automation.
Sepro is starting with assembly of its three largest robot lines, which includes five-axis 7X-45 Cartesian beam units. One of the first Sepro robots built outside of France, the robot is handling a Cadillac Escalade front grille at the company's exhibit.
Sepro says it can handle technically demanding parts at high speeds on injection molding machines with clamping forces up to 1,300 tons.
The company plans to build 40 of its largest robots this year at the Sepro America LLC subsidiary in Warrendale, Pa. The plant was recently expanded as part of an investment of $13.6 million (11 million euros) in Pennsylvania and at the headquarters. The U.S. facility doubled in size. The company expects to assemble 100 robots there in 2019.
Sepro America is expected to take on some manufacturing functions for the non technical components of the three large robot lines.
Renaudeau also announced that Sepro has agreed to make three-, five- and six-axis robots for Absolute Haitian Corp, which is based in Worcester, Mass. The robots will be available with robots from Haitian and its Zhafir subsidiary's injection molding machines sold in the U.S. and Canada.
Sepro began entering strategic OEM partnerships with other machine makers in 2012. Renaudeau said the deals account for about one in five sales worldwide.
The CEO describes Sepro's OEM partnerships as well as technical partnerships with Stäubli and Yaskawa as "collaboraissance."
"It means we want to increase our knowledge, our understanding of the market and customers, and our understanding of the future of innovation, but also to do that not alone but by collaborating," he explained. "We want to do that as a team. Collaboraissance brings growth, new ideas and partnerships."