New business development support case ~ From business consideration to company launch (design support): PLiBOT Co., Ltd.

Thank you for your cooperation in the interview.

PLiBOT Co., Ltd.
Representative Director and President Masaaki Sato

BIRD INITIATIVE supported the development of a new business, from business consideration to company launch (design support), and PLiBOT Co., Ltd. was successfully carved out of Obayashi Corporation. In this case study, we visited the Aoto office and heard from Representative Director Masaaki Sato about the circumstances that led to the start of a new company after overcoming various difficulties, and the company's prospects for the future.

01Formation of eco-partners

BIRD INITIATIVE: I think Eco Park has formed an eco partner in preparation for the new company's launch. Did you experience any difficulties when collaborating with overseas manufacturers?

Representative Director and President Masaaki Sato:Recently, overseas business trips have been restricted due to the coronavirus pandemic, but this time I went on a business trip to Europe to relax the coronavirus restrictions, and I checked out the companies, factories, products, and organizations of our overseas partners, and confirmed the direction of the partner companies. formed. Although we faced some difficulties in not being able to discuss things face-to-face, we have continued to hold meetings online and have continued to have discussions, and we are where we are today.

President and Representative Director Sato introducing robots at PLiBOT Aoto Office

02To realize “cooperation” and “flexibility”

BIRD INITIATIVE: One of PLiBOT's philosophies is "cooperation" and "flexibility," but were there any technical difficulties in realizing that?

Representative Director and President Masaaki Sato:Number one is navigation. This time, we prioritized connectivity and selected an AMR equipped with BlueBotics (Note 1) navigation. Although the manufacturers are different, the navigation is the same, so there are no problems with coordination. On the other hand, coordination with equipment will require individual adjustments as part of the process of collaborating with customers. If the customer's equipment is new, it is easy to connect, but when connecting with older equipment, we believe that there will be technical difficulties such as having to use a PLC. Flexibility allows for combinations to be tailored to customer requirements, so there is no technical problem as long as they work together.
Note 1: Swiss autonomous navigation system provider

BIRD INITIATIVE: You mentioned BlueBotics, but will you offer a service in Japan that allows different robots to work together, like PLiBOT?

Representative Director and President Masaaki Sato:In Japan, to sell the products of their manufacturers, manufacturers are increasing their product portfolios, but because they also want to sell their robots, collaboration between different robots is not progressing.

BIRD INITIATIVE: If you think about it that way, PLiBOT is quite advanced in the sense that it has launched a company with the concept of a platform.

Representative Director and President Masaaki Sato:To reach that point, Obayashi used machines from a variety of manufacturers, and I think this PLiBOT connects a wide variety of manufacturers, which is connected to one of PLiBOT's philosophies: collaboration.

BIRD INITIATIVE: I see. After all, in that sense, it has a great meaning as a venture that emerged from a large company. It was developed through his experience at Obayashi Corporation and his partnership with customers, and he was further refined. What kind of support did you receive from Obayashi Corporation?

Representative Director and President Masaaki Sato:Obayashi's new business promotion department (Business Innovation Promotion Office) will take the lead in coordinating business with existing business departments and will support the development of the PLiBOT team's technology and know-how into business. I did.

Held at Tokyo Big Sight (Tokyo International Exhibition Center) from September 13th (Tuesday) to September 16th (Friday), 2022
「The PLiBOT exhibition was a huge success at the International Logistics Exhibition 2022.

03About our relationship with BIRD INITIATIVE

BIRD INITIATIVE: Could you tell us how our company, BIRD INITIATIVE, came to support this project?

Representative Director and President Masaaki Sato:Representative Director and President Masaaki Sato:Obayashi Corporation has launched a project called 「MAKE BEYOND」as an open innovation initiative to commemorate its 130th anniversary. As part of this project, Horii, who heads the new business promotion department, and through his close relationship with President Kitase (at the time), asked BIRD to discuss the feasibility and evaluation of a business using AGV/AMR. did. As a result, they determined that there was a potential for it to become a viable business, so we formed a commercialization study team in July of last year and began working as a project team. At that time, we entered into an advisory agreement with President Kitase regarding comprehensive business development and began considering the business.

BIRD INITIATIVE: Is there anything you liked about BIRD's support?

Representative Director and President Masaaki Sato:Representative Director and President Masaaki Sato: After all, Obayashi Corporation is in the construction industry, not a company that sells products, so many things could not be considered by conventional wisdom about Obayashi Corporation. Therefore, by using BIRD INITIATIVE's various connections and adding an objective perspective to the materials we were creating, we were able to narrow down the direction of our business. In addition, to grow the project faster and bigger, we received design support from Mr. Fukushima from the Marketing & Design Team, and we were able to create the concept, we believe that he provided excellent support.

One shot of the demo shown inside the PLiBOT Aoto office
(The model is Pickio-ANT, which is being jointly developed with Sumitomo Naco forklift)

04About the future and possibilities of transportation

BIRD INITIATIVE: When I read another interview article, the phrase "converting real-world information into digital language" really resonated with me. What is the future vision and possibility of transportation? Are you feeling sexual?

Representative Director and President Masaaki Sato:Representative Director and President Masaaki Sato:I believe that the smart city that everyone envisions in the future will be one in which various robots operate based on a unified common language. However, even if we look at the actual situation in Japan, each manufacturer unilaterally creates a language for robots, so each manufacturer has a different management system, and it is still difficult to see a variety of robots coming together in one place. I think it's in the distant future. Therefore, we envision a future in which navigation and APIs will be unified or shared, and various robots will work together. In the elevator industry, we are currently working on a common API in the form of Robot Flexible, which defines a robot-elevator collaboration interface. I think that once APIs are standardized on both the equipment and robot sides, it will be possible for a wider variety of robots to come together and work together, but I think it will still take some time.

BIRD INITIATIVE: Is there anything you envision in terms of API leveling, standardization, or common standards?

Representative Director and President Masaaki Sato:Representative Director and President Masaaki Sato:I think that if it becomes standardized someday, we just need to be prepared to accept it. We created a platform called PLiBOT by leveraging APIs. If it is standardized, all you have to do is input it as a protocol, which will make it easier to use PLiBOT and expand collaboration between robots and equipment.

BIRD INITIATIVE: Extending what we've just talked about, what kind of future do you envision, a time when humans and robots can work together?

Representative Director and President Masaaki Sato:Representative Director and President Masaaki Sato:I think smart cities are the future, but I don't think people have yet established an understanding of robots. When raising a pet, I think that when raising a dog, you can change the home environment to suit the dog, but if you want to raise an armadillo, ask someone who has knowledge about armadillos and find out if you can raise it in your own home. I think we will change the environment accordingly. Our business is the same. If we can ask people who have the environment and knowledge about robots and change the environment so that robots can work with people, it won't be that far in the future for robots and people to work together. I think it will be. The reason why we started the company was to create an environment where robots can work comfortably by providing the platform that we have been given as PLiBOT to our customers and preparing the environment.

A demo was also shown at the PLiBOT Aoto office.
Industrial autonomous dry cleaning robot KEMARO K900

BIRD INITIATIVE: It's truly a platform that connects people and robots. Lastly, please tell us about your recent plans and future developments and plans.

Representative Director and President Masaaki Sato:Representative Director and President Masaaki Sato: A comprehensive exhibition (OBAYASHI VISION SHOWCASE 2022), a commemorative event for Obayashi Corporation's 130th anniversary, will be held at the International Forum from October 19th to 21st, and will also be held at the Condensation Center in Umekita, Osaka from November 30th to December 2nd. the event will be held. Similar to the International Logistics Exhibition, there will also be a demonstration of AMR running on a single platform. PLiBOT's Aoto office held a preview after the International Logistics Exhibition ended, and customers from various manufacturers visited. Even after the general exhibition, we continue to provide more in-depth explanations to customers who come to the preview.

Interview postscript

Representative Director and President Masaaki Sato:Representative Director and President Masaaki Sato:Even during the interview process, I continued to respond to customers. As the saying goes, "A picture is worth a thousand words," so if you have a chance, please visit the PLiBOT Aoto office.

A demo video of the multi-purpose automated transport robot OPPENT EVO cart01 shown at the PLiBOT Aoto office.
(This conveys better performance)

Company profile

Company name
PLiBOT Co., Ltd.

3-2-2 Aoto, Katsushika-ku, Tokyo 125-0062

Masaaki Sato

August 2022

250 million yen (+ capital reserve 250 million yen)

Stock composition
Obayashi Corporation 100%

Business details
Business providing solutions related to logistics automation and robotics