By Eric Peterson | Aug 01, 2016
In 2012, Steve McLean, owner of Longmont-based WP Manufacturing, had an idea for a revolutionary robot to use in-house. "There was nobody doing robotics for moving heavy, massive objects," says Burke. "They invented the ForkCrane to move plastic injection molds."
The process typically involved a forklift outfitted with chains and straps and "four guys wrestling with it," Burke adds. With the ForkCrane, "Now it takes one guy two minutes."
Designed to lift and precisely place up to 3,000 pounds, the ForkCrane transforms a standard forklift to a small 3-axis crane. The hoist runs on a pair of rechargeable batteries and operates by way of a wireless 10-button remote. Users can program it to handle repetitive tasks.
But before McLean could launch the product, the 2013 floods "wiped it all out, all the prototypes," says Burke.
Nearly three years of rebuilding later, McLean spun the operation as XYMotion. In March 2016, the company launched its first product, the ForkCrane MT3000, compatible with any standard forklift.
Burke's background was in publishing, music, and software prior to joining XYMotion in March 2016. In his first 90 days, the company has gone from "zero to 100 miles per hour," Burke says. "The response we've gotten is tremendous."
A stock ForkCrane MT3000 sells for $15,000, but custom models that can handle larger loads run more. "The ROI on it is great," says Burke. "It's really efficient. It cuts out tons of labor and it's really safe." The product can cut the time involved moving any heavy object by 90 percent, and the manpower by 70 percent.
Target markets include manufacturing facilities, warehouses, and distribution centers, as well as oil and gas, government, and military. More simply, the market is "anybody's who's got forklifts," says Burke.
"It's disruptive technology. It really is," he adds. "People are realizing it's really helpful to have a crane where you can't get a crane. It costs two grand to get a crane anywhere, but forklifts are everywhere."
"XYMotion is in this space of precision placement robotics," says Burke. "The next model is fully connected, Internet of Things, app-controlled."
That dovetails into the natural evolution of both XYMotion and its market, he adds. "When I go to trade shows, the main questions are 'How do I get more robotics and automation?' and 'How do I get more young people?'"
He says XYMotion is committed to answering both questions, the first in the form of its product line and the second by donating 5 percent of profits to TinkerMill, the local makerspace in Longmont.
Challenges: "My biggest challenge right now is the education of the market," says Burke. "Taking a brand-new product to market is hard. Taking disruptive technology to market in an antiquated field is harder."
The sheer number of potential customers "is exciting and it's kind of scary, too," he adds. "It's a good problem to have."
Opportunities: "They're significant," Burke answers. "We all know the future of where we're going in the material-handling, supply-chain space." When critics accuse him of trying to replace jobs with automation, he responds, "No, I'm trying to channel human capital in a more efficient way."
Needs: "I need some salespeople," says Burke. "It's all about getting this product out there."
"I'm always looking for 'purple people.' They're half engineer, half businesspeople," he adds. "They're a unicorn -- a very rare breed."