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A&R and agency iol – the story of a successful partnership

ProMapper. Picture A&R
ProMapper. Picture A&R

For over ten years, the company Automation & Robotics (A&R) has collaborated with the agency iol Strategic Design in the design of some of its equipment, including the most recent NeoMapper. This cooperation led to better products with a smaller footprint, a rationalized design and it made the A&R machines ready for new markets. By Wallonie Design

The story of a successful partnership

A&R is active in the ophthalmic industry since more than 40 years. A&R machines are designed to inspect, print, engrave, and package lenses. They optimize and automate the manufacturing process for their clients, RX labs that supply opticians, while meeting an unparalleled need for precision in this niche market.
In 2010, Christian Closset, the founder of A&R, attended a conference hosted by Wallonie Design and left convinced. “He understood that design is an asset for the company and was determined to implement it immediately. That’s when A&R reached out to iol,” recounts Luc Stolsem, Head of Industrialization for A&R. iol Strategic Design now regularly assists in the design of Automation & Robotics equipment.

“ Design has not only made the aesthetics of the machines more suitable and streamlined but has also allowed us to rationalise our equipment over the long term and establish a strategy for reducing the footprint of our machines”, emphasized Luc Stolsem, Head of Industrialization – A&R

Design as a driver for conquering a new market

When launching a new range of equipment, design is integrated from the development phase. For example, the design impact on the Promapper, which was developed a few years ago, has been very positive. This small, semi-automatic instrument incorporates the same analysis stations as the fully automatic AutoMapper. The development of the ProMapper provided Automation & Robotics with the opportunity to enter new markets, such as medium-sized laboratories, and expand into new geographical areas.

Cutting-edge technology made accessible

For the NeoMapper, the latest inspection machine, the design process with iol was even smoother. After several collaborations, the design agency has mastered the various important aspects for its client, including its graphic charter. François Royen, industrial designer and Managing Director of iol Strategic Design, worked hand in hand with A&R engineers to achieve perfect harmony between technology, aesthetics, and ergonomics. Still in the prototype stage, the NeoMapper was presented at Mido 2024 and generated significant interest due to its technological prowess and modern, industrial design.

“ Our technology is proven and recognized worldwide. Naturally, we wanted to give it a proper form. This is evident in the robust and high-quality of our machines, which convinces customers. The look of our products reflects the quality of our technical and technological expertise!said Thomas Debruche, Product Manager at Automation & Robotics

A global leader that will remain walloon

One of Automation & Robotics’ key strengths is recognizing that design enhances its market-leading position. The company has an additional undeniable advantage: most of its employees are shareholders. When Christian Closset, the founder, retired four years ago, the company began transitioning ownership to its employees.
The result is a company that remains family-oriented despite having 140 employees in Belgium and around thirty people in subsidiaries abroad. No relocation is planned for the Verviers-based company, which strives to collaborate with as many local businesses as possible.

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