Path Robotics employs hundreds across 230,000-square-foot offices
It was no question of whether or not Alex and Andy Lonsberry would establish a business, it was simply a matter of what it would be.
The two Cleveland natives were brought up with an entrepreneurial spirit—their family owned a custom motorcycle business, which introduced them to the world of manufacturing. But it wasn't until they were both working toward their doctorates at Case Western Reserve University that they started making big moves.
The brothers were looking for a market pain point at least $10 billion in size. So, they started an advanced engineering consulting firm and began exploring northeast Ohio manufacturers to learn about struggles they were facing. It took two years to find their business idea, and as calculated as the brothers are, it came to them in surprise.
They had visited Corsa Performance, already with ideas on the table, but the president of the exhaust systems company had a market pain-point they were ready to discuss: welding. At the time, the company had only ten human welders and had trouble retaining them, Andy says, and the technology used to weld at the time still couldn't keep up with what a human could do.
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The president ended up offering the Lonsberry brothers $315,000 to create the welding technology the company needed, so they did. And the idea certainly showed potential—according to the American Welding Society, the U.S. could face a shortage of 400,000 human welders by 2023.
Today, the autonomous welding technology the brothers set out to create is helping a variety of businesses under the name Path Robotics, reincorporated in 2018 from the former engineering consulting firm. And while it was founded in Cleveland, Andy, the CEO, knew the business wouldn't reach its full potential unless it was in a city like Columbus.
“Columbus is an incredibly exciting city. It’s young, it’s vibrant. We’ve just been way more successful with bringing people from both coasts in Columbus but then also the talent here—a lot of engineers being here was huge for us,” Andy says. “... staying in Ohio was important for us because there’s about $6 billion dollars worth of welding done in Ohio alone.”
Today Path Robotics has headquarters in the Scioto Audubon Metro Park and an additional facility on the West Side at Business Park Drive for a combined 230,000-square-foot workspace. It's headquarters feature retro decor and an atmosphere much simpler than what goes on in the main work area.
And since the beginning of this year, Path has more than doubled in size, currently employing around 200 people—and the company is still hiring.
The idea behind the autonomous welding technology is to provide robotic welding without coding, instead allowing the robot to simply "see" the job it needs to complete and learn that way, and the robots can even learn from each other. The final product was deployed in early 2021.
“Just like it takes a human three to six months of training to learn how to do actual welding, we do something really similar where the robot is allowed to fail," Andy says. "It’s allowed to learn on its own, and the really great part of it is that every time one robot fails and learn from it, all the robots are impacted… they’re collectively learning together.”
But, Andy emphasizes that the technology isn't trying to replace human welders entirely, but is meant to address the strain on the industry. The plan for the future is to widen the scope of the technology and continue down the path of rapid growth.
“Our market size is gigantic. And so we plan on growing very aggressively. We're close to 200 people now and we just plan on not stopping," Andy says. "So I think in the next five to 10 years, we want to be one of the biggest manufacturing companies in the world, and then become one of the biggest companies in the world.”