GSM Alum Serves as Founder and President of Robot Manufacturer
Saint Xavier University (SXU) alum Craig Zoberis ’01 demonstrates the often unique and extraordinary things Graham School of Management (GSM) graduates go on to do – he spends his days working with robots.
Zoberis's company, Fusion OEM, where he serves as founder and President, is an award-winning systems integrator for collaborative robots (cobots), which are designed to operate alongside humans. Fusion focuses on automating machine tending solutions for CNC tuning and milling machines to increase productivity. The company has been awarded the "Small Giants" award from Forbes Magazine.
Before attending SXU for his graduate studies, Zoberis graduated from Brother Rice High School and then earned a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Marquette University. He later received Marquette's "Engineering Alumnus of the Year" award in 2019. Zoberis has been inducted into the University of Illinois Chicago Area Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame and also volunteers as chairperson of the Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center (IMEC) and the Industrial Advisory Board at Marquette. He's been a guest on many podcasts, frequently hosts webinars, and attends and speaks at robot and manufacturing conferences.
Zoberis initially came up with the idea to start his own business after learning about engineering from his father, who owned a contact engineering company. Despite majoring in engineering for his undergraduate studies, he found himself more interested in the business and manufacturing side of things. Fusion started in Zoberis's garage – it began as a contract manufacturing company and blossomed into an integration company focused on robotics, now aiming to serve growth industries in global markets. The company has six core values, which Zoberis credits to some of the things he learned during his time at SXU, like the importance of designing a company's mission and vision statements. The company's values are to: strive for simplicity, show gratitude, have fun, see possibilities, go home safely and be flexible.
"It's funny when you take something that is just a complete notion and actually make it a reality. I've always been interested in manufacturing and how things can be made easily. Technology is growing just as quickly as your smart phone can be made intelligent. It's an exciting time right now," said Zoberis, who handles sales, marketing and operations in his role as President.
Fusion's robots are designed to do general tasks, like machine tending, but some are used for more dangerous work that prevents humans from having to work in unsafe conditions. These robots are used to decrease risk and can intercept tasks that involve working with sharp objects or complete tasks that are known for giving humans carpal tunnel. The robot applications take about four to eight weeks to design and all go through thorough testing before they are ready to use.
"We refer to the three D's: dirty, dull and dangerous. It's hard to find people to complete those kinds of tasks, so it's important that we embrace the idea of automation. We use ATMs, we have robots scanning our emails for spam, so it makes sense to have routine tasks in manufacturing become automated. They aren't there to take away jobs, but to help companies become larger and create more jobs," said Zoberis.
Zoberis believes SXU helped him to learn the craftiness needed for a successful business. "My professors taught me how to be a little bit more industrious and opportunistic about opportunities that lie within business. The course work was very effective. I learned about cash flow analysis and how to be an entrepreneur, but the classes in management taught me how to hear things from a different perspective, which was incredibly powerful," said Zoberis.
Zoberis's favorite part about attending SXU was being able to build up a group of friends and colleagues he could rely on and reach out to. "Half of my work was learning from the professors and the other half was learning from the people I attended school with." Zoberis was quite fond of his instructors, particularly mentor John Eber, Ed.D., dean emeritus and professor of accounting.
"Craig was an MBA student in my managerial accounting class 20 years ago. I am not surprised that he is a highly successful CEO and entrepreneur. He not only earned excellent grades, but he was always interested in going a step further to figure out how he could apply the accounting knowledge to a variety of business functions and situations. I'm happy GSM could play a small part in his success story," said Eber.
Zoberis's advice for current SXU students interested in entrepreneurship is to work for two or three different companies within the first 10 years after graduating and learn both the good and bad things of the industry. He reminds students of the SXU core value "Learning for Life," believing that is something students should constantly strive for. He also encourages students to act as mentors for other hopeful entrepreneurs.
As Zoberis looks to the future, he hopes to help others carry on the spirit of entrepreneurship. He doesn't plan to ever retire and hopes that his business will one day be able to run on its own and be carried on forever.
"It's important to me that the company remains intact with our values and that it goes on long beyond me. I want to make a positive impact on other entrepreneurs for years to come."