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Cognex Names New Chief Executive

Cognex Corporation

Robert “Dr. Bob” Shillman, who made headlines for forgoing his salary and bonus when his company hit hard times, is stepping down as CEO of Cognex Corp.

The Natick company said today that Shillman will remain chairman of the board and also take on the newly created role of chief culture officer at the maker of “machine vision” systems.

Cognex promoted Robert Willett, the company’s president and chief operating officer, to CEO. He joined Cognex in 2008 as a division president.

“Since joining Cognex just three years ago, Rob has done a superb job of both managing our business during the 2009 downturn and in laying the groundwork for our company’s record-breaking financial performance in 2010,” Shillman said in a statement.

Cognex posted revenue of $290.7 million last year, up 65 percent from the previous year.

Schillman said he will work hard to maintain the company’s offbeat corporate culture. The company’s motto is “Work Hard, Play Hard and Move Fast!”

Cognex’s products — high-tech cameras, bar-code readers and sensors — are used for quality control during manufacturing and distribution. The company employs nearly 800 people in Natick and overseas.

Shillman donated his bonuses in 2004 and 2005 to charity. Starting in 2006 he forked over all of his cash compensation to philanthropies, including his 2009 base salary of $250,000. He did receive stock options during those years.

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