An acquisition agreement signed between Rockwell Automation and Clearpath Robotics signals Rockwell’s intention to supercharge its place as frontrunner in the “connected enterprise.”
Rockwell is adding the Ontario-based company’s AMR offerings and fleet management and navigation software to its portfolio.
Rockwell’s press release noted that the addition of Clearpath’s OTTO Motors’ AMR capabilities, fleet management and navigation software will create a complete portfolio of advanced material handling solutions that will help customers increase throughput and reduce costs.
According to Interact Analysis, the market for AMRs in manufacturing is expected to grow about 30% per year over the next five years, with an estimated market size of $6.2 billion by 2027.
Rockwell noted that the acquisition is expected to contribute a percentage point to the company’s fiscal 2024 revenue growth.
“Currently, AMRs have tended to hit the headlines in relation to their role in warehouses, including both e-commerce and distribution warehouses,” said Ash Sharma, senior research director for robotics and warehouse automation at market intelligence firm Interact Analysis. “However, a huge opportunity exists in production lines which is where OTTO Motors has had success.”
The analyst also said that Rockwell’s aims for Clearpath—and particularly for OTTO Motors—are more wide-ranging than just warehouses, and they intend to expand deploying on factory floors. “If AMR deployment takes off on factory floors in a big way, as I believe it will, then we will see major growth for AMRs in this area,” said Sharma.
Sharma likened the acquisition to ABB’s acquisition of ASTI in 2021, and said there is more to come. “I fully expect to see most major industrial automation companies either acquire or organically develop mobile robot companies in the next few years,” said Sharma.
Data from Rockwell’s offerings and OTTO Motors’ AMRs will be used to support artificial intelligence-powered Software as a Service information management applications, such as those by Rockwell’s Plex and Fiix businesses.
Headquartered in Milwaukee, Rockwell said plans are to deliver “a unified solution for manufacturing, enabling autonomous execution and optimization to increase efficiency and allow for traceability and real-time adjustments.” The combined technology will also complement the company’s Kalypso’s production logistics consulting practice. Rockwell acquired Kalypso in 2020.
“Rockwell and Clearpath together will simplify the difficult and labor-intensive task of moving materials and product through an orchestrated and safe system to optimize operations throughout the entire manufacturing facility,” said Blake Moret, chairman and CEO, Rockwell Automation.
“The combination of autonomous robots and PLC-based line control has long been a dream of plant managers in industries as diverse as automotive and consumer packaged goods,” Moret added. “With Clearpath, Rockwell is uniquely positioned to make that dream a reality across virtually all discrete and hybrid verticals, optimizing planning, operations and the workforce.”