One thing has become abundantly clear in 2021: autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) are in high demand. Earlier this morning, Locus Robotics acquired fellow AMR provider Waypoint Robotics for an undisclosed amount. New Hampshire-based Waypoint became the fourth AMR company acquired in just the last five months.
The Robot Report compiled 12 of the more notable acquisitions of AMR companies. There have been plenty of companies acquired that develop AMRs for other applications, such as agriculture, or enabling technologies for AMRs. Heck, Boston Dynamics is technically an AMR, but it uses legs to move around. This recap focuses specifically on companies selling wheeled AMRs that can navigate around a warehouse material handling applications. No ASRS’ welcome here.
The table below is arranged by date, starting with the most recent. Below the table is a short recap about the significance of each deal.
12 notable warehouse-focused AMR acquisitions
|Locus Robotics||Waypoint Robotics||—||9/20/21||Story|
|ABB||ASTI Mobile Robotics||—||7/20/21||Story|
|Zebra Technologies||Fetch Robotics||290||7/1/21||Story|
|JASCI Software||NextShift Robotics||—||5/4/21||Story|
|Shopify||6 River Systems||450||9/9/19||Story|
|Teradyne||AutoGuide Mobile Robots||58||10/21/19||Story|
|Teradyne||Mobile Industrial Robots||272||4/26/18||Story|
Locus Robotics acquires Waypoint Robotics: Wilmington, Mass.-based Locus Robotics is a leading AMR developer. It’s raised approximately $305 million since it was founded in 2014 and is valued at more than $1 billion. Earlier in 2021 after closing a $150 million Series E round, Locus said it had 4,000 AMRs out in the field and 40-plus customers. It also recently announced an expanded partnership with DHL.
Locus has done all of this with just one AMR form factor with limited payload capacity. Waypoint brings multiple form factors and heavy-duty payload capacity to the table, which will open up new markets to Locus and expand its potential deployments with existing customers.
ABB acquires ASTI Mobile Robotics: ABB, one of the world’s biggest automation companies, has focused mainly on large industrial robot arms and collaborative robot arms. As Sami Atiya, CEO of ABB Robotics said on The Robot Report Podcast, more of ABB’s customers began asking about mobile robots. Buying ASTI, rather than developing its own solutions, gives ABB a quick and respected way to diversify its robotics portfolio to provide more value to existing and new customers.
Zebra Technologies acquires Fetch Robotics: Fetch and Zebra worked closely together prior to this acquisition. In fact, Zebra already owned a 5% stake in Fetch before paying $290 million for the other 95% stake. Zebra was already a leading provider of warehousing solutions, but adding Fetch’s various AMRs gives Zebra more tools in its toolbox, becoming more of a one-stop shop for warehousing technology needs.
JASCI Software acquires NextShift Robotics: This was an interesting acquisition for a number of reasons, but primarily because NextShift Robotics seemingly flatlined the last couple of years. JASCI is an experienced software company with an established sales channel and customer base. It acquired NextShift to offer both logistics software and robotics hardware in a single platform that it calls “ALIDA.”
Shopify acquires 6 River Systems for $450M: As far as we can tell, this is the second-most expensive acquisition behind only Amazon’s purchase of Kiva Systems for $775 million in 2012. In fact, two of 6 River Systems’ three co-founders – Rylan Hamilton and Jerome Dubois – worked at Kiva Systems for a number of years. So 6 River Systems had deep knowledge of the logistics space when it launched.
Shopify paid nearly a half-billion dollars for the acquisition to help its customers compete with Amazon. In June 2019, Shopify launched its Fulfillment Network service that it said will speed up delivery times and lower shipping costs for its customers. Shopify’s fulfillment centers, which are located throughout the U.S., support merchants that ship between 10 and 10,000 packages per day.
Teradyne acquires AutoGuide Mobile Robots: Teradyne acquired AutoGuide Mobile Robots, which offers heavy-duty AMRs, to complement the lighter-duty AMRs from Mobile Industrial Robots (MiR), which Teradyne acquired a year earlier. Interestingly, MiR recently launched two heavy-duty AMRs and AutoGuide has struggled to meet expectations. Teradyne’s industrial automation portfolio is quite strong, however, thanks to MiR and collaborative robotic arm leader Universal Robots.
Amazon acquires Canvas Technology: Amazon bought Boulder, Colo.-based startup Canvas Technology for more than $100 million in 2019. Canvas’ first product was an autonomous cart it claimed could operate without relying on a prior map. Canvas’ autonomous cart seems like a perfect way to augment the person-to-goods workflow in Amazon warehouses. Of course, the company’s autonomous navigation technology is a great fit, too, and could be used on other systems such as Amazon’s Scout delivery robots.
Teradyne acquires MiR: Teradyne has doubled down on AMRs with its acquisitions of MiR and then AutoGuide. MiR has proven to be a better play to this point, having earned $16 million in Q2 2021 and $14 million in Q1 2021. MiR is on pace to generate $60 million in revenue this year after growing sales 1% to $45 million during pandemic-stricken 2020.
Omron acquires Adept Technology: At the time of this acquisition, Kyoto, Japan-based Omron had annual revenues of $7.3 billion, of which $2.7 billion was from its industrial automation business. Its industrial automation portfolio in 2015 consisted of delta, gantry and SCARA robots, as well as vision components and systems. Adding Adepts AMRs to its lineup diversified Omron’s automation portfolio.
KUKA acquires Swisslog for $357 million: The Swisslog acquisition added a mobility arm to KUKA’s arsenal of products, a strategic move other traditional robot arm manufacturers have made and continue to make today (see ABB). KUKA had a mobile robot of its own at the time, but it was more a work-in-progress compared to those offered by Swisslog. At the time, Swisslog primarily operated in healthcare- and warehouse distribution-related applications. In mid-2016, Chinese Midea Group acquired a majority stake in KUKA.
Amazon acquires Kiva Systems: Kiva Systems’ robots don’t navigate the same way the AMRs on this list do. The Kiva robots are technically automated guided vehicles (AGVs), but this acquisition played such a crucial role in the development of today’s AMR industry that we included it on the list.
At the time of the deal, Kiva said it would continue to sell its solution to third-party companies. Of course, that didn’t happen. Amazon renamed Kiva Systems to Amazon Robotics and the technology is now used solely in-house. This left a technology gap in the industry, which led to the creation of various warehouse automation startups.
Locus Robotics and 6 River Systems are perhaps the best examples of the trickle down effect caused by this deal. Quiet Logistics, a 3PL, used Kiva robots at a warehouse in Massachusetts. After its Kiva robots were no longer supported, it took matters into its own hands and developed its own robots. It ran this project in stealth for about three years before spinning out Locus Robotics.
Had Amazon not purchased Kiva Systems, Locus Robotics and many others in the space might not exist today.
Adept Technology acquires MobileRobots: At the time of the deal, Adept Technology had about $50 million in sales of SCARA, parallel and other fixed-position robots. It added a complete line of AGVs and AMRs to its portfolio with the acquisition of MobileRobots in 2010. Five years later, Adept was acquired by Omron for $200 million.