Manufacturing AUTOMATION

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Autonomous mobile robotics gains foothold in manufacturing


May 17, 2013
By Manufacturing AUTOMATION

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The market for Autonomous Mobile Robotics (AMR) is in a state of transition.  The technology is gaining acceptance in industry and in the public eye.  As this continues, the market will both grow rapidly and expand globally, according to a new ARC Advisory Group study.

A market that previously relied upon business from government defense budgets is now rapidly commercializing a decade of solid technological developments.  AMR companies involved with the defense industry are taking the necessary steps to repurpose this technology for the industrial and consumer market.  The market is still very fragmented and few market constituents feel that they compete directly with their peers.  There is currently a significant market opportunity for companies interested in entering the market, especially in underserved markets.  

“AMR is truly a transformative technology that allows organizations to make a step change in operational efficiencies.  Visionaries are driving adoption, leading this market into a rapid growth stage as application domains continue to expand,” said analyst Scott Evans, the principal author of ARC’s “Autonomous Mobile Robotics Global Market Research Study”.

While some solutions have garnered considerable media attention, the use of AMR technology has remained under the media radar in automatic guided vehicles and forklift trucks.  Constrained versions of AMR technology have been ongoing in the warehouse, as OEMs of forklift trucks have incorporated navigational capabilities in these vehicles with a restriction on autonomy.  Consequently, the total AMR market is highly concentrated in warehousing and distribution.  However, the success in warehousing has attracted new entrants to other industries, and the current market for AMR represents only a small fraction of the potential market of this technology.

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Many of the well-entrenched material handling companies have begun to offer vehicles featuring navigation technology and decision-making capabilities that self-characterize as AMRs.  Seizing on the success of AMRs in material handling, many companies have expanded the industry’s horizons by applying AMR technology to intralogistics in other industries, such as hospitals, medical laboratories, semiconductor fabs, and replenishment in manufacturing.

Japan, while a center for robotics research, has focused on “walking” robots for several decades, primarily for application in the human service sector.  Developments have been primarily focused on healthcare to address the aging population, however the technology has gained relatively little traction.  As a result, the Japanese market has lagged in adoption of the commercially viable solutions that have been gaining traction in the North American and European market.