Rockwell Automation, a global industrial automation company based in Milwaukee, today announced it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Ontario, Canada-based Clearpath Robotics Inc., a provider of autonomous robotics for industrial applications. Clearpath and its OTTO Motors Division offer various autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), including larger format AMRs capable of automating the handling of heavier loads.
Rockwell Automation predicted the acquisition will "supercharge" its lead in bringing what its calls the "Connected Enterprise" to life by harnessing AMR data. The value of the deal was not disclosed, but Rockwell stated the acquisition will be funded by a portion of the proceeds from the recent sale of its investment in PTC.
Transporting parts and materials to assembly lines and between manufacturing cells is one of the industry’s most complex and inefficient tasks, often resulting in production bottlenecks, Rockwell Automation noted. Autonomous production logistics will transform the workflow throughout a manufacturing plant, the company added, enabling substantial reductions in cost and greater operational efficiency. Clearpath’s OTTO Motors Division offers AMRs and fleet management and navigation software, which dramatically increase throughput and reduce costs by ensuring components and subassemblies are in place when needed and by transporting finished goods to a truck or warehouse upon completion.
Combined with Rockwell’s strong continuing partnerships in fixed robotic arms, solutions such as Independent Cart Technology, and traditional leadership in programmable logic controllers (PLCs), the addition of OTTO Motors’ AMR capabilities will create a complete portfolio of advanced material handling solutions unmatched in the industry, according to Rockwell.
According to analyst firm 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. This acquisition is expected to contribute a percentage point to Rockwell’s fiscal 2024 revenue growth.
“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. 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.”
Data from Rockwell’s offerings and OTTO Motors’ AMRs will be harnessed in artificial intelligence-powered Software as a Service information management applications, such as those by Rockwell’s Plex and Fiix businesses. With this, Rockwell added, it will 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 amplify Kalypso’s production logistics consulting practice. Rockwell acquired Kalypso in 2020.
“Industrial customers are under ever-increasing pressure to do more with less. Autonomous production logistics is becoming a necessity to meet targets and stay competitive. We are excited to join Rockwell and help expand their leadership position in advanced material handling,” said Matt Rendall, co-founder and CEO of Clearpath. “Together, we will create safer and more productive workplaces with autonomous technology.”
Ash Sharma, senior research director for robotics and warehouse automation at Interact Analysis, noted that AMRs get much attention for their uses in warehouse fulfillment, but a huge opportunity exists for AMRs on production lines, where OTTO Motors has had success. "If AMR deployment takes off on factory floors in a big way, as I believe it well, then we will see major growth for AMRs in this area," Sharma said in comments about the acquisition.
Clearpath got its start offering robotics technology to global research and development markets, and in 2015, launched its OTTO Motors Division. The deal for Clearpath is subject to customary regulatory approval and is expected to close in the first quarter of Rockwell’s fiscal year 2024. At close, Clearpath will report to Rockwell’s Intelligent Devices operating segment.