Latest posts by Tim Dawson (see all)
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Autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) are set to be the fastest growing type of industrial service robot. Manufacturing companies and end-users requesting more flexible and automated material handling solutions, and an increasing volume of suppliers offering ever-broader AMR product lines to the industrial (and related) segments continue to signpost the rapid uptake of these products.
Drivers of AMR market growth include:
- The acceptance and use of robotics
- Rising labour costs and reducing automation costs
- The growing e-commerce industry
- The need for more reliable and flexible material handling solutions in 24/7 facilities
- Reducing technology barriers, e.g. safety, security
- Software readiness and its integration with other business systems
- Expanding market opportunities into new segments:
Such drivers were heard about first-hand at the Automate / Promat tradeshows in Chicago (8-11 April 2017), where discussions with manufacturers and end-users revealed their need for ever-increasing flexibility, productivity and autonomy in a cost-conscious environment. Aethon, a supplier of AMRs to the medical and hospitality sectors, used the show to launch their products to the industrial market; while Adept, Comau, Fetch Robotics, Kuka and Siasun (to name a few) showcased new or expanded product lines.
Autonomous mobile robots are not all about complete workforce reduction (although they do support that to an extent). Instead, they offer an ability to augment human labour, especially at times when it would be more expensive to employ people, or in applications where value comes from production activities that cannot be automated. In these cases, continuing to work through the night, or allowing a human to focus entirely on the complex production task at hand (whilst a robot provides a constant flow of material); represents a true value-add.
The business case and real world implementation of AMRs for end-users is not always clear, but suppliers are getting smarter at educating customers and potential customers of the benefits of AMRs, demonstrating their true value and opportunity for ROI. These factors combined an appetite for more intelligent automation across multiple industries will ensure the AMR market will fulfil its high growth potential in the coming years.