Robotics & Warehouse Automation May 2020

COVID-19 Will Eliminate $0.5bn Mobile Robot Revenues in 2020, but Market Predicted to Nearly Double in 2021

Ash Sharma
Ash Sharma

Ash is the MD of IA and lead for our Robotics and Warehouse Automation Division. He brings 20 years of experience to the table in sectors ranging from industrial automation and smart manufacturing to drones, robotics and medical technology.

Delays in both new project signoffs and also project commissioning due to social distancing measures will eliminate $450m of AGV & AMR revenues that could have been recorded this year. Our recently released Mobile Robot – 2020 report shows that the industry has not been able to escape the impact of the pandemic, despite the fact that mobile automation can mitigate the issues around labor and social distancing caused by the pandemic for retailers and manufacturers.

Despite the short-term challenges caused by the pandemic, we predict that the ‘lost’ revenue in 2020 will be more than overturned over the next three years and 2023 revenues will be nearly $600m higher than they would have been if the pandemic had not occurred. The increased adoption of ecommerce, moves to local manufacturing and desire to reduce dependency on human labor will all help drive this change.

Most heavily impacted by the pandemic will be vendors focused on durable manufacturing (particularly automotive), solutions that are typically higher CAPEX or require more complex integration and commissioning. Furthermore, although ecommerce has seen a short-term spike, the biggest adopters – apparel and general merchandise – comprises the vendors that are suffering the most from the pandemic. Even Amazon which has seen a surge in consumer demand, has struggled to meet it and had to hire thousands of new warehouse workers and warning it may make a net loss in Q2.

Conversely, the pandemic has created additional opportunity for some mobile robot vendors. Those offering low-CAPEX approaches, such as rentals and RaaS are presenting extremely compelling solutions that allow a fast ramp up for retailers. Similarly, some AMR vendors are able to ship their robots and provide commissioning support remotely to circumvent any social distancing restrictions. We have even seen vendors such as inVia Robotics implement social distancing protocols within its software to help enable the protection of manual workers in its customers warehouses.

Order fulfilment AMRs, such as goods-to-person, person-to-goods and sortation robots are projected to be in high demand in 2020, although somewhat impacted by the pandemic. Whilst we predict installations and revenues will be significantly lower than they could have been prior to the virus, we still forecast nearly 70% growth in revenues, with close to 400 new sites globally adopting the technology this year.

The delays in signing off on new automation projects and the commissioning of larger installations this year, will lead to a huge recovery year in 2021 we predict. AGV revenues are predicted to grow by more than 70% in 2021 after a flat year in 2020. AMR revenue growth will be even more impressive and predicted to double in 2021.

Naturally, all of these predictions dependent on the ability of governments around the world to contain and control the virus and at the same time restart their economies. Our forecast assumes that the peak of infections will be passed by the summer and social distancing will end by the end of Q3. Our worst-case scenario assumes that government cannot control the virus and a second wave of infections occurs towards the end of the year. Under this scenario more than $3.4 billion of mobile robot revenues would be lost over the next four years compared to that forecast prior to the pandemic.

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