The mobile robot market (AGVs and AMRs) has enjoyed strong growth in 2022, driven by increasing e-commerce penetration, a lack of labor and on-going shifts to more flexible manufacturing. The market is far from saturated and growth prospects remain strong, with the ongoing labor shortage providing a continual stimulus for warehouses to automate any operations they can. Demand for mobile robots from the manufacturing sector is less consistent, with some major manufacturers remaining cautious with their spending plans due to volatile demand for their products. This insight will look at long- and short-term trends in the mobile robot market. It will also take a look at the growth trajectory, and some regional and industry-specific factors.
What does the future look like?
Although the mobile robot market is now well established, and arguably quite mature in some respects, growth shows no signs of slowing any time soon. We forecast an installed base of over 4 million mobile robots by the end of 2027, 1.5 million of which will be installed in 2027 alone. Meanwhile, revenue growth will average 30-40% annually out to 2027.
The short-term perspective
Difficult economic conditions have caused some companies to roll back larger capital investments, including in mobile robot automation projects, and supply chain disruption and component shortages have caused delays for some mobile robot projects. Additionally, growth in e-commerce has slowed, easing the pressure on retailers to automate. But these issues are not stopping overall mobile robot market growth. While some capex has been paused, the larger trend is that the pandemic has caused warehouses in particular to accelerate automation plans in order to reduce their reliance on human labor due to the ongoing labor crisis. While e-commerce, despite having plateaued, remains much higher than pre-pandemic. The result is that demand for mobile robots remains broadly strong.
The long-term perspective
The long-term drivers for growth in the mobile automation market are strong and show no signs of abating. These include scarcity of labor, the growth in e-commerce and the shift to flexible manufacturing. Between 2022 and 2027, shipments of mobile robots will grow at an annual rate of ~50%. The potential is boosted still further when we consider how limited overall mobile robot market penetration rates will be by 2027, even in spite of the strong growth that will have happened in the sector. Only 2% of all forklifts shipped in 2027 will be automated and only 14% of warehouses will have deployed at least one order fulfilment AMR. Let’s take an industry-specific look at the market to see if the story changes.
Material transport will drive revenues
Material transport automation is a key revenue driver. Within this, conveying solutions will make up the majority of revenue volume. However, material transport AGV and AMR revenues will reach over $8.5 billion by 2027 – up from just under $3 billion today. This segment will make up almost a quarter of the installed base by 2027, at which point it will be over 1 million units.
US & EMEA vs. China
The mobile robot market in China is very different to that of the US and Europe. Chinese vendors favour smaller lower cost robots, and lower average selling prices are likely to hinder revenue growth compared to that of the US and EMEA. However, China will account for more than 40% of all mobile robots shipped in the next 5 years. On the other hand, the US and EMEA are set to thrive. In particular, these regions will experience a strong uptake in order fulfillment robots with revenues of P2G robots, for example, hitting around $2.7 billion in 2027. Whereas China’s orders will mainly be made up of shelf-to-person robots.
A positive pandemic rebound
2021 saw 100,000 mobile robots shipped globally, generating 35% revenue growth. This represented a major rebound from 2020 which had seen order intake plummet, particularly during the first half. Effectively, 2021 was benefitting from that slow start to 2020. The reason for this was because things picked up so strongly in Q4 of 2020 that some vendors received about 50% of their total annual orders in November and December. The inevitable result of this was that most of the revenues from these orders shifted into early 2021. It is also important to note that most of this growth came from the forklift and conveyor sectors which between them generated 60% of all incremental revenue growth in 2021.
Like all industries, mobile robots took a hit from COVID-19, but the rebound has been much stronger than that experienced by most industries. This is partly because many companies turned to mobile robots to mitigate the labor shortage induced by COVID-19, sending mobile robot sales through the roof. And, as a way of future proofing, organizations continue to invest in automation, which will drive the strong growth in the coming years. Finally, as discussed, despite impressive market growth, penetration of mobile robots will still be low even by 2027 – with only 14% of warehouses having deployed at least one order fulfilment AMR by that date.
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