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23 September, 2021

ABB expands into mobile robotics by buying Asti

20 July, 2021

ABB is entering the autonomous mobile robot (AMR) market by buying the Spanish-headquartered AMR manufacturer, Asti Mobile Robotics Group, for an undisclosed sum. The deal will expand ABB’s robotics and automation offering and, it claims, make it the only company to offer a complete portfolio for the next generation of flexible automation. The acquisition, a key part of ABB’s external growth strategy, is expected to close soon.

Asti was founded in 1982 by the parents of its majority owner and CEO, Veronica Pascual Boé, who acquired the business from them in 2008. Asti is headquartered in Burgos, Spain and employs more than 300 people in Spain, France and Germany. Other shareholders include the European growth buyout investor, Keensight Capital.

Asti has one of Europe’s largest installed fleets of AMRs, and a customer base in the automotive, logistics, food & beverage and pharmaceuticals sectors in 20 countries. Its customers include Volkswagen, Stellantis, Nestlé and Procter & Gamble. Since 2015, the company has maintained an annual growth rate of close to 30% and it is aiming to achieve around $50m in revenues during 2021.

ABB plans to expand Asti’s sales and service support operations to 53 countries, targeting the global AMR market where sales are predicted to reach around $14bn by 2025 with a CAGR of about 20%.

ASTI’s headquarters will become ABB’s AMR business headquarters, led by Boé, with core functions, including r&d, engineering, product and project value chains, continuing to be based at Asti’s facilities. ABB plans to expand the company’s production capacity “significantly” to support a planned sales expansion in Europe and the Americas.

ABB will also establish an Asian AMR hub, including manufacturing, at its new robotics factory, which is due to open in Shanghai in 2022. China, the world’s largest robotics market, is predicted to be spending $1.8bn annually on AMRs by 2025.

“With their industry-leading portfolio, comprehensive suite of software and deep domain expertise across growth segments, Asti is the perfect choice for us as we support our customers with the next generation of flexible automation,” says Sami Atiya, president of ABB’s Robotics & Discrete Automation business. “It is going to help us to transform the robotics industry.

“With this acquisition, ABB will be the only company to offer a full automation portfolio of AMRs, robots and machine automation solutions, from production to logistics to point of consumption,” he adds. “This is a gamechanger for our customers as they adapt to the individualised consumer and seize opportunities presented by significant changes in consumer demand.”

AMRs will support an unprecedented degree of flexibility, from production, logistics, intralogistics and fulfilment, through to retail and healthcare environments. This will enable ABB’s and ASTI’s shared vision to help customers replace today’s linear production lines with fully flexible networks, where intelligent AMRs autonomously navigate materials, parts and finished products between smart connected workstations, in factories, logistics centres, laboratories, shops or hospitals.

Atiya sees production flexibility as being a key to serving the expanding market for personalised products. “Flexibility is a strategic need – those who can’t adapt, will not survive,” he predicts.

Sami Atiya, president of ABB’s Robotics & Discrete Automation business, with Veronica Pascual Boé, CEO of ABB’s acquisition, the AMR manufacturer Asti

Sami Atiya believes that AMRs could help to transform sectors such as the automotive industry, for example replacing existing linear welding processes by a series of flexible cells. AMRs could also deliver the exact components needed to personalise the interior of each car on a production line.

Asti CEO Veronica Pascual Boé, who will continue to lead the business, describes ABB’s vision as “a perfect match for us, as we both support our customers’ flexibility and competitiveness through accelerating automation in the workplace. This is the next exciting stage of our journey and together we will accelerate our innovation plans, expand our global customer service, partner network, production and execution capacity and leverage ABB’s market access globally and particularly in China. I am delighted to join the extended robotics management team and lead the AMR business to deliver this ambitious growth plan.”

Asti’s AMR portfolio includes autonomous towing vehicles, goods-to-person systems, carriers and box movers, as well as software ranging from vehicle navigation and control, fleet and order management, to cloud-based traceability systems. These will be integrated with ABB’s portfolio of robots, machine automation, modular systems and software packages, including its RobotStudio simulation and programming tool.

“ABB is the third-largest vendor of industrial (fixed) robots in the world, but until now – like most other industrial robot vendors – had no play in mobile robotics,” comments Ash Sharma, managing director of Interact Analysis. “The move to acquire a mobile robot vendor is not surprising as major customers are rapidly adopting mobile robotics to augment their production line automation. Flexible manufacturing necessitates the use of mobile robots for material flow.

“This mirrors the move made by Omron which acquired mobile robot vendor Adept back in 2015 and successfully created an integrated offering to vendors of both mobile and fixed robotics,” Sharma points out.

Interact predicts that mobile robots used in manufacturing will generate more than $13bn in cumulative revenues over the next four years.

ABB Robotics:  Twitter  LinkedIn  Facebook

Asti:  Twitter  LinkedIn   Facebook




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