Listen to this article
The autonomous mobile robot (AMR) segment is expected to reach $6.8 billion by 2025, according to Frost & Sullivan. In a sign of that growth to come, AutoGuide Mobile Robots today opened an office in Munich. The German office will handle sales, service and support, deployment and training throughout greater Europe.
This is the first office outside of the United States for Chelmsofrd, Mass.-based AutoGuide Mobile Robots, which spun out of integrator Heartland Automation in 2017. AutoGuide Mobile Robots was acquired by Teradyne in October 2019 for $58 million. The price could increase another $107 million if AutoGuide meets performance targets through 2022.
AutoGuide, an RBR50 company, develops high-payload AMRs for industrial and warehouse material handling applications. AutoGuide’s MAX-N Pallet Stacker and MAX-N Tugger recently received CE mark approval, indicating the systems meet the European Union’s directives and standards for health, safety and environmental protection.
Jan Nicolay was hired in March 2020 as AutoGuide’s director for European operations. Prior to AutoGuide, he held sales positions at Point Grey Research, a developer of machine vision cameras that was acquired by FLIR Systems in 2016 for approximately $253 million. He also spent nearly four years in sales at Keyence.
“With strong demand for our high-payload AMRs across the region, we felt expanding our European operation would deliver the highest level of support for our distributors and customers,” said Nicolay.
As with most things in 2020, opening the Munich office was delayed by COVID-19. AutoGuide president and CEO Rob Sullivan told The Robot Report the original plan was to open the office in September. “We just got the keys on Friday,” he said. “There was nothing we could do about COVID. But technology enabled us to train up a third-party integrator in Germany and communicate with our employees out there.”
Earlier in 2020, AutoGuide tried to fly a technician to Germany to deploy two robots at DHL’s Innovation Center. But the employee was denied departure at the airport due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. So AutoGuide turned to ST-IR, an integrator in Ingolstadt, Germany, for help. AutoGuide remotely trained ST-IR employees how to install an AutoGuide MAX-N Pallet Stacker and a MAX-N Tugger using equipment it had sent to an ST-IR facility. ST-IR then installed a system at DHL on time.
“All of Europe is a growth target for us,” said Sullivan. “It was a logical progression. Our U.S.-based customers have been pulling us to their European counterparts, and we’re also looking at some new customers. Hopefully the COVID-19 vaccines work and things start really picking up. Having a team [in Europe] is really key for us.”
AutoGuide manufactures its robots at a facility in Georgetown, Kentucky. It has hired many former coal miners to do so. Once demand gets to a certain point in Europe, Sullivan said AutoGuide will turn to its outsource partners to manufacture those units overseas.
“Germany is a great place to be, and Munich is a good central location,” said Sullivan. “It has a large international airport, and other manufacturer clusters are within a 1-2 hour flight. We have a great building right near the trade fair grounds.”
Sullivan said AutoGuide is targeting expansion to Asia in 2022. Hopefully, COVID-19 can’t get in the way by then.