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Hitachi acquired Kyoto Robotics, a Japan-based developer of 3D vision systems, control systems and more recently picking robots for the logistics industry. Hitachi acquired 96% of all issued shares of Kyoto Robotics and made it a subsidiary. Terms of the acquisition weren’t disclosed.
Hitachi said the acquisition will enable it to provide one-stop shop of systems integration for an entire automated line in the fields of logistics and factory automation. Hitachi will deploy Kyoto Robotics’ robotic systems for palletizing and depalletizing applications at distribution centers. Hitachi also develops AGVs conveying equipment, and warehouse control and warehouse management systems it can offer customers.
The company was originally named 3D MEDiA when it spun out of Ritsumeikan University in 2000. It was founded by president and CEO Gang Xu. It changed its name to Kyoto Robotics on January 1, 2018. It has partnered with a variety of industrial robot manufacturers to deliver 400-plus robotics systems, mainly in Japan, for palletizing and depalletizing applications. The video below from February 2021 shows Kyoto’s system in action:
“We have been a world leader in the development of technologies in the field of 3D vision, robot vision and robot control. We have won the Grand Robot Award and the Grand Logistics Award and are a certified J-Startup,” said Gang Xu. “On the other hand, the 3D sensor and intelligent picking controller we develop provide value to the customer only after they are embedded in robotic systems through robotic systems integration. Becoming a member of the Hitachi Group, which is heavily investing in the robot system integration business, we now have a larger platform to deliver our technology to much wider customers, which would have been difficult if only Kyoto Robotics alone. Currently large Japanese companies rarely acquire high-tech start-ups. We hope that this acquisition will become a precedent and contribute to the promotion of open innovation in Japan.”
Pairing Kyoto Robotics with leading integrators
On the integration front, Hitachi owns one of the best in the business. It acquired Holland, Michigan-based JR Automation in 2019 for $1.25 billion. JR Automation, founded in 1980, designs and builds custom automation equipment and provides services in the automotive, aerospace, medical device, pharmaceutical, food processing and construction industries. At the time of the acquisition, JR Automation had about 2,000 employees and had sales of $600 million in 2018.
Prior to buying JR Automation, Hitachi acquired KEC Corporation, a Japanese robotic systems integrator.
“We are very pleased that Kyoto Robotics has become a member of the Hitachi Group,” said Kazunobu Morita, vice president and executive officer, CEO of the industry & distribution business unit, Hitachi. “During this new normal caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the acquisition of Kyoto Robotics’ advanced technologies and expertise related to intelligent robotic systems, which are the key to the automation of logistics and manufacturing sites, is an important milestone. We will integrate Hitachi’s products, OT and IT, Lumada, which uses advanced digital technologies, and Kyoto Robotics’ robotic systems integration, including their intelligent robotic systems and connect cyber space and real space. This will enable us to contribute to the solutions to customers’ issues and maximize the value of businesses from a management perspective while enhancing social, environmental and economic value.”