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Rockwell Automation is acquiring Clearpath Robotics, an Ontario, Canada-based developer of autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) for research and development purposes. OTTO Motors, a division of Clearpath, develops AMRs for manufacturing and logistics applications and is also part of the acquisition.
Financial details of the pending acquisition were not disclosed. However, the acquisition will be funded by a portion of the proceeds from the sale of Rockwell’s investment in PTC. It is subject to customary regulatory approval and is expected to close in the first quarter of Rockwell’s fiscal year 2024. At close, Clearpath will report to Rockwell’s Intelligent Devices operating segment.
In a release announcing the deal, Rockwell Automation said AMRs “are the next frontier in industrial automation and transformation, and this acquisition will supercharge Rockwell’s lead in bringing the connected enterprise to life.”
According to Interact Analysis, the market for AMRs in manufacturing is expected to grow about 30% per year over the next five years, with an estimated market size of $6.2 billion by 2027. This acquisition is expected to contribute a percentage point to Rockwell’s fiscal 2024 revenue growth.
“Rockwell and Clearpath together will simplify the difficult and labor-intensive task of moving materials and product through an orchestrated and safe system to optimize operations throughout the entire manufacturing facility,” said Blake Moret, Chairman and CEO, Rockwell Automation. “The combination of autonomous robots and PLC-based line control has long been a dream of plant managers in industries as diverse as automotive and consumer packaged goods. With Clearpath, Rockwell is uniquely positioned to make that dream a reality across virtually all discrete and hybrid verticals, optimizing planning, operations, and the workforce.”
According to the companies, data from Rockwell’s offerings and OTTO Motors’ AMRs will be harnessed in artificial intelligence-powered Software as a Service information management applications, such as those by Rockwell’s Plex and Fiix businesses. With this, Rockwell will deliver a unified solution for manufacturing, enabling autonomous execution and optimization to increase efficiency and allow for traceability and real-time adjustments. The combined technology will also amplify Kalypso’s production logistics consulting practice.
“Industrial customers are under ever-increasing pressure to do more with less. Autonomous production logistics is becoming a necessity to meet targets and stay competitive. We are excited to join Rockwell and help expand their leadership position in advanced material handling,” said Matt Rendall, co-founder and CEO of Clearpath. “Together, we will create safer and more productive workplaces with autonomous technology.”
Founded in 2009, Clearpath got its start offering robotics technology to global research and development markets, and in 2015, launched its OTTO Motors Division.
This is the latest in a string of AMR-related acquisitions. In late August, Jungheinrich, a Hamburg-based intralogistics company, acquired all shares of Magazino. Jungheinrich has had shares in Magazino since 2020, and in 2022 it increased its ownership to 21.7%. The new deal, to acquire all shares of the company, took effect immediately upon signing. Both parties have agreed to not disclose the purchase price.
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In June 2023, SoftBank Group entered into an agreement to acquire a 41.8% stake of Balyo for about $12.9 million. The companies hope to finalize the deal during the final quarter of 2023. If the deal is finalized, SoftBank wants to “implement a mandatory squeeze-out on the remaining outstanding shares of Balyo” and delist the company, according to a release from Softbank.
In May 2023, Ocado acquired 6 River Systems from Ocado. Ocado paid just $12.7 million to acquire 6 River Systems. For comparison, Shopify paid $450 million to acquire 6 River Systems in September 2019. Ocado paid roughly 2.8% of what Shopify paid for 6 River.
Rockwell Automation also recently made a strategic investment in READY Robotics. READY Robotics’ ForgeOS platform enables operators to control and program the most popular robot brands from a single user-friendly interface with minimal training. Rockwell and READY Robotics have collaborated to integrate ForgeOS with Rockwell’s line of Logix controllers and design and simulation software. The goal is to simplify robot integration and accelerate time-to-market of industrial automation deployments.