ABB will acquire ASTI Mobile Robotics Group (ASTI), a global autonomous mobile robot (AMR) manufacturer with a portfolio across multiple applications enabled by the company’s software suite. This will expand ABB’s robotics and automation offering.
The acquisition, a part of ABB’s external growth strategy, was signed on July 19 and is expected to close in mid-summer 2021. Both parties agreed not to disclose any details regarding the purchase price.
Founded in 1982, ASTI is headquartered in Burgos, Spain, and employs more than 300 people in Spain, France and Germany. It is majority-owned by Veronica Pascual Boé, who is also CEO. Other shareholders include European Growth Buyout investor Keensight Capital. It supports one of Europe’s largest installed fleets of AMRs and has a customer base in automotive, logistics, food & beverage and pharmaceuticals in 20 countries. Since 2015, the company has enjoyed close to 30 percent growth on an annual basis and is targeting approximately $50 million in revenue in 2021.
“With its 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,” said Sami Atiya, president of ABB’s Robotics & Discrete Automation business. “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. This is a game changer for our customers as they adapt to the individualized consumer and seize opportunities presented by significant changes in consumer demand.”
AMRs will support flexibility in production, logistics, intralogistics and fulfillment through to retail and healthcare environments. This will enable ABB’s and ASTI’s common vision to help customers to replace linear production lines with fully flexible networks, where intelligent AMRs autonomously navigate materials, parts and finished products between smart connected workstations, in factories, logistics centers, laboratories, shops or hospitals.
Veronica Pascual Boé, ASTI CEO said: “ABB’s vision is 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 solutions, unit carriers and box movers, as well as a software offering ranging from vehicle navigation and control and fleet and order management to cloud-based traceability systems.
These will be integrated with ABB’s portfolio of robots, machine automation, modular solutions and software suite including RobotStudio, ABB Robotics’ simulation and programming tool, creating an automation portfolio for ABB’s customers.
ABB and ASTI offer domain expertise in manufacturing industries including automotive, food & beverage and consumer packaged goods, as well as in growth segments including logistics, e-commerce, retail and healthcare. ABB plans to expand AMR sales and service support globally to 53 countries.
“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,” said 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.”
Mobile robots used in manufacturing environments will generate more than $13 billion in cumulative revenue in the next four years, predicted Sharma. "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,” he said.
ASTI’s Spanish headquarters will become ABB’s AMR business headquarters, led by Pascual Boé, with core functions, including R&D, engineering, product and project value chain, continuing at ASTI’s facilities. ABB indicated it will significantly expand production capacity at the AMR business headquarters to support the planned sales expansion in Europe and the Americas. To facilitate the growth potential for AMRs in China and Asia, ABB plans to establish an Asia AMR hub, including full value chain and manufacturing, at its new robotics factory, which is scheduled to open in Shanghai in 2022. China, the world’s largest robotics market, is projected to account for $1.8 billion of AMR sales annually by 2025.
ABB Robotics’ acquisition comes shortly after the company’s announcements to expand robotics automation for sectors and first-time users, including the launch of its GoFa and SWIFTI collaborative robot families.