Mobile robots are multiplying

by Inside Logistics Online Staff

By 2027, there will be more than four million mobile robots working around the world.

According to new research from Interact Analysis, most of them will be performing order fulfillment. 

The mobile robot market is showing no signs of slowing, the research found. Despite the market for mobile robot technology being well established, it is not yet close to reaching saturation, with new applications and opportunities continuing to emerge.

The manufacturing industry is expected to continue to drive growth, as the market rebounds from the effects of Covid and a slow start to 2020. Despite a slow first half of 2020 for many vendors, shipments picked up during the final quarter of the year, with revenues filtering through to the first quarter of 2021. The data shows more than 70 percent growth in shipments recorded in 2021, topping 100,000 for the year.

Although overall forecasts to 2027 have been lowered slightly, the market outlook remains strong, with annual growth of between 30 and 40 percent predicted. Both AMRs and AGVs will experience strong demand in the next five years, but growth of AMR adoption will dwarf that of AGVs due to the greater range of possible applications.

Logistics will continue to be the primary market for mobile robots, but significant growth is also anticipated in the manufacturing industry as new applications present themselves as the market develops.

Looking at the trends in individual regions, shelf to person (S2P) robots dominate in China and other Asia-Pacific (APAC) regions, while the Americas and Europe, Middle East and Africa regions (EMEA) are expected to see a strong uptake in order fulfillment bots.

However, revenue growth in APAC regions will be slower out to 2027 due to the lower average selling price (ASP) of the technology in this region. The Americas and EMEA market is expected to reach almost US$6B in 2027 for the US, while the figure sits at just over $2B for the rest of APAC and $5B for EMEA. Despite this, China alone will account of around 40 percent of mobile robot shipments in the next five years due to an increasing trend towards lower cost robots.

“What we found most surprising was the remarkably lower average revenues per unit (ARPUs) than we previously expected, and this influenced our decision to lower our forecasts slightly. In 2021 this dropped by 22 percent as a result of a change in regional mix and the influence of price erosion,” said Ash Sharma, managing director at Interact Analysis.

“Tugger/AGC ARPUs reduced by just over 25 percent in 2021, followed by forklifts (20 percent) and tow tractors (15 percent). In terms of unit pricing, we expect to see that every time mobile robot (AGV and AMR) shipments double, prices will fall by around 10 to 15 percent.”

China was the leader in terms of revenue growth in 2021 and Geek+ contributed considerably to this, becoming the country’s leading vendor. Following just behind was HikRobot  and KION. China experienced such remarkable demand for flexible automation solutions in 2021 in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic that there was very little in terms of labour shortage compared with other regions.

Looking out to 2027, the material transport sector will dominate mobile robot shipments, while sales volume will be driven by conveying solutions.