Mobile Robots Rapidly Mainstreaming – By 2025, AGVs and AMRs Deployed in 53K
Business, technological, and social drivers, as well as the Covid pandemic, have had an accelerative effect on the mobile robotics sector, particularly for autonomous mobile robots (AMRs). Deployments are up and increasing rapidly, and you can expect more of the same in the future.
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While this may seem like a great deal, it is not even close to reaching the ceiling of market saturation. Market penetration of mobile robots in 2025 will still not have exceeded 30% (Figure 1). Furthermore, those penetration levels do not account for facilities where multiple types of robots installed, nor the mass rollout of fleets in a single warehouse. Given that, the market opportunity for Automated Guide Vehicles (AGVs) and Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) is even greater.
The warehousing sector in particular is poised to become a huge market for mobile robot vendors. Research by Interact Analysis shows that 2020 marked a watershed for the industry. Growth resumed midway through the year, after a difficult first half amidst the height of the pandemic. Despite CapEx restrictions and facility shutdowns, overall mobile robot shipments increased by more than 25% in 2020, and with nearly 60,000 AGVs and AMRs being deployed.
More Growth Coming
And there is plenty of scope for further growth. Up until now, warehousing has been highly dependent on human labor, and we are going to see 30,000 new warehouses being built over the next five years. But warehousing isn’t the only sector where we expect to see major penetration by mobile robots. Manufacturing, notably automotive, will also invest heavily in mobile robotic solutions in the next few years.
The automotive sector experience a catastrophic downturn during the pandemic, and recovery has been slow. As a result, investment in automated solutions declined. But the industry is at a turning point as manufacturers phase out internal combustible engine vehicle production, and reconfigure assembly lines for the era of the electric vehicle.
Automated solutions, including mobile robots, will play a significant part in this remodeling. One example is Arrival, are developing an entire AMR-based manufacturing concept, which they call the ‘microfactory’, for the efficient manufacturing of electric vehicles.
The pandemic was a double-edged sword for the mobile robot sector. The spike in e-commerce, coupled with reduced throughput through enforced social distancing, increased the need for automation. Yet at the same time companies were reluctant to take the risk and invest. This resulted in a drop in mobile robot sales in the first half of 2020. But, that was only temporary.
It is evident that increasing levels of automation, including mobile robots, is key to addressing the continued scarcity of labor in warehouses. In addition, the continuing (and unprecedented) demands put on fulfillment centers and warehouses, in terms of volume, speed and efficiency requirements, will further drive mobile robotics deployments.
AMRs with higher payload capabilities are now being produced (up to 1,350kg), and as a result, AMRs are becoming popular in manufacturing and other sectors for moving heavy loads.
The AMR Advantage
While AMRs do not operate with the same precision or point-to-point speed as AGVs, AMRs do have certain advantages over AGVs. For example, there is no need for the operational infrastructure which AGVs require, and deployment can be much quicker.
AMRs, on the whole, are less expensive than AGVs. The average price for AMRs stands at approximately $20k, compared to $75k for AGVs, and the purchase price of a small…