The global material handling robots industry size was valued at USD 7.34 billion in 2021 and it is likely to witness a healthy CAGR of 17.4% from 2022 to 2030, according to “Material Handling Robots Industry Data Book, 2023 – 2030,” published by Grand View Research. An exponential growth of the e-commerce sector, expanding connectivity, personalization, urbanization, and lack of warehouse workers have fueled the demand for robots to boost the supply chain. Manufacturers and developers have sought robots to optimize material handling processes across manufacturing, logistics, warehousing, and retail sectors.
Trends indicate state-of-the-art technologies, including artificial intelligence, will gain ground to streamline tasks and fulfill orders. Stakeholders expect collaborative robots (Cobots), autonomous mobile robots, and automated guided vehicles (AGV) to receive an uptick as smart solutions to overcome logistics challenges.
Cobots Add Business Value
The advent of collaborative robots has provided an impetus to industries with increased productivity, reduced work-related injuries, and rich labor resources. Since material handling tasks are instrumental across industry verticals, robotics, and automation are slated to gain steam. According to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), in 2021, around 517,385 new industrial robots were installed in factories globally. In essence, technological advancements in sensors and grippers are anticipated to have an overarching influence on the global outlook.
The collaborative robots market size was pegged at USD 1.01 billion in 2021 and could observe around 31.5% CAGR during the assessment period. Notably, the emergence of AI and 5g in robots will enable manufacturers to unlock growth potentials, including bolstering productivity, saving time, and making work safer.
AGVs are here to Stay
Automated guided vehicles have received immense traction to foster product flows against the backdrop of software and sensor technology developments. AGVs have become sought-after to accomplish tasks more efficiently and precisely vis-à-vis humans. The technology will continue to gain ground across advanced and emerging economies, mainly due to space optimization, reduced personnel costs, increased accuracy & speed, bullish operational flexibility, and robust traceability & control.
These dynamics have prompted industry leaders to foray into the AGV landscape. In February 2023, Darwynn Ltd. announced the launch of its new center with bespoke automation technologies, including AGVs, automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS), and advanced conveyance technology. It is worth mentioning that the automated guided vehicle market size logged USD 3.81 billion in 2021 and will expand at around 10.2% CAGR during the forecast period.
Why is the Healthcare Sector Banking on AGVs?
The healthcare sector has exhibited profound traction for AGVs for the transportation of drugs, sterile, linen, meals, and waste. The minimization of the need to move or touch the shared objects can prevent the spread of disease and enhance safety. Lately, the integration of automated guided vehicles has augured well for healthcare workers and other stakeholders as it boosts the quality of medical care, enhances patient experience and cuts OPEX and turnaround time.
Trends and Opportunities to Watch out for
Some dynamics that are expected to influence the global ecosystem are delineated below:
- The emergence of big data and machine learning could bring a paradigm shift across industry verticals. Using robots-as-service and automated production can optimize machine performance, boding well for market growth.
- Autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) have added fillip to the material handling robots industry growth in the wake of surging deployment across hospitals, hotels, the manufacturing sector, and terminals. Logistical companies and warehouses have furthered investments in AMRs for precision, speed, operational efficiency, and increased safety. The applications of AI, machine learning, and sensors in AMR will gain ground to foster navigation.
- Asia Pacific could contribute significantly to the global market with advancements in Industry 4.0 and surging demand for robots in warehousing facilities and manufacturing units across China, India, Japan and Australia. For instance, in October 2022, the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) reported that Asia accounted for 74% of all newly deployed robots in 2021. The penetration of 5G mobile networks and cloud computing will unlock growth avenues. However, a shortage of electronic components and soaring energy prices may challenge incumbent players.
North America Offers Plethora of Growth Opportunities
North America is expected to witness investment galore in light of bullish demand from the automotive sector and installations in the metal & machine industry. Moreover, the food & beverage sector across the U.S. and Canada has shown a heightened demand for robotics technologies. Stakeholders have also explored opportunities for the growth of the e-commerce sector. Prominently, leading players are using state-of-the-art technologies for e-commerce businesses to optimize inventory positioning, enhance customer experience and minimize stockouts. The trend for customized orders has prompted businesses to invest in AGVs and AMRs to eliminate errors while picking, weighing, and shipping, enhance workflow, and bolster safety.
Brands and businesses have furthered investments in organic and inorganic growth strategies, including R&D activities, mergers & acquisitions, technological advancements, and innovations. To illustrate, in February 2021, ABB announced the rollout of GoFa and SWIFTI cobot families to unlock the potential of automation and provide higher speeds and payloads. Meanwhile, in February 2022, KION Group introduced the IMOCO research project for smart and safe self-driving trucks for applications in warehousing and production.