Rockwell acquires Canadian AMR firm Clearpath

The company will use some of the $820 million from its PTC share sale to fund the deal.

The OTTO Lifter is an autonomous forklift that operates in crowded and dynamic environments. (Image: Clearpath Robotics Inc.)

The OTTO Lifter is an autonomous forklift that operates in crowded and dynamic environments. (Image: Clearpath Robotics Inc.)

Industrial automation firm Rockwell Automation, Inc. will acquire Canadian robot maker Clearpath Robotics Inc.

The acquisition will be funded in part by the proceeds from Rockwell’s divestment of its interests in software firm PTC. The deal is subject to regulatory approval and is expected to close in the first quarter of Rockwell’s fiscal year 2024. Clearpath will report to Rockwell’s Intelligent Devices operating segment. Terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

Clearpath and its Otto Motors division design, engineer and manufacture autonomous robotics for industrial applications. Rockwell says autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) are the next frontier in industrial automation and transformation and this acquisition will boost the company’s portfolio in autonomous production and logistics.

“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 of 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.”

According to U.K.-based market research firm Interact Analysis, the market for AMRs in manufacturing is expected to grow about 30 percent 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.

Transporting parts and materials to assembly lines and between manufacturing cells is a complex and inefficient task and is a common bottleneck in production environments. Autonomous production logistics will transform the workflow throughout a manufacturing plant, enabling substantial reductions in cost and greater operational efficiency.

Clearpath’s OTTO Motors Division makes AMRs and fleet management and navigation software, which dramatically increase throughput and reduce costs by ensuring components and subassemblies are in place when needed and by transporting finished goods to a truck or warehouse.

Combined with Rockwell’s position in fixed robotic arms, independent cart technology and traditional PLCs, the addition of OTTO Motors’ AMR capabilities will create a complete portfolio of advanced material handling solutions.

Data from Rockwell’s and OTTO Motors’ products will be harnessed in artificial intelligence-powered SaaS information management applications which will build a unified solution for manufacturing, enabling autonomous execution and optimization to increase efficiency and traceability and allow for real-time adjustments.

“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,” said Matt Rendall, co-founder and CEO of Clearpath.

Clearpath was founded in Kitchener, Ontario in 2009 and got its start offering robotics technology to global research and development markets, and in 2015, launched its OTTO Motors Division.