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Rockwell Automation Acquires Clearpath Robotics to Improve Autonomous Production Logistics

By Alex Passett
September 19, 2023

The Internet of Things (and the Industrial Internet of Things) are oft-synonymous terms with connectivity, edge computing, LPWA and LoRaWAN, GNSS, telematics, etc. Things you can’t quite hold in your hands, is what I’m getting at, but still the legs and lifeblood of IoT/IIoT.

The more physical components? Devices outfitted with various batteries and SIMs, plus sensors, detectors and other smart objects, and a ton more. Once embedded, those are what end up generating data-driven insights and solutions for organizations’ networks, fleet operations, and entire infrastructures.

Regarding these physical parts, a slightly glossed-over issue is the transport. It’s not just a given, even in our automating-everything era. Transporting parts and materials to the assembly line and between manufacturing cells is considered by many to be one of the less efficient elements of an IoT/IIoT process, as it can result in undue bottlenecks.

Yet, automation still likely holds an answer.

For Rockwell Automation and Clearpath Robotics (the latter having launched its OTTO Motors Division back in 2015), automation production logistics could be a golden goose. Automation production logistics can transform workflows throughout manufacturing plant, enabling substantial cost reductions and greater operational efficiencies.

That’s why Rockwell – with sights set on the next generation of smart manufacturing – announced the signing of a definitive agreement to acquire Clearpath. For Rockwell, a path towards extensive digital transformations begins here; with smarter automation, and with autonomous mobile robots (AMR). By acquiring Clearpath, Rockwell’s teams believe that efforts in bringing more robustly connected enterprises to life will be, to use the phrase seen in this announcement’s press release, “entirely supercharged.”

Other sources echo similar AMR-related thoughts, as well. Per a report from Interact Analysis, the market for AMRs in manufacturing is expected to hit a 30% growth spurt over the next four years, with an estimated market size of $6.2 billion by 2027.

So, with Clearpath’s OTTO Motors Division offering AMRs, fleet management software and navigation software, Rockwell expects to dramatically increase throughput and reduce major costs by a.) ensuring smart components and subassemblies are in place when needed, and b.) by tracking and transporting finished goods upon completion. Data from Rockwell’s solutions and OTTO Motors AMRs will be harnessed via a series of AI-powered SaaS information management applications so Rockwell can deliver a truly unified answer to IoT/IIoT production challenges, enabling autonomous execution and optimization to boost efficiency and traceability with real-time adjustments, as needed.

“Rockwell and Clearpath, together, will simplify the difficult and labor-intensive task of moving materials and products through an orchestrated and safe system to optimize operations throughout the entire manufacturing facility,” said Blake Moret, Rockwell’s CEO. “This 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. With Clearpath, Rockwell is uniquely positioned to make that dream a reality across virtually all discrete and hybrid verticals, optimizing operational plans for the workforce.”

“Industrial customers are under an ever-increasing pressure to do simplify; to do more with less. Autonomous production logistics is becoming a necessity to meet targets, to stay competitive. We’re very excited to join Rockwell and help expand their leadership position in advanced material handling,” said Matt Rendall, Clearpath’s co-founder and CEO. “Together, we will create safer and more productive workplaces with autonomous technology.”

Edited by Greg Tavarez
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