AGVs boosted as COVID-19 drives future demand for smart logistics
Driven by COVID-19, several manufacturers interviewed stated that intelligent robots such as AGVs will see increased demand in 2021 and beyond. The pace of intelligent manufacturing and flexible production is designed to take reliance away from the labor workforce. Omdia predicts that machinery production of AGV robots will grow by 8.2% CAGR over the next four years to $1.3 billion by 2024.
Since 2017, there has been an explosive growth of AGV robots in China, driven by the investment and development of e-commerce warehousing and intelligent logistics. Such scenarios accounted for more than a third of China's AGV market in 2019. The AGV intelligent management system can complete the supervision of all goods and operation links, and can check the storage, delivery, and transportation of goods at any time, so that customers can manage the flow of their goods in real time.
AGV’s are also very common in the 3C electronics industry. Currently there are trackless AGV robots on the market with handling speeds 2-3 times higher than that of traditional magnetic strip AGV, which can solve the challenge of increased throughput in logistics operations. At the same time, the failure of a single AGV robot will not affect the operation of the entire AGV system.
China’s AGV robot market landscape
In the traditional industrial robot industry, robot manufacturers from Japan, Europe, and the United States dominate the market. However, in China, local Chinese AGV manufactures hold more than 80% market share in AGV robots. The leading Chinese AGV manufacturers are JATEN, JONCHN, SINSUN, and SANFBOT. The rapid development of the new energy electric vehicle industry in 2016 led to high growth of the domestic AGV manufacturers.
However, one of the core parts of AGV mobile robot, the high-end servo technology, is still controlled by the European, American, and Japanese manufacturers. These servo products account for one third of the cost of AGV robots. This will not only limit the technical competitiveness of domestic AGV robots, but also restrict the profits of domestic AGV manufacturers. This restriction will also limit the research and development investment of Chinese manufacturers. Omdia forecasts that there will be more merger and acquisition of foreign motion controls companies in China in 2020, especially during economic recession.
Trends of servo products in the AGV market
The application of AGV vehicles in transportation, welding, polishing, docking, and other processes is estimated to be stable in 2020, with 1.5% growth. AGV robots used in many hospitals are used to reduce human contact with patients by delivering food and monitoring health conditions.
Due to the limitations of the application environment, AGVs often require a more compact design. This means that the ability to save space in the integration of servo motors and servo drives, or the modularization of servo products, is vitally important.
In the application of docking, assembly, and storage, AGVs have high requirements on parking accuracy and running stability. Therefore, the improved accuracy of the motion controls system can greatly simplify the design difficulty of the AGVs and, in turn, improve the performance of the vehicle. At present, China's local servo manufacturers have the technology for low- and medium-end applications, especially for applications with lower precision requirements.
The emergence of transformative technologies provides many opportunities for servo manufacturers. In addition to the maturity of 5G technology, many manufacturers will demand the practical application of IIoT and expect compatible solutions for servo control systems, incorporating IT and OT. Real-time monitoring and remote diagnostics through the network of AGVs is becoming more of a reality.
Omdia believes that increasing demand for AGV’s in China will lead to increased market share for local Chinese vendors, whilst more intelligent and flexible motion controls software systems will become the industry standard as end-users aim to utilize big data strategy and leverage the intelligent factory.