Robotics Partnerships Grow to Solve Specific Industry Issues

Feb. 21, 2024
Accenture’s joint venture with Mujin and Honeywell’s partnership with Hai Robotics highlight the growing impact of robots across industry.

In the first weeks of 2024, two high-level robotic partnerships have been announced to address manufacturing production and warehouse/intralogistics operations. 

The first announcement came from Accenture, a global professional services company, about its work with Mujin, a supplier of intelligent robotics, to establish Accenture Alpha Automation, a joint venture for the manufacturing and logistics industries. According to the companies, Accenture Alpha Automation will help companies automate their management infrastructure with data-driven technologies that combine data from manufacturing and logistics operations with management data. The joint venture is owned 70% by Accenture and 30% by Mujin.
The joint venture will combine Mujin’s experience in industrial robotics and automation with expertise from Accenture’s Industry X digital engineering and manufacturing service. Accenture Alpha Automation’s focus is on integrating previously disconnected operational data from manufacturing and logistics sites with business management data, such as company-wide supply chain status, financial information and market information to help clients make faster, better decisions and hyper-automate their manufacturing and logistics processes.

Accenture has also invested directly in Mujin through Accenture Ventures, marking its first Project Spotlight investment in Asia. Project Spotlight is an Accenture engagement and investment program focused on companies that create or apply disruptive enterprise technologies. The program offers extensive access to Accenture’s domain expertise and its enterprise clients, helping technology companies adapt their solutions to the enterprise market and scale faster and more effectively.

The second major robotic partnership launched in early 2024 involves a partnership between Honeywell and Hai Robotics to deliver flexible, high-density storage and retrieval systems to distribution centers (DCs). The alliance couples Hai’s robotics technology with Honeywell’s Momentum Warehouse Execution Software, cybersecurity capabilities and experience integrating robotic systems. Integrating these two technology areas will reportedly enable DC operators to analyze real-time operating information across a DC and prioritize and redirect work as it is performed by both robotic systems and people, allowing for reduced costs and greater customer service levels. 

Hai Robotics’ autonomous case- and tote-handling mobile robotics (ACR) systems, which automate item storage and retrieval and make warehouse put-away and picking processes more efficient, use guided robots capable of reaching up to 32 feet high. These systems condense the required footprint to store goods and can operate within existing brownfield DC and warehouse sites, as well as in the back of retail stores for micro-fulfillment. 

According to Hai Robotics, its ACR system robots can increase productivity by achieving typical throughput rates of approximately 500 pieces per hour (pph), compared to 100-250 pph without the use of robotics.  

“Companies face high costs for warehouse space, continued labor shortages and pressure to deliver goods quickly,” said Keith Fisher, president of Honeywell Intelligrated. “This automated solution allows them to maximize space in their existing facilities, increase productivity and best use their workforce. The combination of Honeywell and Hai Robotics delivers faster time-to-value than most traditional material handling storage and retrieval solutions, providing greater flexibility to meet changing demand and reducing execution risk for our customers.”  

Further highlighting the growth of the industrial market for robots, Universal Robots, the Danish collaborative robot (cobot) company, reported that its Q4 revenue of US$103 million marked an increase of 21% compared to Q4 2022. The Q4 2023 revenue was the company’s largest revenue quarter to date. 

Kim Povlsen, president of Universal Robot, noted that the company has seen strong demand for the first of its heavy payload cobots, the UR20, particularly for palletizing and welding applications. And in November 2023, the company launched another heavy payload cobot, the UR30. Together the UR20 and UR30 represented 30% of Universal Robot’s Q4 2023 revenue.

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