ABB Robotics targets e-commerce giants amid automotive slowdown

An ABB Ltd robotic arm writing a message in sand ahead of the World Economic Forum Switzerland, on Jan 20. ABB and Covariant are partnering to work on warehouse robotics for e-commerce companies. — Bloomberg

ABB Ltd and Silicon Valley startup Covariant are partnering to work on warehouse robotics for e-commerce companies like Inc and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd as the Swiss engineer is seeking revenues beyond the weakened car industry.

The robotics are able to autonomously pick online shoppers’ orders received by warehouses and the first solution is currently being deployed at Bpost Group’s Active Ants, a provider of e-commerce fulfillment services for web businesses in the Netherlands, ABB and Covariant said Feb 25.

ABB started developing solutions for e-commerce logistics three years ago and the new partnership is intended to address a gap it identified in the order picking process.

Its move into e-commerce is helping ABB to stand on "multiple legs as opposed to one strong leg,” Robotics and Discrete Automation President Sami Atiya said in an interview, adding that 60% of the division’s annual sales come from sectors other than automotive.

As a supplier of factory automation gear, ABB is exposed to the global slowdown in manufacturing. The robotics business’ orders fell by 18% in the fourth quarter of 2019 and sales dropped 10%. ABB said it expects total revenues to be steady or slightly up in 2020 – excluding a "likely” impact from the coronavirus outbreak. – Bloomberg

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