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Robotics on the move in 2016

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Companies in the advanced automation and robotics sector are doing deals in 2016.

In addition to Mirus’ client MagneMotion, four companies: Vizient, iRobot, Hansen Medical, and Bluefin Robotics have announced deals in this sector so far in 2016.  Globally, the industry appears poised for accelerated adoption as costs have come down while technology has made significant strides in the past decade.

  • MagneMotion, a leader in intelligent conveyor systems, announced its deal with Rockwell Automation (NYSE: ROK) in February.  “This deal is the logical next step in the evolution of our business, and a welcome development for MagneMotion,” said Todd Webber, president and CEO of MagneMotion. “Rockwell Automation’s leading position in plant-wide controls and industrial automation gives us the best opportunity to introduce this technology to customers. As the market continues to realize the benefits of applying independent cart technology, Rockwell Automation’s global organization will be a tremendous asset.”
  • Lincoln Electric Holdings (Nasdaq: LECO) announced its acquisition of robot maker Vizient Manufacturing Solutions in May.  Vizient, based in Bettendorf, Iowa, produces robots that weld products and handle materials. The target has about $40 million in annual sales.
  • Hansen Medical (Nasdaq: HNSN) announced its transaction with Auris Surgical Robotics (backed by Peter Thiel among others) in April. Auris Surgical Robotics agreed to buy Hansen Medical for about $80 million. Mountain View, California-based Hansen Medical develops intravascular robotics technology.
  • Arlington Capital Partners purchased the defense and security business of iRobot Corp. (Nasdaq: IRBT) in April. The company’s leading robotic designs are proven in the most dangerous and hostile environments, providing warfighters and first-responders with invaluable situational awareness while improving mission effectiveness and saving lives.
  • Bluefin Robotics, a Massachusetts-based developer of autonomous undersea robots, was acquired by the Mission Systems unit of General Dynamics in February.

Considering the sector from a high level, there’s been a lot of effort and funding into the robotics and automation sector in the past 25 years. We’re reaching the point now where sensors (think machine vision and image processing systems), hardware (from processors to gripping technologies), control systems (sprinting robots) and software are good enough and cheap enough to enable robotic applications in warehousing and logistics, collaborative robotics (or “cobots”) working alongside people in production lines, delivery robots, and hygienic processing/medical  (from pharmacy dispensing to surgery), in addition to improved flexibility and speed for automotive and other more traditional automation sectors.  The industry is gaining state-level recognition. According to MIT’s Technology Review, China is “laying the groundwork for a robot revolution by planning to automate the work currently done by millions of low-paid workers”. “The vice president of the People’s Republic of China, Li Yuanchao, appeared at the country’s first major robotics conference, …  Li delivered a message from China’s leader, Xi Jinping, congratulating the organizers of the effort. He also made it clear that robotics would be a major priority for the country’s economic future.”

Robotics, and advanced automation in general, has seemed poised for widespread adoption for a while now. While there have been a number of significant applications of robotic technology in the past decade, the current levels of funding, innovation, strategic investment, and adoption suggest that the industry is shifting into a new expansion mode.


Alan Fullerton is a partner with Mirus Capital Advisors. He works with owners of middle market businesses and can be reached at fullerton@merger.com.