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ABB buys intrion to boost its logistics automation presence

24 July, 2018

ABB is buying the Belgian robotics automation provider intrion, with the aim of boosting its expertise in fast-growing logistics automation market. The two parties have agreed not to disclose the value of the transaction, which is expected to close later this year.

Privately owned intrion, headquartered in Huizingen, near Brussels, has around 120 employees and more than a decade of experience in logistics automation for the warehouse and distribution, food and beverage, and pharmaceutical sectors. Its expertise includes inline checking, product picking, packing, palletising, conveying, storage, sorting and sequencing, and order picking. Its customers have included Mars, Kraft, Mondelez, Johnson Controls, HP, DHL, Fedex, TNT, Pfizer and GSK.

Intrion will become part of ABB’s Robotics and Motion division, serving as a new regional application centre focusing on logistics systems for the European warehouse, retail and e-commerce markets.

“The acquisition is a milestone for ABB’s entry into the logistics market and will significantly advance our logistics robotics automation offering,” says Sami Atiya, president of ABB’s Robotic and Motion division. “The growth of e-commerce and shift to mass customisation means our customers are handling a wider variety of packages with ever-increasing delivery expectations and we are helping to ensure they are well equipped for that shift.”

“By joining forces with ABB, we create one of the most comprehensive and compelling logistics automation offerings in Europe,” adds intrion CEO, Gerard Paulussen. “We look forward to helping ABB deepen its logistics expertise, and at the same time growing beyond our current resources through ABB’s regional footprint and strong account management programs.”

intrion will enhance ABB's capabilities in logistics automation applications

The acquisition is intended to tap into the trend of mass customisation in consumer goods which is increasing the complexity of logistics tasks. E-fulfilment, for example, requires enhanced capabilities to identify, sort and process individual packages of more diverse shapes and sizes from large volumes of containers moving at high speed.

“Logistics centres that typically handle 10,000 shipments a day can unexpectedly see 100,000 shipments a day,” explains Per Vegard Nerseth, managing director of ABB Robotics. “In the past, adding more people was the only way to rapidly scale capacity. But this is expensive, inefficient and challenging as there are less people willing to do repetitive and often strenuous jobs. Robotics automation solutions add flexibility to offset unexpected peaks while also offering workers the opportunity for more rewarding roles with better ergonomics and increased safety.”

The scalability and flexibility of robotics to manage these challenges is driving investment in logistics automation. According to the International Federation of Robotics, the market for professional service robots will grow at 20–25% per year between 2018 and 2020.

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