Smart factories broadly refer to the fully connected and flexible production systems that leverage persistent data streams from connected manufacturing devices to learn and adapt to dynamic conditions. It represents a leap forward from traditional automation by allowing autonomous operation of entire production processes. The latest technology, including smart sensors and advanced robotics, allows next-generation interconnectivity between equipment, facilities, and processes across the value chain. IoT advances allow a new level of real-time data transmission and synthesis between smart devices and machines. The result: More efficient and agile manufacturing systems with less production downtime and better competitive advantages in the marketplace.
Canvass Analytics: reported an 85% increase of new leads by October 2020.
OTTO Motors: reported a boost in orders in June 2020 with more than 70% coming from Fortune 500 companies, including GE, Toyota, Nestlé, and Berry Global.
Fetch Robotics: saw a 64% increase in inbound inquiries during the first two months of the US Covid-19 crisis.
Bright Machines: is offering no-cost automation for up to a year as part of a three-year microfactory-as-a-service (MaaS) agreement with manufacturers producing equipment to help fight COVID-19.
Bright Machines: announced a Factory Resiliency Fund worth up to USD 50 million to support new customers with automation projects and future-proofing against future disruptions.
Uptake: is offering free predictive maintenance software to fleets of any size that transport essential items such as food, medical supplies, and personal wellness items.
Bright Machines: has developed a robotic COVID-19 test sample processing system to increase the number of tests per day while reducing risk of transmission.
By leveraging their capital and innovation capabilities while taking advantage of long-standing relationships with manufacturers, incumbents in the smart factory industry have captured considerable market size in each of these segments.
Of these seven segments, the data analytics, predictive maintenance, and advanced robotics categories are the most highly populated with disruptors and watchlist companies. Startups have been capable of capturing market share in these segments by leveraging risk-taking cultures to produce highly digitized products in a high-stakes physical factory environment to go head-to-head with established firms.
A number of startups are focused on data analytics, cloud networking, industrial robots, and factory automation hardware. Some disruptors have forged partnerships/collaborations with similar companies in Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, analytics, and other Industry 4.0 software providers to leverage their core competencies and capabilities, as well as with customers and integrators in strategic alliances.
Based in China, Geek+ develops AI-based advanced robotics solutions, autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), and related software targeting manufacturing and logistics operations. Geek+ robotic solutions include smart forklift robots (the F Series), AMRs (the M Series), smart sorting robots (the S Series), smart goods-to-person picking robots (the P Series), integrated storage and picking solutions (the X Series), smart tote-to-person picking robots (the RS Series), and collaborative picking robots (the A series). The company also offers several software solutions for smart manufacturing, including: 1) Robot Management System (RMS)ーa scheduling and task management platform that helps with activities like path planning, traffic management, and task allocation supporting both local and cloud deployments, 2) Intelligent Warehouse Execution System (WES)ーa platform that links factories and warehouses integrating picking, moving, sorting, and forklifting systems, and 3) Data Platform (DP)ーa data analytics platform that stores and analyzes data generated by RMS, WES, and the robots to generate visual reports, facilitate simulation, and business intelligence analysis.
Geek+ robots are equipped with technologies like 3D vision—allowing autonomous operations, LiDAR—enabling obstacle detection, simultaneous localization, and mapping (SLAM) and QR code navigation, allowing smooth and accurate navigation. The robots are offered on a Robotics-as-a-Service (RaaS), basis and software is offered as application programming interfaces (API) and software development kits (SDK).
Geek+ operates in over 30 countries with offices in the US, the UK, Japan, Germany, and Singapore.
Key customers and partnerships
As of July 2022, Geek+ served over 500 companies. Some notable customers include Nike, Toyota, and Siemens. The company has entered into several partnerships to expand market presence including Canadian systems integrator Systemex Automation and advanced technology provider Bosch Rexroth to expand presence in the North American market and Korber Supply Chain to expand presence in the South American market.
Funding and financials
Geek+’s latest funding round was a series E1 raising USD 100 million in August 2022. The funds were expected to be used to accelerate global expansion, and invest in R&D to enhance product differentiation.
Most incumbents entered the smart factory market by introducing “Industry 4.0” Internet of Things (IoT) solutions. Some acquired smaller companies or formed partnerships to accelerate growth and synergize their competitive advantages. The result is that legacy players in the infrastructure management industry, such as Honeywell and Siemens, are gradually becoming software vendors as industrial IoT matures.
Following this trend, it is expected that larger incumbents will extend their dominant stance by merging smaller, innovative startups with their own development teams. Furthermore, incumbents are expected to diversify into multiple product offerings to provide vertical integration within the factory digitalization industry. Most of the incumbents identified below have acquired smaller companies and developed partnerships while developing in-house products.
However, many startups may be able to compete against the incumbents. Not only are they generally faster innovators and more agile, but possessing digital vision at the leadership level and a risk-taking culture of producing highly-digitized products for high-stakes physical spaces provide potential competitive advantages.
On the other hand, incumbents have more access to capital and can also leverage their longstanding relationships with manufacturers to develop stronger sales channels. This unique competitive landscape makes the smart factory industry a sector to watch closely.
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