The move marks Ontario-based Otto’s first expansion outside North America.
Otto Motors produces self-driving vehicles – also referred to as “autonomous mobile robots” or warehouse robots – that move materials within manufacturing and warehousing facilities.
Otto is partnering with Altech, a specialized trading company that imports advanced machinery and equipment from Europe and the US to support Japanese industrial companies.
The companies announced their partnership at RoboDEX2020, an annual robot development and application expo being held in Tokyo.
Richard Baker, Otto’s chief revenue officer, says: “This is a big moment for Otto Motors. Our innovative self-driving vehicles have been helping modernize factories throughout the United States and Canada since 2015.
“Otto Motors entered the Japan market in 2018, and with several successful deployments completed, we are expanding our efforts in Japan working alongside Altech.”
Together, Otto Motors and Altech have already begun to serve customers in the automotive, logistics, food and industrial equipment industries.
One such customer is Hirotec, a leading Tier 1 automotive parts supplier to Mazda. Hirotec installed three Otto self-driving vehicles within its Hiroshima plant to deliver Mazda door panels to welding cells as part of a mission-critical process.
The Otto materials handling platform allowed Hirotec to easily reconfigure its process to improve material movement efficiency and increase throughput.
By installing the three Otto self-driving vehicles, Hirotec was able to eliminate the need for eight legacy autonomous guided vehicles.
This is the second deployment of Otto within Hirotec, they were first deployed at Hirotec Americas in 2017 to automate spare parts production.
Hidehiko Suyama, executive director of Altech, says: “Altech has a proud history of providing high-quality technology products and services to our customers.
“Now, we are proud to be the first to bring Otto Motors products to the Japanese market, where we know there is great demand across several industries.”
Otto expansion in Japan and partnership with Altech come at an important time for the market.
While there is a lot of attention on self-driving passenger vehicles, self-driving industrial vehicles, such as Otto’s fleet of autonomous mobile robots and carts, are transforming material handling in numerous factories and warehouses.
The global market for mobile robotics is expected to exceed $224 billion by 2030, according to global technology market advisory firm ABI Research.
Demand in Japan will be particularly high because of the country’s demographic inversion. Having fewer young people than older people means that there is not enough labor supply to do all the work needed to power the economy.
Japanese manufacturers must rely on self-driving vehicles and other forms of industrial automation because there simply are not enough humans to do all the work that needs to be done.